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Tomáš Hertl’s pure joy was the Flyers’ loss on Saturday. The Czech center’s natural hat trick propelled the Sharks to a two-goal comeback victory in OT. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 35: SJ 3, PHI 2 (OT) – For The Birds

Flyers
Tomáš Hertl’s pure joy was the Flyers’ loss on Saturday. The Czech center’s natural hat trick propelled the Sharks to a two-goal comeback victory in OT. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 35: SJ 3, PHI 2 (OT) – For The Birds

That one Herts. The Philadelphia Flyers lose their attendance (at least for one night) to the Philadelphia Eagles and the hockey game, 3-2, in overtime, to the San Jose Sharks. It’s the second 3-2 OT defeat the Flyers have suffered to the Sharks this season; only this time, it was the Flyers coughing up a third-period lead on the strength of a Tomáš Hertl natural hat-trick, ending with his second OT goal against the Flyers this season.

But San Jose’s win doesn’t solely rest on the shoulders of one player’s heroic performance. It’s not often a team ahead by two goals in the third period is “lucky to get a point,” as Mike Yeo said post-game. But change that qualifier to being fortunate to get a point despite allowing 47 shots on goal, including a jaw-dropping 20 in the pivotal third period, and you can see the point Yeo was making. Yes, San Jose was firing at will for most of the night. But the third period marked a dramatic increase in the Sharks’ quality; ultimately proving enough to break down a fabulous effort from Martin Jones.

For the second time in as many meetings against San Jose, the Flyers had extra reasons to play for their goaltender. Their first meeting was Felix Sandström’s NHL debut; tonight marked Jones’ first start against the Sharks after a six-year tenure as the team’s starter, peaking with Jones taking the team to its first Stanley Cup final since 2016. Instead, the Flyers were outshot by a combined margin of 93-56. At least Philadelphia had the excuse of being on the second half of a back-to-back in the game Sandström started. And while the Flyers were still missing a bundle of key contributors due to COVID — the only players that returned from protocol Saturday were Jackson Cates and Nick Seeler — the Sharks were similarly short-handed. Two of their top-three centers (Logan Couture and Nick Bonino) plus Erik Karlsson weren’t available Saturday.

At the very least, the Flyers weren’t as clearly outclassed on paper like they were Thursday against Pittsburgh. For a Flyers team desperate for victories, Yeo didn’t even think they did enough to earn a moral victory. “The third period when the game’s on the line, that’s when your habits come out, and I thought that’s when a lot of our bad habits come out,” Yeo said when asked to describe what went wrong after the Flyers went ahead 2-0 on a pair of goals by James van Riemsdyk.” Like a villain in a superhero movie, Yeo chuckled before adding, “The self-inflicted harm we’re doing to ourselves is something that we’ve got to get out of our system. If you’re just defending all the time, that’s not a good thing.”

Yet perhaps the biggest indictment of the Flyers’ collapse Saturday, the five-game losing streak that dates back to their first game against the Sharks, and their overall disappointing season is what James van Riemsdyk said when asked for his thoughts about why the Flyers lost their two-goal lead. “I don’t know, that’s a good question,” van Riemsdyk offered. “As far as pinpointing the reason for that, I don’t really have an answer.”

It may seem like every time the Flyers have sought out answers for their problems since 2021 it’s just created more issues. And it’s easy to get frustrated by that. But it can’t prevent the Flyers from trying to find them, no matter how fruitless their efforts may seem. After all, the Flyers were less than six minutes away from sneaking by before Hertl backhanded a loose puck in front off of the far post and in. If nothing else, Yeo and van Riemsdyk’s combination of uncertainty and disappointment are an indictment on where the Flyers were before Yeo took over; and a referendum on just how far they have to go.

Just how far they have to go is starting to look longer than how much time they have left to salvage their season. The Flyers can’t afford a second prolonged losing streak after beginning a 10-game losing streak not even two months ago. But they’re in one now, no matter how much is to blame on circumstances (namely COVID) out of their control. Chuck Fletcher almost certainly won’t blow the team up until at least the trade deadline. After all, that’s when the demand will be at its highest. And you might as well give the Flyers as much runway as possible to figure things out; drastic change should truly be a last resort.

