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Flyers

The scary part is this picture easily could have come from the 2018-19 season and you wouldn’t know any different. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 22: TB 7, PHI 1 – ELLLLLLLLiott

The scary part is this picture easily could have come from the 2018-19 season and you wouldn’t know any different. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 22: TB 7, PHI 1 – ELLLLLLLLiott

Late in the second period, en route to the Philadelphia Flyers losing their eighth straight, a totally embarrassing 5-0 blowout at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning, something appeared to finally go right. Scott Laughton whacked at a puck, knocked it off ex-teammate Brian Elliott’s blocker, and seemingly over the goal-line. But the referee disagreed, thinking Zach Bogosian’s last ditched effort saved it off the goal-line and preserved Elliott’s shutout. A few seconds later at the next stoppage, a video review proved him wrong. The Flyers had done something right. They’d put the puck over the goal-line.

The goal was waved off for a high-stick.

It could not have been more symbolic of the Flyers’ current malaise; now an eight-game losing streak that has time running thin for Alain Vigneault and his coaching staff. Whatever inkling of promise the Flyers have shown this year simply pales in comparison to the massive amount of mistakes they make, both in terms of type and volume. A respectable opening seven minutes with a 9-5 shots on goal edge was instantly washed out by two Lightning goals in less than a minute. Carter Hart, whose stellar play kept the Flyers afloat during their play-driving struggles early in the season, not only couldn’t hold back Tampa Bay’s early second-period barrage but contributed to it with a ghastly turnover that gifted Mathieu Joseph a goal and sent Hart to the showers.

That came in the middle of Philadelphia’s 16th straight unsuccessful power-play; it is less than one one-thousandth of a point above Arizona for dead last. The Flyers somehow surrendered a goal to the fourth line and third pair of a Tampa Bay team missing Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Erik Cernak with their top line and pair on the ice. The Flyers lost the expected goals battle at 5-on-5, just like they have during every game of this skid. And they completely failed to test Elliott, resulting in a heat map that makes you wonder if the Flyers were playing “the ground is lava” with the slot.

The brightest circle below and inside the dots is the orange in the Flyers logo.

Nothing is working. In fact, things are incredibly still getting worse, even though anyone who’s watched the entirety of this streak could tell you tonight’s game was nothing due; just more of the not good enough same. There’s no need to discuss this particular game any further. There’s been so many like it lately, there’s hardly anything new to take from tonight’s latest butt-kicking.

When a team is performing as poorly as the Flyers are right now, the question everybody asks first is “where do you go from here?” Most teams that are as bad as the Flyers plan on it. Those that don’t, like Vancouver or Montréal, often have strong nuclei of young talents (Elias Pettersson, Cole Caufield, Quinn Hughes, Alex Romanov) that they are just aren’t able to supplement effectively, but at least those teams have the luxury of time to figure things out before losing control of those players. Both of these teams have also fired either (reportedly) their coach or GM this season.

The Flyers fit none of these criteria. Their best player, Sean Couturier, is 28 — right in his prime — and signed an 8-year extension over the summer a rebuilding team would never even consider offering someone his age. Claude Giroux, the longest-tenured captain in franchise history, is 33. “I’ve played in a lot of embarrassing games,” Giroux said post-game. “This is one of them. We need to find our swagger.” The captain later tried to express some level of confidence remains, but his tone and body language weren’t exactly cheery. It’s no wonder why; with Giroux a free agent at the season’s end, this may be the final chapter in a decade’s worth of failure to surround arguably the second-best skater in franchise history with a Cup-caliber supporting cast.

At least this time it’s a lack of execution rather than a lack of effort that’s led to that? Philadelphia just traded their 2020 first-round pick and two talented under-23 players (Phil Myers and Nolan Patrick) for pending UFA Rasmus Ristolainen and a 30-year Ryan Ellis under contract through 2027, respectively. They traded one 32-year old Jakub Voracek, who leads the NHL with 15 primary assists, for another in Cam Atkinson, who is under contract an extra year (through 2025). Kevin Hayes (29) and James van Riemsdyk (32) are on pricey, multiple-year deals as well.

It’s not the makeup of a rebuilding team, and yet the Flyers look on the ice and in the standings like a team without a chance at making the playoffs, let alone doing any damage in them. It’s this stunning dichotomy that is truly the scariest thing about the Flyers right now. This is a team that’s supposed to be at their peak. At best, they are completely at their floor right now. They’re already seven points out of a playoff spot. And they now face a brutal five games in seven nights stretch that includes three bouts against Cup contenders. And that’s after being seemingly dealt a knockout punch from the Lightning tonight.

At worst? This is their peak; a terrible hockey team that planned on being successful now with a dark, dark future on the horizon. The next few days will go a long way to showing which category the Flyers fit into; both in terms of on-ice play and potential off-ice change. “Expect us to answer tomorrow,” Giroux concluded his post-game availability. For the sake of everyone who calls themselves a Flyer, they better.

Lindies

First and foremost, rest in peace to Comcast EVP and Chief Legal Counsel Paul Weinberg, who passed away on Thursday. The Flyers honored him in multiple ways before and during Sunday’s game, including helmet stickers, a custom jersey worn by Lauren Hart during the national anthem, a tribute on the TV broadcast, and more.

The news on Joel Farabee’s injury doesn’t seem great. He’s officially designated as out week-to-week with an upper-body injury, with Charlie O’Connor providing some more clarity on the injury here.

It’s not all bad on the injury front for the Flyers. Patrick Brown (thumb injury) returned to the lineup for the first time since November 16 (Max Willman was sent back to the AHL as a result). Things almost got worse when Sean Couturier took a puck to the face late in the first and didn’t start the second period on the bench. But he returned shortly thereafter with a full cage, so it seems like the Flyers are at least capable of dodging some bullets.

Keith Yandle snapped a career-long 18-game pointless drought with an assist on Cam Atkinson’s third-period power-play goal. Giroux also recorded an assist, putting him one power-play point behind Bobby Clarke (333) for most PP points in Flyers history.

Five of Tampa Bay’s six different goal scorers tonight make less than $1 million against the salary cap (McDonagh being the lone exception). None of them had more than four goals all season before tonight. That includes Corey Perry, who’s scored four of his five goals this season in Tampa’s last two meetings against Philadelphia. Tampa’s best players didn’t exactly take the night off; Victor Hedman was dominant, with 3 assists and a 78.59% Expected Goals mark. But it’s not exactly like the Flyers were carved apart solely by elite talents tonight; everybody on the Lightning, top to bottom, outplayed and outworked them.

Tonight was also just Perry’s third three-point game since the start of the 2018-19 season. Two of them (tonight and October 19, 2019, when Perry played for the Dallas Stars) have come against the Flyers. Because of course they have. Boris Katchouk also scored his first NHL goal tonight, because he was playing the Flyers, who don’t actually lead the world in allowing those despite it sure feeling like they must.

Spoiler alert: the Lightning faired well in our latest group NHL power rankings. The Flyers did not.

The Flyers have now failed to score more than three goals in 17 consecutive games, tying a stretch of the same amount of games from January 14-February 25, 2017 for the second-longest such streak in franchise history. They went 5-7-1 over that span; they are 4-8-3 in this stretch. An 18-game swoon from October 24-November 28, 2015 (6-8-4 record) is the only longer one in franchise history. It’s damning statement on the Flyers that the three longest streaks of offensively in-explosiveness have occurred within just over six years of each other.

3 Stars

3rd: Victor Hedman (TB) – 3 Assists (19, 20, 21)

2nd: Corey Perry (TB) – 2 Goals (4, 5), Assist (4),

1st: Brian Elliott (TB) – .974 SV% (38 Saves/39 Shots), 1 GA on 2.21 Expected Goals Against (All Situations)

Next

TB: 12/8, 7 PM @ MTL (6-17-3, OTL1)

PHI: 12/6, 7 PM vs. COL – that’s just mean, come on (12-7-2, OTL1)

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Naturhttp://naturalstattrick.com/game.php?season=20212022&game=20378al Stat Trick

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