After scoring five goals for the first time in nearly a month and a half on Monday, the Flyers barely showed up offensively and were shut out by the New Jersey Devils for their tenth straight defeat. (Elsa/Getty Images Sport/Getty)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 24: PHI 0, NJ 3 – Mercer Killing

New Jersey, same old struggles. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 3-0, to the New Jersey Devils. It’s their fourth shutout defeat and tenth straight overall, and at no point did the Flyers look to even be on the same level as a Devils team sitting just 22nd in the league.

The firing of Alain Vigneault was more than just an inevitably embarrassing losing streak. It was Chuck Fletcher exercising a tactic that I’ve used on far too many overwhelming math tests over the years; guess and check. No one issue is capable of causing such a massive skid (save for maybe goaltending, but that’s been far from the Flyers’ biggest issue over the last month). By removing two variables from the equation in Vigneault and Michel Therrien, you can (in theory) figure out how much of an effect they had on the Flyers tailspin. Real-life is far more ambiguous than y=mx+b, of course, but there’s definitely truth to the method, even if it can’t be completely quantified.

In an ideal world, the Flyers would find out that those coaches were having a massive negative effect on the team’s performance, and that addition via subtraction would at least get the ball rolling in the right direction. And to be clear, we won’t be able to judge this fully until next week; Mike Yeo hasn’t had any practice time to make changes to the Flyers systems. But with how truly miserable things seem to be inside the dressing room these days, there was hope for an emotional turnaround might show some progress.

Despite the disappointing result, that actually was the case on Monday night. The Flyers didn’t spiral when they fell behind 4-1, pushing back and scoring quite a few goals, as well. It provided hope that with the schedule starting to ease up in terms of the quality of opponents, Philadelphia could at least start to generate some positive momentum.

Instead, the snowball only got larger on Wednesday night. Whatever energy the Flyers showed against the Avalanche didn’t make the trip up the Jersey turnpike. As someone who’s seen a Harlem Globetrotters-Washington Generals game at the Prudential Center before, this genuinely looked like a rematch, with the Devils, losers of four straight, somehow unquestionably playing the role of the former.

It’s hard to pick any one area of play that sunk the Flyers in this game. The common denominator is probably their passing, which was off all night, especially in the early going. All of the other issues; struggling to break the puck out, difficulties moving through the neutral zone, and a general lack of offensive chances, both in terms of quantity and quality, all have poor passing as a common symptom. The first period was a dam waiting to burst; and it exploded in the second, starting with a sequence that simply cannot happen at 5-on-5.

A textbook deflection by Dawson Mercer on a late second-period power-play took any hope that the Flyers were just a bounce away from being back even. The Devils didn’t exactly lock things down in the third period; after two periods of utter domination at 5-on-5, New Jersey experienced some of the sloppiness that cost the Flyers against Colorado, only without any of the capitalization the Avalanche exuded two nights ago. It’s not even that the Flyers didn’t catch any breaks. A potential 3-0 goal late in the second was called back for offsides. A Nathan Bastian deflection died exactly on the goal-line later on to keep the Flyers from falling out of the game for good. But any spark these moments may have kindled disappeared almost as quick as it came about.

The Flyers are still firmly stuck in “it’s going to get worse before it gets better mode.” If a “stoppable force meets movable object” matchup in Arizona on Saturday doesn’t flip the script (even though it’s own the second half of a back-to-back; it’s hard not to just write off Friday’s game in Vegas, even if the Knights haven’t been quite as strong as advertised this season), this situation may somehow reach a new level of direness. As mentioned, it’s not fair to fully evaluate Yeo until he gets some practice time to make changes. But performances make it seem like the disposed of coaches may not have been nearly as big of a problem as the Flyers hoped when they made the change on Monday.

And if that’s the case? All eyes go to the players, which seems impossible for a team that just went through massive turnover in the offseason, and the GM who executed those moves. The Flyers are trying to find out which variable(s) are the difference makers in this massive skid. The coaching staff was the simplest answer. If that’s not the case, isolating the next one (likely meaning trading some players) will take a lot more time. And that also comes with no guarantees of being the correct answer. Every loss, especially ones resulting from lackluster performances like tonight’s, makes more difficult changes that much more inevitable. As for now? Back to the guessing game.

