After a nice little break, the Flyers are back at it, and their commitment to delivering darkly hilarious content is as strong as ever. Let’s recap.
Early yesterday, season ticket holders were sent a letter penned by John Tortorella, in which he made a point of explaining that, while the team is not where they need to be yet to be really competitive, and while it will take some time and effort for them to get to that point, there remains a lot that he’s liked from the team in terms of their growth:
I have been very pleased with our team’s effort, drive, and hunger to compete. Perhaps more importantly, and I hope you've noticed this too, I love the way this team has consistently responded to the challenges we’ve faced, both as individuals and as a group. Throughout the locker room, our players are showing a full commitment to getting it right.
That’s high praise from their head coach, but all that he made a specific point of saying he has been pleased with from the team, well, he didn’t get that last night.
They were well aware of the challenge in front of them heading into last night’s game—getting back into a rhythm quickly after a long break—and that was not a challenge that they met well. The start to the game was, to put it lightly, a bit sleepy, and became a bit messy in turn. As they crossed the first minute mark, the Islanders got themselves a prime scoring chance (after Carter Hart was accidentally bumped by Noah Cates and knocked out of position), that was only just stopped by Ivan Provorov on the goal line. And then, with that crisis averted, a mere ten seconds later, Kevin Hayes sent the puck straight over the glass from the defensive zone, and sent the Islanders to the power play.
It was an ugly first frame which, while they did kill that aforementioned first Islanders power play, saw them take an interference penalty later on, get scored on after failing to break up an already slowly developing entry, and ultimately hitting the first intermission with a 16-7 disparity in shots.
Now, in fairness, they did clean things up a bit as the game went on, but it never really felt like they completely found their footing, and they were pretty comfortably outplayed throughout the duration of this one. A deflection goal by Nic Deslauriers in the second kept them from getting shut out, but that was the most they could muster on the scoring front. They came out of this one with just 43.94 percent of the shot attempt share and 32.66 percent of the expected goals share at 5-on-5.
And ordinarily, we might be easily willing to be a bit more forgiving after a showing like this (it takes some time to get back into the swing of things after the break, etc etc), but it’s feeling a bit more difficult this year. In the face of the both the praise for the team’s work ethic and energy on the season so far, and how, by their own admission, ready they were to show up for this game, the fact that they didn’t feels a bit harder to swallow.
Bits and bobs
Wade Allison’s return
After missing the last game before the break in Winnipeg with a lower body injury, presumably after blocking a shot the game before around the knee, Allison was back in the lineup last night, and looking wholly unencumbered by whatever lower body issue was ailing him. After a spin at fourth line center at practice on Sunday (for some reason) he was back on the wing on the third line come game time, and he had a pretty solid game in that spot. The energy, though lacking at times on the team level, wasn’t lacking for Allison individually. He also chipped in one shot on goal (a high danger chance), which was welcome flash of offense. We’re pleased with the performance overall, but mostly just pleased that his luck is sticking with him for now, and he avoiding another serious injury.
Owen Tippett’s still rolling
Speaking of redheads making an impact in this game... Owen Tippett was very good last night. He was, in short, flying in this one. By the eye, he was their most noticeable skater in this one. He drew a penalty. He was their primary driver of offense at 5-on-5, with seven individual shot attempts, three shots on goal, and two high-danger chances. It was a shame that he wasn’t able to get himself on the board in this one, but it certainly was not for lack of trying. If he keeps going the way he did in this one, it won’t be long before things start breaking for him again.
If nothing else, the Flyers are in familiar territory here. They’ve fallen flat in a game where they really should have shown up more strongly, and they’ve dug themselves into a bit of a hole, and now they have a chance to respond after a bit of practice time against what could be a tough opponent (this time, the Oilers). They’ve proved that they can be a resilient group, and even if that didn’t manifest for them against last night’s first game back challenge, they’ve got a prime opportunity to right the ship again on Thursday.
In short: they have a chance to respond to a challenge in the right way heading into Thursday’s game (no, for real this time).
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.