Flyers Pulse: Positives Despite the Nine Game Losing Streak

Flyers' Justin Braun
Flyers’ Justin Braun (Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

All losing streaks are awful. The Philadelphia Flyers have perspective, identifying the positives during dire straits.

Of all the losses in the current streak, last night’s hurt the most. The Philadelphia Flyers were competing. They led in the third but couldn’t finish.

The New York Islanders gave the Flyers many high danger scoring chances. Towards the end of the overtime period, there were so many back-to-back scoring chances between the two teams. Players were too gassed to make a transition. Carter Hart and Semyon Varlamov stood tall until one had to take the loss in the shootout.

Oliver Wahlstrom, a player I highlighted before last night’s game, scored the game-winner (4-3.) On back-to-back nights, Wahlstrom wound up on the stat sheet.

Unlike the previous losing streak, Yeo has his team competing. Philadelphia routinely falls short. A shootout loss to the Islanders marks the best effort from the Flyers in nine games. There is the fight to compete, but that isn’t enough to win lately. Some of the players, including Yeo, feel like they’re turning a corner.

“Tonight, I feel bad. There was some tremendous efforts out there. We have no choice but to keep coming back and keep coming back with a great attitude.”

Mike Yeo; 1/18/2022

Claude Giroux feels the same but couldn’t hide his frustration:

“At this point, we’re just finding ways to lose hockey games. At the same time, if we keep doing the right things, we’ll win some games in a row.”

Claude Giroux; 1/18/2022

Fightin’ Flyers

Defensively, Philadelphia improved from their first meeting on Long Island. The Flyers played as tough versus the Islanders as they did the New York Rangers on Saturday. Unfortunately, they were on the wrong side of a one-goal deficit. Throughout the losing streak, those two games stand out as improved performances. The losing streak is mostly the same, but Yeo is getting a better effort from his lineup than Alain Vigneault.

Losing hockey is nothing to be proud of in the big picture. Perspective and context are critical, however. Yeo has accrued more points in this losing streak than Vigneault. His worst isn’t worse than where the club was between November 18th, 2021, and December 8th, 2021.

Yeo vs Vigneault; Special Teams

During the ten-game losing streak with Vigneault and Michel Therrien, the powerplay was converting at an 11.1% rate. The penalty kill was successful 72.5% of the time. Philadelphia was trending towards the worst powerplay in the league and around the 26th best penalty kill, which doesn’t win games.

In this downward spiral with Yeo and Darryl Williams, the powerplay converts at a 15.3% rate, but the kill dropped to 69.4%. Flip the special team issues around; the Flyers lack stability.

To give an idea of how far away Philadephia is from 2019-2020: the powerplay converted at a 20.8% rate while the penalty kill was efficient in 81.8% of their opportunities.

The penalty kill suffers without Ryan Ellis, Sean Couturier, or Patrick Brown. Yeo has yet to ice Ellis into a lineup, is 4-2-1 with Couturier on the ice, and doesn’t have a physical presence at 4C without Brown or even Nate Thompson.

We cannot act like injuries don’t play a role in the penalty kill deficiency. What about the powerplay boost in comparison? Williams’ shoot first philosophy is superior to Therrien, who predicated every scoring chance on a creative quality opportunity.

Claude Giroux is the glue that holds the powerplay. He wins 61.7% of his faceoffs and works well with Cam Atkinson, the Flyers’ leading goal scorer. When those two are controlling possession, especially with Cam York protecting the blue line, scoring opportunities turn into points. James van Riemsdyk accepts all calls from his office, just as Williams would draw the strategy.

Braun, Konecny, and MacEwen

Justin Braun is generally all over the ice, specifically last night. It’s been a wild ride for Braun since Matt Niskanen retired. He hasn’t played his prototypical in two seasons. Yet, Braun keeps Ivan Provorov in check on the top pair, blocking shots together. He’s playing like a defensive leader, an underrated veteran who could earn another NHL contract.

Travis Konecny scored goals in the last two games. On Long Island, he was lucky. Nonetheless, Konecny pushed the entry into the offensive zone. Strange things happen. Don’t let him get hot; it’ll confuse the fans who ask, “what is it that Konecny does!?”

Zach MacEwen earned his keep to remain in Philadelphia. He is the physical piece required on the fourth line. Last night, he challenged Zdeno Chara to a fight. Not many people in the NHL are willing to take on a 6’9″ juggernaut. MacEwen is a welcome commodity that the Flyers significantly require moving forward.

(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)