The inability to sustain any success after the first ten games of this season is frustrating. Injuries continue to plague the Philadelphia Flyers lineup, adding another defenseman to injured reserve before taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. Losing team talent depreciates the product on the ice by default. The Penguins stormed back to a 5-4 overtime victory, not to a lack of effort by the Flyers. Pittsburgh, like many others this season, is the better team.
Unfortunately, the specialists are adversely affected. In 2022, the penalty kill mitigates only 63.7% of opposing powerplay opportunities. Philadelphia has completed seventeen games in 2022, showcasing that the penalty kill is well under the worst in the NHL. For a point of reference, the Vancouver Canucks rank as the worst penalty kill, but in 2022, they mitigate 73.9% of opposing powerplay opportunities.
One of those powerplay goals allowed by the Flyers came from Sidney Crosby. He scored his five hundredth career goal on home ice against the most heated rival. His milestone wasn’t the final dagger in the hearts of Philadelphia fans last night, however.
Not to mention, away from the ice, the Flyers are a hot topic due to Claude Giroux and his trade value. He addressed the media today.
There is a lot to unpack; let’s talk.
Ristolainen to the IR
Yesterday, Rasmus Ristolainen made the injured reserve list after lingering injuries from the mini-series against the Detroit Red Wings. Untimely for the Philadelphia Flyers, Ristolainen is a trade deadline candidate that already wasn’t going to yield the return Chuck Fletcher paid to acquire him.
More damage at RD means Nick Seeler and Kevin Connauton become regulars. Both waived this season, acquired by Fletcher to pad depth with Ryan Ellis missing. An overwhelming majority of the defense is playing out of their designated role. It has everything to do with injuries leveling the RD position.
At times, Ristolainen flashed what Fletcher wanted when he acquired him for a steep price. He’s a physical presence who syncs with Travis Sanheim. The price paid for Ristolainen meant Fletcher saw him as a game-changer, which he isn’t.
Ristolainen did travel with the team to Pittsburgh last night. Usually, that is a sign of an injury not being as damaging. His placement on the injured reserve means he has to miss a week. Any additional time out of the lineup would hurt the chances of moving Ristolainen, but he was present at practice today for rehab skating. He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and Fletcher needs a return for him if Ristolainen decides to test the open market.
Penalty Kill Woes
Darryl Williams relocating to the head of the penalty kill as the coaching staff morphs hasn’t improved anything. Represented earlier, the Philadelphia Flyers fall well short of the worst penalty kill mark in 2022. Since Williams headed the penalty kill as an assistant, the PK surrenders a goal per game on average, equaling a 33.3% kill rate.
Not all of that is on Williams. Simply put, the Flyers aren’t good enough to compete nightly. Four of the combined eight players that make up both penalty kill units for Philadelphia are specialists (Cam Atkinson, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, and Travis Sanheim.) Ivan Provorov and Claude Giroux had to help compensate for Nick Seeler and Kevin Connauton last night. The Pittsburgh Penguins were supposed to pick the Flyers apart, and they did to the tune of a 50% conversion rate on the powerplay.
Sidney Crosby cashed in on an uncharacteristic error by Justin Braun. Other penalties served by Connor Bunnaman and Isaac Ratcliffe proved costly. Young players are making mistakes, and the Flyers pay for it. At the same time, these are growing pains that hopefully develop into lessons learned.
Williams facilitated today’s practice. That could be the right approach considering his penalty kill is drowning.
Sidney Crosby Scores 500
He officially ranks in at 45 with 500 career goals. Last night, on the powerplay goal assisted by Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby tied Lanny McDonald.
Mike Yeo resonated with what every Philadelphia Flyers fan felt after the game but made sure to admit it was hard to be happy for Crosby before congratulating him. Yeo has previous ties to Crosby, having coached him before. About the milestone goal taking place against his team, Yeo said:
“I wish he did it against somebody else.”Mike Yeo; 2/15/2022
Nick Seeler joined in on the praise to Crosby:
“Unbelievable accomplishment. He’s a heck of a player, and we knew that coming into this game we’re going to have to do our best to shut their line down, just try to pressure them in the defensive zone as quick as we could, but obviously, he’s a heck of a player. Congratulations to him; it’s tough when it’s against you.”Nick Seeler; 2/15/2022
Let’s get this out of the way. We all saw this report, per Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now:
This is directly from Claude Giroux today:
“To be honest, I haven’t talked to Chuck yet. Right now, I’m committed to this team.”Claude Giroux; 2/16/2022
Forget any report that said Giroux gave his shortlist to Fletcher. According to Giroux, that isn’t true. I touched on the idea of Giroux staying in Philadelphia a while back, which could happen.
The Flyers are home to Giroux. Currently, he’s the longest-tenured athlete in the city. His family loves Philadelphia. Giroux has the power to say where he wants to go and when. Removing himself from the only franchise he knows means a lot, and he’s still unsure about waiving his no-movement clause.
It’s hard to distinguish from the overall doom-and-gloom of the Flyers’ season. Giroux has approached the podium frustrated all season, but it comes from a good place. He wants to win in Philadelphia, and if he decides to stay, it doesn’t seem unrealistic he extends to a team-friendly contract. If he waives his no-movement clause, Giroux likely is unselfish, making sure the deal helps the Flyers on the way out.
(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)