Flyers 5: Takeaways from Tuesday’s Flyers-Capitals Game
The final score of Tuesday’s game between the Flyers and Capitals might just be the defining numeral of the Flyers season. After all, it’s a score everyone is familiar with by now. The 6-1 result on Tuesday was the fifth time the Flyers have been defeated by that score.
A four-goal first period set the tone for Washington, which has lately looked like the offensive juggernaut they can be when everything is going their way. For a while, it didn’t even involve their star player, but Alex Ovechkin did get in on the party in the third period.
Instead, it was the new guy that stole the show. Anthony Mantha, Washington’s go-for-it acquisition on deadline day, had a goal and an assist in his debut, almost instantly fitting in on Washington’s second line.
But it was far less about Washington’s talent and more about the Flyers overall response. Forget the final 40 minutes. They don’t matter when you play as poorly as you did in the first 20 minutes.
First impressions can be everything. When you take the ice for a game, your first shift can set the tone. If you can start stringing shifts together over the first five minutes or 10 minutes of the period, you get into a rhythm and you establish a confidence in your game.
The Flyers don’t do any of that. On Tuesday night, they were as flat as can be to start this game. On the day after the Flyers more or less set the tone for what figures to be a busy and interesting offseason, especially from the GM chair of Chuck Fletcher, the Flyers delivered another disastrous result. It came just hours after Alain Vigneault insisted that the team would be prepared to play, that the team was still in the fight, that they could still make a run.
The play on the ice said differently, and it was just the latest chapter in a season that still has miles to go before completion, though it is definitively over.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday's game.
1. That’s the Response?
On Monday following the trade deadline, Chuck Fletcher addressed the media and threw down the gauntlet. Fletcher said the coaching staff was safe. Fletcher said there would be opportunities for young players to enter the lineup. Fletcher said that there would be a lot of internal evaluation taking place over the next few weeks.
Basically, every player was put on watch right there. You want to keep your job secure into next season and still be a Flyer? Well, unless you’re Scott Laughton with a brand new contract extension, you had better perform.
The Flyers got outshot in the first period, 18-9, and out-scored, 4-1. They played lifeless hockey, essentially standing around as the Capitals put on a clinic.
Washington had two power-play goals in that period, though it might as well have been four with the way the Flyers coverage and the Capitals possession time looked.
It was another example of how far this team continues to sink. It was the blueprint to another result that has been replayed over and over again repeatedly in March and a handful of times before then.
At some point, it’s got to become unacceptable and start costing players ice time. Whether you have playoff aspirations or your hopes are dashed, you have to compete. The Flyers didn’t have an ounce of compete in them from the beginning.
2. Penalty Kill Struggles Return
Over the last three games, prior to the late collapse against Buffalo, the Flyers penalty kill had gone a perfect 10-for-10 against the Islanders, Bruins and Sabres. Perhaps that was one area that may be turning the corner and delivering some positive results to build on in the latter part of the season.
Then the penalty kill that plagued the Flyers all season showed up again in Washington. Instead of being perfect on the penalty kill, the Flyers laid a goose egg. Washington went 3-for-3 on the night on the man-advantage.
It’s really not surprising that Washington had success. Their power play is centered around Ovechkin and has different layers beyond that which make it lethal.
But this was a complete step back, essentially a response in the wake of the late-game showing against Buffalo. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. And Washington’s best players were delivering the goals with relative ease.
3. Lopsided Losses
That 6-1 score is becoming all too familiar. The Flyers lost their third game of the season against Buffalo back on Jan. 18 by that score. Five days later in Boston, the 6-1 result was repeated.
Up until the Flyers were put on pause due to a COVID outbreak, that result was not repeated beyond that. The Flyers won the following four games out of that 6-1 game in Boston. They lost a pair of one-goal games to Boston. They rebounded with a 7-4 win against Washington. It seemed like things were turning the corner, especially since the first couple of 6-1 results, while certainly embarrassing on the scoreboard, were coming in the first week and a half of the season when there was very little training camp time.
