Flyers
I have never identified with someone more than I do with these two guys right now. Especially the one on the right. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

I’m telling you, one of these days the entire article is just going to be a Tweet like this. I wish I chose today for it. The Philadelphia Flyers get trampled by the New York Rangers (feat. AHL coaching staff due to COVID) for the second time in just over a week, losing a 6-2 rout in embarrassing fashion. Fitting for what’s becoming an embarrassing season that just keeps getting worse every time the puck is dropped.

It took over five minutes for either team to register a shot on goal, but the early returns were good for the Flyers. They looked good on the forecheck, created a couple of chances, and recovered to avoid some potential defensive breakdowns. Not dominant, but decent, and certainly better than the egg they laid on Tuesday. It felt good to see. And also bad to see, because it just figured to make the inevitable brain-fart more painful.

Sure enough, the Flyers fell apart after the first TV timeout. A sloppy change gave the Rangers top-line numbers into the offensive zone. Carter Hart had zero chance to stop Ryan Strome’s tip-in after consecutive cross-ice passes by Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox. Fifty-two seconds later, a bouncing puck eluded Nolan Patrick in the neutral zone, creating a 2-on-1. The Flyers desperately needed Hart to come up with the type of highlight-reel save he made look normal last year. Once again, he couldn’t bail them out, as Pavel Buchnevich rifled in a one-timer to quickly double New York’s lead.

That lead became three shortly thereafter, with noted good hockey player Mika Zibanejad tipping in a Fox point shot. The Rangers couldn’t miss, and even when Claude Giroux got an A+ chance, Igor Shesterkin took a surefire strike away. It was that kind of period. It’s been that kind of season.

For the second time in the game, the referees ignored a clear cross-check by a Ranger. The first led to a fight between Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Brendan Smith. This one led directly to Zibanejad’s second power-play goal of the game after Hart did make a tremendous save on a Buchnevich re-direct try. The missed call certainly didn’t excuse the lapse in coverage, but wow. And then Sam Morin received the only penalty of a ten-person scrum. Maybe those even-up calls aren’t so bad after all. Of course, Zibanejad blasted a 1T from the slot past Hart to complete his second natural hat-trick vs. the Flyers in eight days.

For the second time in that eight-day span, the Flyers made a goalie change after allowing five straight goals to the Rangers. For the second time in said span, the Rangers scored on their first shot against the new fresh bait goaltender. K’Andre Miller’s point shot appeared to hit Shayne Gostisbehere’s glove and past Brian Elliott, extending the lead to an embarrassing six-goals margin.

The officials also missed a clear delay of game penalty on the Rangers that would’ve given Philly a lengthy 5-on-3 early in the third. On the ensuing face-off, the Rangers forced a turnover, and Pavel Buchnevich, who should’ve been on the box, got on the scoreboard with the second shortie the Flyers have allowed this season. Both of which have come to the Rangers. Another touchdown for the Rags offense against Philadelphia. And they succeeded on the two-point conversion on a weird late goal by Filip Chytil.

Pathetic.

I honestly don’t know what to say anymore. Never can I remember a consistent stretch where the Flyers have been so utterly destroyed as this month, especially the last week. An insanely difficult schedule that affords no more than one day of rest at a time certainly hasn’t helped matters. The coaching staff hardly has any practice time to work on correcting things. But a collapse this drastic leaves the Flyers with no one to blame for but themselves.

The scariest thing about this skid is not only that’s there no end in sight, but that I honestly don’t know how to get out of it. Adding a defenseman would help, but even prime Nicklas Lidstrom couldn’t save this team all by himself. Having, I don’t know, not the worst save percentage in the entire league would help. But how do you get the surest thing young goalie in a while to snap out of a season-long funk that’s seen him give up the most expected goals above average in the NHL? How do you give your 36-year old backup adequate rest? Every single game, no matter what they do right, what they do wrong always snowballs. It’s no doubt shattered the confidence of the team. And confidence is extremely difficult to rebuild.

