Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 17: PHI 0, TB 4 – Crisis Of Confidence
One of my first hockey memories is watching the movie Miracle with my dad. I remember so many of the historical and pop-culture references the film makes; including, you guessed it, Jimmy Carter’s 1979 Crisis of Confidence speech. It was about the state of America at the time, but it could just as easily have been about the current state of the Orange and Black. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 4-0, to the Tampa Bay Lightning. One ineffective power-play, one poor zone entry, one defensive lapse a time, the Flyers are slowly but surely sliding off the rails. They aren’t in danger of falling off for good in the immediate future; only the truly terrible teams like Arizona have to worry about that. But the Flyers have plenty of legitimate fears to keep them up at night right now.
It was the opening minutes of the second period, and Claude Giroux was furious with himself. The Flyers top line had just produced a quality shift of the offensive zone, but still could not find an answer to Andrei Vasilevskiy on a night where one would remain out of reach. Giroux made the last notable play of the sequence; a centering pass to the slot that went astray. It was a reasonable risk to take, but failure is not something the captain takes lightly. Cameras showed him seething on the bench before patting his chest and taking responsibility for the error.
On another night, maybe this would be a rallying point for the team, the final push to break open the goal-scoring chest that has remained so tightly locked for just under a month. The Flyers have not scored more than two goals on a tended net in the first fifty-nine minutes of a game since October 27th. If those caveats feel too nichè for your liking, simply extend the range to three goals, and the date remains the same. They look very much like a team in such a funk, and not just because of the final score. After a fairly solid first period in which they outshot the Lightning 12-6 and held a 62.51% Expected Goals rate at 5-on-5, the Flyers utterly fell apart to a Tampa Bay team even more shorthanded and still even more talented than them.
It was a tough night for so many players, but the easy targets are Keith Yandle and Nick Seeler. The latter screened Carter Hart on Zack Bogosian’s ice-breaking one-timer in the first, then somehow managed to lose track of Steven Stamkos to prevent the Flyers from dodging basically the only bullet shot their way in the first seven minutes of the second. The latter was ridiculously out of position when Corey Perry scored to make it 3-0 on a delayed penalty sequence. There is no circumstance where a breakdown like this can occur.
After initially getting strong contributions from their players along the margins, the Flyers’ depth issues are coming back to bite them. It seems like every fall we look at the roster and claim how deep it is, because how else could fans justify high expectations for a team without a legitimate superstar? One of the few players fighting through those issues, Derick Brassard, didn’t return after the midpoint of the first period with an apparent lower-body injury. One of the others, Zack MacEwen, was far and away the team’s best player on Tuesday. No disrespect meant towards MacEwen, but the Flyers won’t win a single game this season when that’s the case.
All of the worst parts of the Flyers are starting to sink their teeth into this season. And the general feeling seems to be helplessness. The Athletic Flyers beat writer Charlie O’Connor sent a pre-game Tweet about the vibes of Flyers fans, and the replies were predictably miserable. And again, that was before this nightmare of a game. After skirting around a bad 5-on-5 process and horrendous power-play for a few weeks, the Flyers are starting to slip. At no point during Tuesday’s game did it feel like they were going to win. And at no point did it seem like the Flyers themselves expected to win. Tampa Bay, even though they didn’t play well in the first period, did. That isn’t entirely why the Flyers lost, of course. But it’s not a bad starting point.
This game was all of the bad that I have known since I became a Flyers fan in 2014, save for bad goaltending (Carter Hart did what he could in the net). Bogosian scored his first goal in 62 games, dating back to January 2020. Perry’s tally was his first in 37 games and also his first with the Lightning. Steven Stamkos torched the Flyers once again, just as he and the Lightning have done for most of his career. All that was missing was a no-name rookie scoring their first NHL goal (which Taylor Raddysh tried his best to do). The Flyers were so slow they looked like they were playing on the second half of a back-to-back, which makes me afraid to see tonight when they’re actually on the second half of a back-to-back. Their 5-on-5 play (44.04% Corsi, 41.47% xG) wasn’t anywhere near good enough.
All of it isn’t good enough. That’s the problem. And boy, is it frustratingly familiar. And boy do the Flyers need to show something soon to make their fans, or at the very least themselves, believe that an answer or two isn’t far off.
Over their last eleven games, the Flyers have scored just 20 goals; seven fewer than they tallied over their first five contests. Man, those first two weeks feel like forever ago.
If it weren’t for all of the injuries, I genuinely think I’d advocate for a Joel Farabee healthy scratch right now. Farabee just looks completely lost on the ice and simply isn’t playing well. The 2-0 goal all started with him turning the puck over at the Lightning blue-line, and then he took a penalty on his very next shift (although it looked like a dive by Ross Colton to draw the interference call to me). Farabee’s a smart and talented enough player to eventually figure it out, but it feels like he could use a reset.
Congratulations to Oskar Lindblom on playing in his 200th NHL game tonight! Lindblom remains snakebitten for the season, but he did have a couple of chances even though he was dropped to line four with MacEwen and Nate Thompson.
Not only is Keith Yandle not playing well overall right now, but he’s not even producing at all to make up for his defensive lapses. Yandle is mired in a career-long 14-game point drought. Oh, and his pair with Seeler now has a 42.72% Expected Goals rate and has been outscored 9-4. Part of his scoreless streak is due to decreased PP time and the power-plays general struggles. But that’s not all of it, and it doesn’t excuse his overall struggles. Hopefully, his first return to Florida, where he played from 2016-2021, sparks his game. The Flyers could sure use it.
With Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov both on the shelf, Stamkos bears an even larger load than normal. A lot of people would’ve wondered pre-season if the 31-year old could handle that. But Stamkos is playing some great hockey right now. Of course, it always seems to help him when he’s playing the Flyers; Stamkos entered the night third among active players with 1.29 points per game against the Flyers, then boosted that number with a goal and two assists.
Not only are the Flyers getting hammered by injuries, but the Phantoms also aren’t fairing much better. The big one is 2020 1st rounder Tyson Foerster suffering what seems likely to be a season-ending shoulder injury. Several other prospects are dinged up as well. The good news? Wade Allison is practicing with Lehigh Valley, indicating he could be close to returning. Allison is still on Opening Day Injured Reserve (per CapFriendly), so he hasn’t been fully activated yet. He’ll certainly need some AHL time before the Flyers consider a call-up. But I’ll take all of the positivity I can get at this point.
Other than MacEwen, the only bright spot I’d pick out of tonight is the Flyers penalty kill. The Flyers actually out-shot and out-chanced the Lightning on Tampa Bay’s two power-plays, with Travis Sanheim (who I think is playing pretty well overall) coming the closest to lighting the lamp. Philadelphia’s PK is now at 83.9%, 10th in the NHL. That mostly has to do with goaltending; only Ottawa allows more expected goals per 60 than the Flyers while shorthanded. But the skaters in front of Hart were legitimately strong while down a man.
Sometimes it pays to wait to post these until the morning after. This likely means Derick Brassard isn’t able to play tonight. Hopefully, it turns into a blessing in disguise, as long as Brassard’s injury isn’t too serious. Morgan Frost’s 2021-22 NHL debut comes in the same building and two years and five days after his first NHL game.
3rd: Zach Bogosian (TB) – Goal (1), Assist (3), 3 Shots
2nd: Steven Stamkos (TB) – Goal (10), 2 Assists (11, 12)
1st: Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB) – Shutout (1) on 34 Shots, 2.28 Expected Goals Against
PHI: 11/24, 7 PM @ FLA (13-2-3, W3)
TB: 11/26, 6 PM vs. SEA (5-12-1, W1)
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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick