The roller coaster ride that has been the Flyers’ play sure is pressing on. After a pretty flat first showing back after the break on Monday, the Flyers bounced back with probably one of their best games picking up a win over the Oilers wherein they matched their pace well, and pretty close to neutralized what can be a very dangerous offense of theirs.
But if they were hoping to keep that momentum rolling into the back-to-back this weekend, they fell flat in that aim again. Saturday against the Predators, they were able to get the game to overtime and still secure a point, but they struggled for long stretches to really get their offense going, looking a bit scrambley about out of sorts. This was troubling on a couple of levels, simply because it was a bit of poor play, but also because it came with the knowledge that this is what we were seeing in what was going to be their more rested game of the weekend.
Predictably, perhaps, things did indeed just get worse from there. The Flyers struggled mightily with their puck management yesterday against the Kraken, as they made ugly turnover on top of ugly turnover and handed the Kraken golden opportunities for free. (The giveaway/takeaway stats can be a bit fickle, but if they’re something you find valuable, Natural Stat Trick credits the Flyers with 10 giveaways and the Kraken with 14 takeaways across all situations). The Flyers’ offense was even more anemic in this one, as they registered just 19 shots on goal across the whole of the game. They never really found their footing in this one, and the result felt pretty deserved.
This is all familiar territory, of course. We’ve seen the Flyers struggle with keeping momentum all season, and as much as they talk about how much they’re working to improve the foundations of their process and game (and have shored up other areas, in fairness), once again it feels clear just how much work there still is yet to be done.
Bits and bobs
Before we go, we’ve got a few smaller things to hit on. First up, Joel Farabee had a fight in Saturday’s game, and tried to get into another one yesterday (but Vince Dunn wasn’t baited), and that, in a lot of ways, feels emblematic of just where we’re at right now.
We’ve seen this happen before: when the offense isn’t coming for Farabee and/or he’s been dropped down in the lineup, we see the frustration start to creep in, and the physicality, the willingness to fight, tick up. And, well, Farabee hasn’t scored in 14 games, since January 9, and only has three points over that span, so we’ve arrived pretty firmly back in the scoring slump.
And here’s the thing: while we can understand some of the logic in this (Farabee playing as if to say “if I'm not scoring, I'll find a different way to affect the game” and that different way being physicality), but in some ways it feels counterproductive. Because fighting is not Farabee’s game, when he’s playing at his best, and the more he lets the frustration win out and caves to the fighting impulse, the further he moves away from his actual game. We’ll see where he goes from here, and if the approach changes, because the fighting isn’t really seeming to get the job done either.
Felix Sandstrom back in action
Yesterday’s game also saw Sandstrom get a start in a game for the first time in 21 (yes, 21) days. And it was a bit of a mixed bag.
Sandstrom faced 21 shots across all situations and allowed four goals against, good for an .810 save percentage. And those numbers look pretty poor on the surface, but it’s worth remembering that one goal against came on what was effectively a 2-on-0 and another on something close to a breakaway (Tolvanen was left all alone to skate a failed exit back in closer and get the shot off), so the support from the skaters wasn’t stellar in this one. But that said, Sandstrom did look a bit rusty at times, and that’s completely understandable. It’s clear that he’s not getting a lot of starts because Tortorella doesn’t hugely trust him, but it’s also hard to expect him to show well in the starts he does get when you have three full weeks between them.
Welcome back, Olle Lycksell
And speaking of somewhat rough showings, after Kieffer Bellows was placed on waivers and a roster spot was opened up, Lycksell got the call up for another look with the Flyers. And it was a deserved call—he’s leading the Phantoms in points, scoring at a point per game pace over his 34 games played (the next player behind him is Tyson Foerster with 32 points in 46 games) and is really looking like he’s close to mastering that level. His first game back, though, left a bit to be desired.
Lycksell started the game on the second line, which felt like a good spot to optimize his offensive game, but after a few ugly turnovers in the first period, he was bumped down to the fourth line (though not benched entirely, which was nice to see). It was turnovers all over the lineup yesterday, but that same messiness was a big issue we were seeing in Lycksell’s game in particular.
Now, we want to be careful not to get too down on Lycksell here. This was only his fourth NHL game, he hasn’t exactly jumped into the best setting, and it’s going to take him a bit of time to get adjusted no matter what. He showed a few positive flashes (his speed was good and he was aggressive in getting after pucks) so there was that. He figures to get a real chance to settle in (we’re about two weeks into what should be around a five week absence for Zack MacEwen), and we’ll see how things trend from here.