Lindies

The entire article easily could have been this. I try not to be hyperbolic with my writing, but I genuinely don’t know if I’ve ever seen a less threatening heat map than whatever the heck the Flyers threw out in the offensive zone tonight. Did the Zamboni even need to go over the slot in between periods?

Note: Natural Stat Trick doesn’t appear to be counting the Flyers (or Devils) attempts in the third period, so the overall offensive picture for the Flyers is probably a little better; the third was definitely Philadelphia’s “best” period. But still, this is nowhere good enough, even if it’s just for forty minutes.

It’s certainly not the biggest change in the world, but the Flyers made their third successful waiver claim of the season on Tuesday, picking up defenseman Kevin Connauton from Florida. He’s played 334 NHL games since 2013-14 with the Stars, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Avalanche, and Panthers; though he’s only dressed twenty times in the last two seasons combined. His raw underlying numbers (55.49% Corsi, 54.85% Expected Goals, 8-4 on-ice goal differential) in 13 games this season look spectacular; but his numbers relative to his potent play driving Panthers teammates are slightly in the minus. That means the Panthers outshoot and out-chance opponents slightly more with Connauton not on the ice. Still, his arrival puts Nick Seeler and former teammate Keith Yandle on notice; both have struggled mightily over the last month or so.

Earlier today, Forbes released its newest edition of NHL team values. Make sure to read the whole article, but I won’t bury the lede; the Flyers checked in at 6th, with only four teams seeing a larger one-year increase than Philadelphia’s 50% jump. The article mentions the $300 million renovations to the Wells Fargo Center as a reason for the Flyers’ improvement. Now if we can just get the on-ice product to improve at a similar rate, then we’ve got something.

Sean Couturier celebrated his 29th birthday yesterday; H(belated)BD, Coots!

With the firing of Michel Therrien, the Flyers are short an assistant coach, resulting in some short-term tinkering. On Monday, Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere returned to the Flyers bench as a fill-in assistant, a role he filled full-time from 2013-2020. Tonight, former Flyers defenseman (2014-17) and current player development Nick Schultz made his debut behind an NHL bench. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Flyers could potentially add Adam Foote to fill that vacancy full-time; he played 1,154 games as a defenseman mainly in the Quebec/Colorado organization from 1991-2011.

The Flyers penalty kill dropped from 13th to 22nd as a result of Monday’s 1/4 effort against Colorado. It was undoubtedly a poor performance for that unit, but that’s a pretty massive drop for a special teams unit two months into the season. They’ll drop slightly further (at least percentage-wise) after going 1/3 tonight.

Michael McLeod, who tallied the empty-netter, now has scored four of his ten goals against the Flyers. It was nice redemption for him after taking a bad hit from James van Riemsdyk along the boards in the first period. van Riemsdyk got off with only a minor, but I wonder if a fine (perhaps a one-game suspension if Player Safety is feeling aggressive) is coming his way.

This is just the fifth time in the Flyers’ history they’ve lost six consecutive games in regulation, the first since February 6-21, 2008 (7 games). They’ve now tied four other Flyers teams for the third-longest losing streak in franchise history; it’s the first time they’ve lost 10 straight from November 11-December 2, 2017.

See how the virtual world is treating the Flyers’ next real-life opponent in Trey Daubert’s Twitch franchise mode.

I mentioned this on Monday, but I’m shifting into finals mode (sophomore at Notre Dame, if you’re curious). So if recaps are a bit shorter and simpler than usual through next Wednesday, that’s why.

3 Stars

3rd: Dawson Mercer (NJ) – Goal (7)

2nd: Jesper Bratt (NJ) – Goal (7), Assist (15)

1st: MacKenzie Blackwood (NJ) – Shutout (2) on 25 Shots

Next

PHI: 12/10, 10 PM @ VGK (14-10-0, W2)

NJ: 12/10, 7:30 vs. NSH (14-10-1, W2)

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick