Roope Hintz and the Stars snapped their early season swoon for at least one night with a 5-2 win over a tired Flyers team. (LM Otero / Associated Press)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 13: PHI 2, DAL 5 – Hayesed

Just another reason to hate Dallas. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 5-2, to the Dallas Stars. Philadelphia couldn’t quite complete the sweep of their road back-to-back, following up a gutsy comeback win in Raleigh with a bit of a dud in Dallas on a sleepy Saturday night. The loss in the standings also overshadowed a bigger gain; Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis returned to the lineup after roughly a month each due to injury.

With Hayes returning, Alain Vigneault took the opportunity to completely overhaul the Flyers forward mix. The top line now consists of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and James van Riemsdyk, a trio Vigneault tested out in the third period on Friday. Hayes debuted where’d you expect — second-line center, in between his former BC teammate Cam Atkinson and former BU Terrier Joel Farabee. Derick Brassard left the 2C perch for the first time all season, moving to the third-line left-wing, a role he’s better suited for at this point in his career. Scott Laughton centered him and Travis Konecny. Meanwhile, Oskar Lindblom dropped from the second line to the fourth line alongside Nate Thompson and Zack MacEwen. Patrick Brown was taken out of the lineup as a healthy scratch.

On defense, things are a bit easier to digest. Vigneault elected to ease Ellis back into the lineup, starting him on the third pair with Keith Yandle. The top four stayed untouched, while Nick Seeler was sent to the AHL to clear cap space. But while all of these changes were important, there was one thing the Flyers desperately need to do; score in the first period for the first time since October 28. It’s no secret that teams on the second half of a back-to-back tend to slow down as the game progresses. Add in that the Flyers also had travel to deal with and Hayes and Ellis returning from fairly long-term injuries. Oh, and they were facing a Stars team just outside the top in shots against per game (30.8). Getting off to a strong start was a necessity.

To their credit, the Flyers did their best to breakthrough in the opening twenty minutes. The Flyers outshot Dallas 15-7, held a 60% Expected Goals rate at 5v5 and put together two not terrible looking power-plays. Yet stellar work by Anton Khudobin, including a ten-bell right pad stop to rob Travis Sanheim late in the frame, combined with the Flyers extending their frustrating stretch of poor finishing saw them end the period down 1-0.

Sure enough, the Flyers just didn’t have the legs to compete with the Stars by the time the second period rolled around. One night after delivering the game-winner, the Flyers’ fourth line coughed up the puck attempting to exit the zone before both of Dallas’ goals in the middle period, the latter of which came 26 seconds after van Riemsdyk cut the lead in half. The teams traded PPGs in the third, with the Flyers never seriously flirting with a comeback.

Whenever one brought up an issue with the Flyers’ play over the first month of the season, you could bring up the caveat that two of their most impactful players were missing in action. Once they returned, many figured, the Flyers would be free to reach their full potential and start to separate themselves from the bloodbath that is the Metropolitan Division. There’s some truth in that statement; the Flyers should of course be better in the long run now that Hayes and Ellis have returned. But if you were expecting two players who have played a combined three games since May to alleviate all your concerns, that was almost never going to happen.

That doesn’t mean the Flyers couldn’t have played better or found a way to not become the first team to lose in regulation to the Stars this season. After all, the 2021 Flyers didn’t have Sean Couturier for essentially eleven of their first twelve games; it’s not like his return cured all of their ailments. But the Flyers end this road trip a better team than they were at the start of it. Can the Flyers maximize their talent and return to being one of the league’s best teams like they were two years ago? That’s what the next sixty-nine games (and hopefully more) will determine. But at least the Flyers finally seem to have all of the most important pieces to solving this problem back in action.

Lindies

He didn’t factor into the game that much; but if nothing else, it’s great to have Kevin Hayes back for sheer entertainment value.

The Kevin Hayes and Keith Yandle bromance may be the highlight of the Flyers season regardless of its outcome.

If you haven’t already, make sure to read my thoughts on Philadelphia losing Nicolas Aubé-Kubel to waivers today.

One of the reasons for the Flyers’ poor power-play efforts over the last few games? Face-offs. The Flyers went 2/12 in the dot while on the power-play against the Hurricanes. Oh, and neither of those wins came on offensive zone draws. Tonight’s effort wasn’t much better, going just 3 for 8. Losing all those draws makes the task for an already scuffling man advantage even harder. And once again, the Flyers couldn’t overcome the challenge.

Even before Ivan Provorov’s first goal of the year, I thought the Flyers’ second power-play unit was the more dangerous group overall. It included both Ellis and Hayes, which makes you wonder how quick AV would be to move either or both up to Giroux’s unit if this trend continues.

Speaking of Ellis, it was a moderate surprise to see him largely directly thrown right back into the fire tonight. Ellis played over seven minutes in the first period and was back together with Provorov by the midway point. He did only finish with a modest 18:45, fourth-most among Flyers defensemen.

And speaking of Provorov, his power-play bomb was the first goal by a Flyers defenseman since Justin Braun and Ellis scored in the Flyers’ second game of the season against the Kraken on October 18.

His numbers don’t look impressive at all, but Martin Jones certainly wasn’t bad in Saturday’s contest. The Stars just didn’t test him very much in the first period (seven shots), and then put together enough quality looks and fortunate bounces to beat Jones three times while not necessarily peppering him with shots.

The Flyers haven’t won in Dallas since October 18, 2014. It’s not quite as bad as AFC Richmond’s 62-year skid at Everton (which even they eventually snapped). But it is their longest drought in any building. Philadelphia is 0-4-1 in their last five trips to Dallas.

Add Tyler Seguin to the long, long list of Flyers killers; with a goal tonight, he’s up to 29 points in 24 games against Philadelphia in his career.

It wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome, but Zack MacEwen was robbed of his second goal in as many games thanks to a last-minute premature whistle where the referee mistakenly thought Anton Khudobin had squeezed a shot.

Looking for some coverage of one of the Flyers’ bigger rivals? Ryan’s got you covered with another Devils weekly recap.

In 2019-20, the Dallas Stars snapped a 1-7-1 start to the year with a 4-1 win in Philadelphia. The victory kick-started a 13-1-1 run in the aftermath, culminating in a Stanley Cup Final appearance. I don’t think lightning will strike twice here, but if you’re an overly optimistic Stars fan, it’s something to latch onto.

3 Stars

3rd: Joe Pavelski (DAL) – Goal (4), 3 Shots, 3 Hits, 56% Faceoffs

2nd: Roope Hintz (DAL) – Goal (2), Assist (3), 3 Shots

1st: Anton Khudobin (DAL) – .939 SV% (31 Saves/33 Shots), 2 GA on 2.45 xGA

Next

PHI: 11/16, 7 PM vs. CGY (7-3-4, OTL1)

DAL: 11/16, 8:30 PM vs. DET (7-6-2, L1)

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