Even after they returned from COVID and lost 7-3 to Boston in Lake Tahoe, it was a roster that was still decimated from the outbreak and not remotely close to matching what Boston had.
Then came the 9-0 loss to the Rangers, the total embarrassment and defacing from the Broadway Blueshirts complete with a seven-goal second period on March 17 that really got this snowball effect, free-fall going.
That was 16 games ago. That 9-0 loss was followed by a 6-1 defeat to the Islanders three nights later on March 20. Then there was an 8-3 drubbing by the Rangers again on March 25. Then came the 6-1 loss in Buffalo that closed the month of March.
And for the first five games of April, the Flyers were at least remaining competitive in games. They had a 2-1-2 record to show for it, but they were competitive in all of those games. On Sunday, they blew a 3-2 lead to Buffalo with under five minutes to play, not only giving up the tying goal, but the winning goal and an empty-netter for insurance.
With Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Washington, it’s a good time to go by the numbers.
5 - the number of times the Flyers have lost a game 6-1 this season.
8 - the number of times the Flyers have lost by at least four goals.
12 - the number of times the Flyers have allowed at least five goals in a game.
The Flyers aren’t just losing games. It’s one thing to be a team at the bottom of the standings, to win all of 10 games like Buffalo has this season, and yet be competitive in the games you are losing. That’s not a question of competing. It’s a clear disparity in talent that you most likely can’t outlast. But losing that many times by four goals or more? That’s flat-out getting obliterated on a regular basis.
Look at it this way. The Flyers have played 42 games as of Tuesday’s latest defeat. Five of those games, 12 percent, have been by a 6-1 score. Eight of those games, or 19 percent, have been losses by at least four goals. In 12 games, the Flyers have allowed five goals or more. That’s nearly 29 percent of the team’s games this season. Yes, one in every four games, the Flyers are allowing five goals. One in every five games, there’s a loss like this.
Those numbers are absolutely staggering.
4. Goals Against Climbing
Here’s some more staggering numbers. As the Flyers continue to lose games like this, they continue to climb the charts in the wrong direction when it comes to goals allowed. Six more were added to that total on Tuesday, bringing them to an even 150 on the season.
One hundred and 50 goals...in 42 games. That’s an average of 3.57 goals against per game.
The only team that can even rival that is the Ottawa Senators, the only team worse than the Flyers in both categories. Ottawa has allowed 160 goals and averages 3.72 goals against per game in 43 games this season.
That basically means that from the drop of the puck, the Flyers need to score four goals just to have a chance. You don’t win many hockey games if you require that kind of offense night in and night out.
It’s been the most condemning part of the Flyers season, just how poorly they perform in this area. They can’t keep the puck out of the net, and it continues to get worse. There’s not much more ground to cover for the Flyers to be the worst team in the league in this category.
5. Playing for Pride
There are 14 games remaining in the Flyers season following Tuesday’s game. And while Alain Vigneault mentioned being in the fight and still being a playoff team earlier on Tuesday, mainly because the Flyers still sat four points out of a playoff spot at the time, the mountain only got steeper with Tuesday’s loss.
For one, if the Flyers were remotely competitive in these games, that sentiment would be mildly believable. But in addition to that, Boston got a shootout win over Buffalo and the Rangers blanked the Devils. That moved the Rangers two points ahead of the Flyers for fifth in the division and six points back of Boston for fourth.
In other words, you can definitely forget the playoffs now. Because with each game that they have played while talking about stringing some positive results and good games together, they have only made the hole deeper with the next game.
Now it’s about playing for pride. It’s about playing for jobs. It’s about giving a damn that you even have the opportunity to play.
That’s what the Flyers face over the next few weeks. Their playoff hopes are dashed. An eventful offseason likely awaits. So it’s up to the players still here following Monday’s deadline to compete in these games, to show a sense of pride, to establish that the results that have been taking place all season, but with especially alarming frequency over the last month, are not acceptable.
That stretch run begins on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.