The rest of 2020-2021 is even bleaker for the Philadelphia Flyers following another brutal 8-3 defeat to the New York Rangers.
Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers are at a crossroads. Can this team adjust by playing correctly, or will they descend further down the Mass Mutual Eastern Division standings?
Discipline and defense are the buzzwords to get a struggling franchise out of a well. Tonight, two points mean the world to the Flyers. They’re still in the playoff hunt, no matter how rough this season has been on the eyes. For Philadelphia, a recycled mantra becomes new again. It is now or never in 2020-2021.
Everything seemed familiar for the Flyers in the first period. Defensively, the second pairing of Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers struggled. While the system implemented by Alain Vigneault on offense suggested quality chances, Igor Shesterkin made impressive saves on Nolan Patrick and Kevin Hayes. Then, the Rangers started to pour salt into an open wound.
Artemi Panarin is a winger with a brilliant hockey IQ. He adjusted his entire gameplan with the puck on his tape, allowing Ryan Strome to crash the net. Panarin was about to fire a shot glove side on Carter Hart. Instead, in patience, he faked a shot into a pass for a goal. The first strike against Hart is what happens when skills and intelligence intersect.
On the second and third goals, a collapse of defensive discipline put Philadelphia into a deeper hole. In transition, Ivan Provorov was alone to take on Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. Even-strength scenarios play out as penalty kills for the Flyers.
Undisciplined hockey was going to make or break Philadelphia tonight. The third goal on a powerplay from Mika Zibanejad proved the Flyers hadn’t improved.
Heading into the second period, James van Riemsdyk began in the penalty box for 1:13, as the Rangers led 3-0.
Flyers Plummet Again
Zibanejad scores on the powerplay, Philadelphia commits another, rinse and repeat.
Before you could read the preview to tonight’s contest, Brian Elliott took control of the crease. As soon as Elliott burrowed his skates into the ice, K’Andre Miller stretched the Rangers lead from 3-0 to 6-0. Included in that was a powerplay hat trick from Zibanejad to give an idea of the night he had.
The Flyers did get on the scoreboard in the second period. Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes tallied goals to cut the deficit to four goals. Now, Philadelphia begins the third period on the powerplay. Borrowing a colossal collapse from the Rangers, the Flyers need to score a flurry of quick goals and play stellar defense to force a competitive contest.
Shesterkin has been impressive. He faced many high percentage shots from Philadelphia forwards and defensemen on the powerplay. He had the support to bail him out of entire self-destructive periods. Hart and Elliott saw as many tough chances as Shesterkin. The difference is the Rangers led, 6-2.
Flyers’ comeback too little too late… again
Even though the Flyers were on the powerplay to begin the third period, the Rangers still found a way to make Philadelphia pay. This time, recording his second of the game, Buchnevich scored a shorthanded goal. In less than a minute, the Flyers fell apart.
Quickly after, Couturier scored. Getting a goal back doesn’t help when the deficit was already four. To this point, Philadelphia healthily outshot the Rangers. One stat more concerning than the Rangers shooting percentage tonight is the goals scored on average against the Flyers this season.
In the final minutes, Filip Chytil scored his fifth goal of the season after tipping a puck through Elliott’s legs. Philadelphia allows 5.4 goals per game to the Rangers this season. Last time out, the Flyers allowed nine goals in one night. They follow up that effort against the Rangers to the tune of an 8-3 loss.
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers on Saturday at 1pm from the Wells Fargo Center. NBC Sports Philadelphia will provide viewership.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre