Flyers 5: Takeaways from Wednesday’s Flyers-Devils Game
When the Flyers got embarrassed on home ice by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the tune of a 7-1 defeat, it was clearly a game that signaled the final grains of sand in the hourglass running out for someone. That someone was Alain Vigneault.
The next morning, with a game to play later that night, Vigneault was out along with assistant coach Michel Therrien. Mike Yeo was suddenly the interim head coach.
Let’s be real, despite the offensive outburst for five goals against the Colorado Avalanche, the 7-5 defeat that night was really not a surprise. Yeo alluded to an emotional day and that is felt throughout the organization, not just because someone is dismissed, but because everyone else should start to feel the heat. If it could happen to him, it can happen to the rest of us.
Fast forward to Wednesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils. There’s been much more time to process what happened earlier in the week and reset. The brunt of the schedule that had you facing Top-10 teams on a nightly basis was finally over. Perhaps a game against the Devils would result in the end of the nine-game losing streak. At the very least, perhaps a game against a divisional team could bring out some competitive fire in the team.
Nope. None of that happened. Instead, the Flyers losing streak reached 10 games with another lifeless, boring, and uninspired effort. That’s beyond concerning for a team that should be prepared for much more change and uncertainty over the next few weeks if nothing changes on the ice.
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday’s 3-0 shutout loss.
1. Offense Goes Silent Again
Monday’s game marked the first time in 18 games that the Flyers scored more than three goals. Over the course of this losing streak, the Flyers had only surpassed two goals three times, including Monday’s game.
Wednesday’s game was the second time on the 10-game streak that the Flyers have been shut out. It’s the fourth time they have been shut out all season…in just 24 games played. For context, the Flyers were shut out twice in last season’s 56-game schedule. The season before in 2019-20, they were shut out three times. Even in the 2018-19 season, which featured an eight-game losing streak, the Flyers were shut out seven times over the 82-game slate. At their current rate, the Flyers will be blanked 13 times in the season.
It’s not just that the team can’t score in general. It’s the amount of silence that has come consistently across the board.
In total, 17 different players have scored a goal for the Flyers. In some cases, the low totals are beyond their control. Nate Thompson, not known as a scorer anyway, has one goal and is now on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Ryan Ellis and Kevin Hayes also only have one goal, but again, injuries have kept them out of the lineup for extensive periods. Morgan Frost has just one goal, but has also only been here for six games.
No, it’s the names that should be much higher on the list that are more alarming. Claude Giroux and Cam Atkinson are both tied with nine goals on the season, both having their stretches without scoring. Joel Farabee has seven and appeared to be finding his scoring touch again before suffering an injury of his own.
And that’s where the list starts to really break down. Take a look at where these Flyers stand 24 games into the season.
- Sean Couturier has five goals on the season, but is on a 14-game goalless drought.
- Travis Konecny has five goals on the season, but just one in the last 15 games.
- Scott Laughton has five goals on the season, but just two in the last 15 games
- James van Riemsdyk has just two goals this season and hasn’t scored in 11 games.
- Oskar Lindblom just scored his first goal of the season on Monday night, after being held without a goal in his first 21 games.
These aren’t just your typical players who fill in specific roles. These are players you see on the power play. These are players you see in key situations. It’s one of the biggest problems with the team this season and it’s been a season-long problem.
2. Hart Aches
This isn’t meant to break down Carter Hart’s performance and identify maybe the small mistakes made or whether he should have made a save or not. This is more about what he has done during this losing streak and how unfair it is to him what happens in front of him.
Hart absolutely did not have a good game his previous time out against Tampa Bay, allowing five goals on 15 shots. But this is where the difficult schedule does play into things.
Even with Tampa Bay shorthanded, Hart has faced several of the top teams in the league. He faced the Lightning all three times. He faced Carolina. He faced the Rangers. So was it really all that much of a surprise that with a porous and lacking defense that he was going to allow his share of goals?
Against the Devils, he gave you the type of performance you need. He stopped 24 of 26 shots. He was sharp and kept the game close through a boring first period and a second period that was played primarily in the Flyers zone.
