We’ll get right to the point on this one: the Rangers played two men short in last night’s game—11 forwards and five defensemen in the lineup for cap compliance reasons—and the Flyers still managed to lose to them.
It feels about right, doesn’t it?
Now, the reality of how this one played out isn’t quite as ugly as that might have you believe, in complete fairness. The Flyers got the better of play through much of the first two periods, and ended this one with the edge in the share of chances in this one (putting up an adjusted 51.15 CF% and 53.04 xGF% at 5-on-5). They had a couple of tough breakdowns that Carter Hart had to bail them out of (and a couple that he couldn’t), so it wasn’t perfect, but it was overall a fine game (and certainly a step back in the right direction after their last two ugly losses). They showed some positive flashes and were able to hold a lead for a good portion of the game, but they didn’t have enough to close this one out with a win.
Because the thing that did the Flyers in last night, as we well know has been the trouble all season, is being on the wrong side of the talent gap between these two teams. The Flyers played a fine game, had the edge in momentum at times, but just didn’t have enough skill to really make the most of it. That they were ultimately overpowered by the Rangers, even a shorthanded Rangers team, was not a surprise. Sometimes you can get the breaks to go your way and get the better of a more talented team, we’ve seen the Flyers do it before, but last night just wasn’t the night for it. It doesn’t do much to change our impression of the team in either the positive or negative direction at this point, but it still wasn’t a fun one to watch. And it also means, for those keeping track at home, the Flyers, who were already firmly in the sellers conversation heading into Friday’s trade deadline, are going in on a four game losing streak.
Bits and bobs
Owen Tippett buzzing again
It’s easy to come away from this game with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths, all things considered, but it’s worth a quick reminder that it wasn’t all bad here. One of the largest positives from this game, once again, was the play of Owen Tippett. He first got the Flyers on the board in this one, taking advantage of a Ranger turnover on the power play, and continued to pop offensively from there.
No. 18 for No. 74. #NYRvsPHI | @TippettOwen pic.twitter.com/WxW6nHss2n— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) March 2, 2023
He was the Flyers’ highest individual offensive creator at 5-on-5 in this one, with seven shot attempts and six scoring chances. He was just missing on most of those chances—accuracy of shots being an issue here—but overall it was a good process that he was putting together.
It’s been a treat to see Tippett coming into his own this season, playing at a higher level with real consistency, and now it’s a good thing that it’s happened, too. With the Flyers now short Travis Konecny—and likely going to be for a while here—they’re pretty thin on real game-breaking talent in the lineup. Konecny was that guy for them in their already thin lineup, and there’s a void there now, but Tippett is looking like he’s doing his best to step up and fill that void.
No roster management here
The trade deadline looms heavy over this week, particularly because the Flyers are yet to make any real moves (save for sending off Isaac Ratcliffe for future considerations) despite being so clearly in a seller’s position. They also played a more or less regular lineup (11 forwards and seven defensemen, but with all of their healthy regulars in the lineup still), and that is, frankly, shocking. We’ve seen a whole bunch of players around the league sat out for weeks, much less a single game, to be protected from injury because their team is trying to shop them at the deadline. It’s shocking that particularly James van Riemsdyk played in this one, given his place towards the top of the trade boards and presumption that he is the most likely to be moved, out of anyone on the Flyers’ roster.
Van Riemsdyk not only played last night, but played much more than we might have expected—13:25 across all situations, which was the fifth fewest minutes any skater was given, but still felt to be too much. He made it out of the game unscathed, no major injuries incurred because the team needed to show him one last time, which feels like a certifiable miracle, given how things have been going for the team this season. But it’s easy to imagine how this could have gone badly for them. The Flyers didn’t need to trot van Riemsdyk out to prove to potential trade partners that he is really healthy after missing their last game because he was a little dinged up—the Wild traded for Gustav Nyquist, who is actually still injured, after all. It worked out fine in the end, but it doesn’t change the unnecessariness of the risk.
And one more thing…
We’re not sure if it was easy to see this from home (if you were even able to watch the game, which was apparently blacked out on TNT in the Philadelphia area for… some reason), but there was a pretty high volume of Rangers fans in the building for last night’s game. We’d be hard pressed to put a concrete number on it, but from where I sat, it looked to be comfortably at least 60 percent Rangers fans. This was the loudest the building has been in a hot second, between the cheers of the Rangers fans and then whatever response they were met with from the Flyers fans in attendance. And while we can acknowledge that this is a game that would be easy for Rangers fans to travel for, given how close in geographic proximity the two teams are, that’s all well and good. But there really were times when it looked and felt like a Rangers home game last night in the Flyers’ arena, and that’s a tough look.