Constantly down and out, the Philadelphia Flyers maintain the attitude that they’re capable of playing with anybody. There is some truth to that. Despite record-breaking losing streaks during a doom-and-gloom season, the Flyers are competing. They’re icing a lineup with eight AHL-level players representing a roster spot.
Those recalled from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms trust their ability to compete with NHL players. Some thrive, which is a silver lining Philadelphia wants to discover. They have enough depth to warrant a bottom-six next season. Mike Yeo is getting mileage out of players who generally wouldn’t crack the lineup. He’s making a case to maintain a coaching staff role with the Flyers beyond 2021-2022.
On Monday, Philadelphia dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes. Last night, they played tough against another playoff team. As soon as the Wells Fargo Center became elated following a goal from Oskar Lindblom, they were depressed when Vladimir Tarasenko scored the game-winner in rapid succession.
Here are observations from everything encompassing last night’s loss, as the Flyers host the St. Louis Blues:
Before The Game
1) Bunnaman was recalled to the Flyers as a precaution, per Yeo. I suspected he wouldn’t be in the lineup when I heard the news, but hey, maybe Yeo was feeling a shootout. He called upon Philadelphia’s shootout king.
He’s a scratch tonight, taking the place of Brassard, who moved to the injured reserve.
2) Ratcliffe earned his spot on the top line with Giroux and Atkinson. The size discrepancy between Ratcliffe and Atkinson is dramatic.
“He’s just earned that opportunity to get the chance to play up there, and now we’ll see what he does with it.”Mike Yeo; 2/22/2022
Lindblom moves to the second line. His position in the lineup varied up and down the LW role this season. It’s critical to see where and how he’ll mesh.
Willman drops to the fourth line, which is fine because he was invisible last night, so he needs to bring the noise tonight.
3) Jones starts back-to-back. Ustimenko was the backup goaltender, but Yeo made the call to start Jones again with Hart (eye) out.
It would have been a debut for Ustimenko. The decision to start Jones means that Yeo must believe Hart will be ready to go by the weekend. It makes sense to play the best available if the starter isn’t. Jones is that option.
“[Hart] skated this morning and we’re obviously hopeful he could play.”Mike Yeo; 2/22/2022
4) Brashear banged the drum pregame. He’s promoting NHL Black History Month and youth hockey within Philadelphia.
5) The St. Louis Blues defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs three nights ago. Tonight, the Flyers played their second game in a back-to-back at home.
A recurring theme set early. The Blues were a menace in the offensive zone, and Philadelphia had to win in the neutral zone. Willman and Laughton had scoring chances, but Binnington turned them both away.
“I score on that breakaway in the first, it’s a little bit of a different game.”Scott Laughton; 2/22/2022
Jones was reliable throughout the game, displaying sound rebound control.
6) Sundqvist was ready to mirror a Flyers transition starting behind Jones. Giroux slaps the stick out of his hand to free up a pass. It earned a pop from the crowd.
7) Jones robbed St. Louis twice before Schenn scored. Kyrou rang one off the crossbar before Jones recovered with a glove save on Barbashev. The puck crossed the goal line when Schenn cleaned up the crease with 8:10 remaining in the first period.
Philadelphia was slow in transition, trailing the Blues pace throughout the period. It caught up to them before the period expired.
8) The early chances by Laughton and Willman could have been devastating for St. Louis, but don’t replace valuable puck possession. Being forced to win in the neutral zone was very reminiscent of Vigneault.
9) Ristolainen was very active. He kept his physical presence and blocked shots throughout the game. Same with Konecny and Mayhew, both earning taps from the bench.
The Flyers were getting into shooting lanes consistently. It was the strength of the defense.
10) Frost made a few solid defensive plays, disrupting what almost became a Blues rush.
“I’m just trying to do the little things right. That’s kind of what’s been harped to me a little bit; take care of your own end. I’m just trying to compete and win more battles than normal.”Morgan Frost; 2/22/2022
Opposite to his defense, MacEwen began to overcommit too much. Krug easily deked around him, cruising in close before Jones stood tall. Philadelphia began to press once they felt the pressure of being down a goal.
11) Giroux rang one off the crossbar. His line was the best of the night, despite allowing the game-winning goal. Tarasenko took a hard cut to the puck, beating Ratcliffe to the pass, before burying a feed from Thomas with 11:09 remaining in regulation.
Unsurprisingly, Laughton with Lindblom and Konecny was the second-best line. The top six performed well in the neutral zone.
“We need everyone and right now we’re too much up and down. One line keeps going, then falls back, and it doesn’t work like that. We need everyone to push and do their best every day to push our team forward.”Oskar Lindblom; 2/22/2022
12) Neither powerplay unit could convert. Tonight was a win for the Flyers penalty kill, which is among the worst in the league recently.
“Penalty kill was good again. That’s two good powerplays we’ve played in the last couple of days. We were just really solid. We were in lanes. We made it tough for them to get any clean looks at the net. When we did, I was able to see it. We had guys battling in front of the net, clearing rebounds, and things like that.”Martin Jones; 2/22/2022
Giroux and Konecny missed open chances on a late powerplay. While Philadelphia gave up many high danger opportunities to St. Louis, they didn’t connect on their fair share of high percentage scoring chances.
13) Lindblom had a great game, flying around the ice. One opportunity from Laughton sailed high, over the net. He had Binnington beat on the blocker side.
Again, the Flyers were tense, continuing to press, but on offense. The stress to play mistake-free hockey rents space.
“It feels like we need to play a perfect game to win, and it’s not happening. It’s very frustrating.”Claude Giroux; 2/22/2022
14) Finally, Lindblom found the back of the net when Sanheim helped drive the rush with 11:51 left in the third period.
Less than a minute later, Tarasenko reclaimed the lead. This prevalent trend gained traction last season. After the game, Yeo gave his best answer to the unfortunate phenomenon:
“Those are critical moments in a game. You’ve got the momentum; you have to reestablish it right away. You have to get back on your horse and get back on the attack; obviously, we got on our heels right away. Ended up in the back of our net.”Mike Yeo; 2/22/2022
15) Yeo pulled Jones twice. First, Barbashev scored with :52 remaining in regulation. Then, Saad potted one with :06 left.
Down 2-1, Yeo wanted to give his team a chance to tie the game. Barbashev scored, and the Blues won the game. Yeo wanted his team to have another 6v5 scenario to play through, so he pulled Jones again. A loss is a loss, so the score didn’t matter.
“The message was Torch going over the six-on-five.”Mike Yeo; 2/22/2022
16) After the press conference, I saw Giroux speaking with Briere as I left to finish writing all of this. Usually, I never see players on the event floor after a press conference. There is such energy surrounding Giroux, leading to the NHL Trade Deadline, that you have to believe that among general conversation, he’s opening up to Briere about different avenues regarding his future in Philadelphia.
These teams had scouts in attendance. One team was notably missing:
(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)