The personal six-game losing streak, including five in regulation, isn’t on him, and even though the numbers have been a little disappointing over this losing streak, Hart’s numbers for the season are actually pretty solid, certainly good enough to win multiple games.
3. Have Some Pride
From the goalie who appears to be giving his all to keep his team in games to the team in front of him. What more can you say about that effort? There was none.
Wednesday’s game was another example of lifeless, boring, uninspired play from the Flyers.
One thing that really bothers me is when comments are made like the ones earlier this week about the Flyers identity or lack thereof. You’ll hear GM Chuck Fletcher or players take about how the team doesn’t have one. That’s just another excuse to me. At some point, your identity isn’t about something you do well – the way you hear of a team that plays physical, or plays fast, or has tons of skill, or even that is very defensive-minded and locks you down. Eventually, your identity is just that you’re not a very good team.
Look no further than Wednesday’s game for Exhibit A. Two days ago, your head coach was fired. Whether you agreed with the decision or not, that should wake up a locker room. That should put even more of an onus on the players to pick up the play and get inspired. The opposite has happened.
And yes, on one hand, the team has not had any chance to practice since Mike Yeo took over the reins. But that shouldn’t make as much of a difference here. This isn’t a brand new head coach who wasn’t here 48 hours ago. This is a coach who spent the last two seasons as an assistant, who started this season already getting familiar with these players. You just have to go out and want to play for each other.
There is too much that isn’t right with the Flyers play. Some players are trying to do too much, almost trying to do everything themselves. Take Sean Couturier’s penalty late in the second period, where he continued to try to dig the puck away until he was called for tripping. Then there are players who just appear to be standing around waiting for someone else to do the work.
We can focus on individuals all we want to. But hockey is a team game, and the teams that are most successful, like the Tampa Bay Lightning or Colorado Avalanche that you saw earlier this week, play as a five-man unit no matter who is on the ice. If you shift to becoming individuals too frequently, you get disjointed play that keeps you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.
4. Approaching a Record
It wasn’t that long ago that the Flyers had a 10-game losing streak just like this, almost around the same time of year. After the 10th loss, ironically also a 3-0 defeat to the Boston Bruins, the Flyers won their next game in Calgary, 5-2, and started a six-game winning streak.
That said, the Flyers are approaching a record winless streak. It’s important to know there is a distinction between the franchise’s record losing streak and winless streak. The Flyers record losing streak is nine games from Dec. 8, 2006 through Dec. 27, 2006. That would be nine straight losses in regulation.
A winless streak accounts for losses and single points earned for overtime/shootout losses or ties in the pre-lockout era. The Flyers record winless streak is 12 games, from Feb. 24, 1999 through March 16, 1999.
In both cases, the Flyers are closing in on these records. Obviously, if the Flyers streak hit 12 games, which could happen on Saturday in Arizona, it would tie the record. The Flyers could set a new record with a 13-game “winless” streak on Tuesday, Dec. 14, when they host the Devils.
On that night, they could also tie the franchise-record losing streak of nine games, barring any points earned on Friday night in Vegas or Saturday in Arizona. An overtime or shootout loss to the Devils that night would also break such a streak.
Even so, the current streaks are among the tops in franchise history. The Flyers have had four other 10-game winless streaks, two that reached 11 and the record 12-game streak alone at the top. For losing streaks, the current six-game stretch with losses all in regulation marks the fifth time that has happened in franchise history. They also had a seven-game losing streak in the same season as the record nine-game streak.
5. Let’s Go to the Phones?
Whether there is actually something to this or even if it was just a cleverly staged joke, it is funny as hell nonetheless. It’s no secret that Rick Tocchet’s name is out there as a possibility in the Flyers coaching future, and if TNT used the opportunity to play that up and get a laugh, good for them.
Just catch some of the one-liners within.
“The empty seat which was, I don’t know, like a minute ago occupied by Rick Tocchet and his phone rang, and he smiled, and he left. And that’s it, he’s just gone at this point.”
“I saw the Flyers’ PP tonight, that’s why I thought you were gone.”
“I’m shocked you’re still here.”
Tocchet does say there was “no breaking news,” but it feels like either this was very well done and some brilliant acting on the part of everyone on the set or there’s smoke here.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.