How many times this season has the Philadelphia Flyers played closely, only to fold in the final period like the cheap seats? They dictated the pace against the Edmonton Oilers despite the shutout. Last night, despite scoring four goals and leading the majority of the game, a volatile defensive zone performance handed a victory to the Minnesota Wild.
The mood is palpable; it’s not a lack of effort. When adversity strikes, the Flyers crumble. In the last 21 games, Philadelphia has won only three times. Hardly any profound solutions are available. What positives can this group bring into 2022-2023?
Both teams made mistakes. Cam Talbot usually excels against the Flyers, but he gave up four goals on sixteen shots before the third period. Philadelphia matched that energy by playing on their heels in the first period. Also, Derick Brassard and Ivan Provorov made a couple of incredibly low-IQ plays in the defensive zone, blowing two separate leads.
Another blown lead in the third left the Flyers with another gutwrenching home loss. That’s the story of 2021-2022.
Here’s nearly a handful of observations from last night’s heartbreaker versus the Wild:
Don’t Get Cute (+)
Overall, the sentiment from Claude Giroux and Travis Sanheim after the loss to the Edmonton Oilers was of too many passes made to make the perfect play. Last night, there was an emphasis on putting the puck on the net. Scott Laughton, Patrick Brown, Travis Konecny, and James van Riemsdyk answered the call to the tune of four total goals.
Laughton picked the pocket in the neutral zone before accelerating alone to a beautiful finish.
Brown made himself available in close for Zack MacEwen on a backdoor feed. A quality shift from the fourth line.
Konecny, thinking quickly, recovered a puck from Laughton before firing it past Talbot. An opportunistic attack.
Then, van Riemsdyk screened Talbot as Giroux looked off the penalty kill, telling everyone he was looking for a pass but firing on the goal instead. A deflection notched another for the Philadelphia Flyers’ lead powerplay goal scorer.
Against the Oilers, too many scoring chances went incomplete because the execution on the pass wasn’t there. Mikko Koskinen didn’t have to work as hard as Talbot. Konecny assumed the “shoot first” mentality that Cam Atkinson branded earlier this season. He and three others scored in a contagious offensive effort.
Defensive Lapses (-)
Just before Ryan Hartman scored his first goal last night, the Philadelphia Flyers allowed the Minnesota Wild to get comfortable with all two-hundred-feet of the ice. It was a passive approach when the Flyers needed to remain disruptive. Philadelphia allowed the Wild to skate freely down the rink, connecting on every pass and driving every lane without resistance, while Hartman parked on the crease for a tip drill. But hey, give credit where it’s due because it was a low-risk, high-reward play design from Minnesota.
Unfortunately, that sloth defensive effort wasn’t the worst offender.
There was a lot of room to clear the puck towards the benches, but Brassard broke a cardinal rule. You never clear towards the center. He did, got caught, and hung Carter Hart out to dry against Frederick Gaudreau.
Later, Provorov tried to do too much, compensating for other mistakes. Konecny couldn’t find separation in the neutral zone, but Provorov still forced a pass that didn’t have a chance. It was like if Carson Wentz put on skates. Matt Boldy served as instant karma, scoring immediately on Hart.
Brassard is a fifteen-year NHL veteran. Provorov, well, he’s always had issues with turning the puck over. These are the invested players in the lineup, however. Is it the right move to place Brassard in the lineup over Morgan Frost? No, because if Frost makes that mistake, he’s a rookie achieving his development, not a fifteen-year NHL veteran.
Giroux: Special Teams (+)
There were two particular moments where Giroux did the extra-curricular activities correctly to either defend or score. Coincidentally, both of these instances were on the powerplay and penalty kill. Against the Minnesota Wild, a team interested in Giroux, he did his part in maintaining or adding to his 2022 NHL Trade Deadline value.
When van Riemsdyk scored, he needed to focus purely on his net-front presence. Giroux did the rest of the work, looking off a pass to create a shooting lane, then using van Riemsdyk as a proper screen to convert the powerplay chance. He and Sanheim communicated effectively on the penalty kill, taking away cross-ice passing with a tight box defense. Due to their positioning and attention to detail, a successful clear followed.
Giroux certainly drives this team. We’ve seen what this team is without him on the ice.
If the writing is on the wall, Chuck Fletcher at least saw Giroux create a positive impact for the Philadelphia Flyers last night against a contending team with interest; and maybe Fletcher has a bargain trade in mind with his former franchise.
It’s On the Players (-)
The following is a blunt answer from Yeo:
“Winning hockey might be bearing down and getting the puck out of your zone. Winning hockey might be taking a hit to make a play to advance the puck to make sure you get the puck deep, or even if you don’t, keep it in front of you. These are the things we’re showing on video, and we’ll continue to show, but it’s got to come from them. That’s what it comes down to right now. We can keep preaching it, keep trying to motivate. I love this group, I believe this group, but they have to grab a hold of this.”Mike Yeo; 3/3/2022
He is on the money. These Philadelphia Flyers aren’t capable of playing winning hockey consistently. They’ll compete, but they cannot close games. Learning how to win has been the mantra, especially with the number of recalled players occupying the lineup. To punctuate the press conference, Yeo stated that when his team faced adversity, they “crumbled.”
Focus and execution lack with the Flyers. It’s not an absence of effort.
(Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)