So many pieces remain from exactly two years ago when the Flyers unofficially began turning a middling season into a remarkable one. Unfortunately, the 2021-22 Flyers can hardly hold a candle to the pre-2020 2019-20 Flyers; both in terms of record and their underlying process.

Even acknowledging van Riemsdyk’s earlier comments, the Flyers aren’t going to stop looking for answers. Professional athletes have far too much pride to quit, especially with so much of their season left to play. But if there’s one thing everybody knows in the first week of January, it’s the difficulty of breaking bad habits. “We don’t wanna get to the point where it’s too little, too late,” van Riemsdyk said. While the Flyers should get Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Travis Sanheim back by their next game on Tuesday, it’s not like the Flyers’ play was where it needs to be before they left the lineup.

“Certainly, we’re gonna have to start stringing together some good hockey and some good results,” van Riemsdyk also added. The Flyers have only done the latter once since mid-November; they haven’t really done the latter at all this season. Philadelphia hasn’t outshot their opponent in three consecutive games once this season. Their seven-game point streak includes the Flyers’ only three-game winning streak of the season (Dec. 10-14). Unless the Flyers can somehow reach a level they haven’t hit all season, it’s hard to imagine the Flyers not eventually arriving at “too little, too late.” Maybe all that’s left to wonder is how quickly they’ll get there.

Lindies

Tonight’s 47 shots allowed were their second-highest total of the season; the team yielded 50 shots in their first game under Yeo, the second half of a back-to-back against the potent Colorado Avalanche. Safe to say the circumstances surrounding the poor defense were more understandable then than they were last night.

Not counting the 2020-21 season, since it didn’t begin until January 13, the Flyers have lost four (and maybe counting), three, and five games, respectively, each of the last three seasons after the calendar year has changed.

Jones’ 44 saves were a season-high and his most since he stopped 47 of 48 on Mar. 7, 2016, for the Sharks in a 2-1 overtime win at Calgary.

Hertl’s four goals against the Flyers are the most by a Western Conference player (whose teams only play the Flyers twice per season) against Philadelphia in one season since Sean Monahan scored the same amount of goals in 2017-18.

One bright spot for the Flyers tonight — Cam York picked up his first NHL point, assisting on the 2-0 goal. York continues to look impressive in his second audition at the NHL level. With Provorov and Sanheim set to return, we’ll find out if York has shown enough to stay with the big club. If the answer is yes, he’ll probably be on the third pair next to Keith Yandle Tuesday.

Philadelphia leads the league with five overtime losses in games in which they’ve scored first. Their .611 winning percentage when taking a 1-0 lead is just 21st in the NHL.

Might be a good time to read up on this after the Sharks placed Kane on waivers for contraction termination Saturday. Although considering it’s reportedly the result of Kane violating AHL COVID protocol, he might officially be in Antonio Brown territory.

Things won’t get easy for the Flyers anytime soon; just look at their next three opponents. First is Carolina, whose currently first in the NHL by points percentage. Next is Boston, which is virtually a must-win already for the Flyers to stay in the wild-card mix. And after the Bruins are the Rangers, who are 7th in the NHL and tied for third-best on the road. Just like during the middle of the Flyers’ 10-game losing streak, it’s easy to see this 0-3-2 skid spiraling out of control.

3 Stars

3rd: Adin Hill (SJ) – .935 SV% (29 Saves/31 Shots)

2nd: James van Riemsdyk (PHI) – 2 Goals (8, 9), 4 Shots

1st: Tomáš Hertl (SJ) – Natural Hat-Trick (18, 19, 20), 7 Shots, 54% Face-Offs, 23;27 TOI

Next

SJ: 1/11, 10:30 PM vs. DET (16-15-3, W1)

PHI: 1/11, 7 PM vs. CAR (24-7-2, OTL1)

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