Remember the last article when I tried to provide “hope” by saying the Flyers could make the playoffs if their last twenty-five games went exactly like last year’s. That stat is the least hopeful thing you could possibly provide for the 2021 Flyers. They are nothing like last year’s team. They are significantly less than the sum of their parts. Good goaltending is non-existent. The penalty kill was a hot mess tonight. They’re getting utterly torched by teams below them in the standings. They’re the biggest mess in the NHL right now this side of Buffalo, and there is nothing to suggest they’re going to turn things around anytime soon.

It’s over. It’s all over. I’d make an Adam Henrique reference here but I don’t feel like messing with the Rangers more. I can’t believe it’s already over. None of what’s left is going to matter. This is what hopelessness feels like. It’s numbing at this point.

If you would like to hear me talk about how bad the Flyers have been lately, check out the latest episode of the That’s Some Cheese podcast.

Lindies

As I mentioned Tuesday, Chuck Fletcher held a press conference yesterday. Here at some of the finer points of the presser.

I was happy to see the Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek line reunited for this game. The trio had amazing chemistry down the stretch in 2017-18 when Lindblom was called up from the AHL. And they didn’t play too terribly (59.32% Corsi, 62.27% xG at 5-on-5, score and venue adjusted), even if Patrick’s misplay led directly to New York’s second goal.

Speaking of Oskar, NBC Sport’s Philly’s Jordan Hall Tweeted this video of him and practice. It’s unclear the reason for the massive celebration, but it certainly seems like good news for a team that’s hardly had any for a while.

And here’s the good news! So proud to be wearing my Oskar Strong shirt as I type this.

The Flyers have allowed 62 goals this month, the most since January 1993 (66).

Mika Zibanejad has more points in his last 5 games (15) than he did in his first twenty games of the season (11). *Deep breath* Zibanejad’s 12 points in his last two games against Philly tie an NHL record for any opponent. He passes Wayne Gretzky for most points in consecutive games against the Flyers (10), joining Gretzky and Steve Yzerman as the only two players to record hat-tricks in consecutive games against the Flyers. He and Boston’s David Pastrnak both have two hatties against the Flyers in 2021.

The Flyers set a franchise record for most consecutive goals allowed to an opponent with fifteen – nine unanswered goals last meeting and the first six of this game.

Adam Fox registered five assists, his first career NHL five-point game. What a player that kid is. Don’t look forward to facing him (and the Rangers) over the coming years. Or on Saturday, for that matter.

Claude Giroux’s goal, which cut the deficit to a narrow five goals, passed Simon Gagne for 9th all-time in Flyers history. Kevin Hayes’ power-play marker that made it a 6-2 game snapped an eight-game goalless drought. Sean Couturier also scored on the man advantage for the Flyers.

This was Sam Morin’s first NHL game on defense since October 27, 2019. It seems like the move to left-wing experiment is all but over. Besides, the Flyers need help on D, and literally anyone could be better than the group they’ve thrown out most nights lately. He certainly threw the body well and wasn’t a total liability to my eyes, so we’ll see if he gets another look.

At the least the “Flyers need to be tougher” crowd is happy because NAK and Morin got in fights, right?

Games like this make statements like this so unlikely and also so necessary.

Tonight’s victory officially puts the Rangers ahead of the Flyers in the standings. Both teams have 34 points, but New York has the tiebreaker (13 regulation wins to Philly’s 11). It reminds me of the other side of the Flyers 4-2 victory over the Sabres in late February 2019. Buffalo got off to a tremendous start that year (winning 10 straight in November), but was starting to slide. Letting a Flyers team that had lost 8 straight earlier in the year pass them proved to be the point of no return. Philadelphia might get familiar with Buffalo’s position from that year the rest of the way.

3 Stars

3rd: Ryan Strome (NYR) – Goal (11), 3 Assists (17, 18, 19)

2nd: Adam Fox (NYR) – 5 Assists (19, 20, 21, 22, 23)

1st: Mika Zibanejad (NYR) – 3 Goals (8, 9, 10), 3 Assists (14, 15, 16) – Again

Next

3/27, 1 PM – NYR vs. PHI

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Advanced Stats via Natural Stat Trick