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(AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 43: PHI 3, NYI 4 – History

(AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 43: PHI 3, NYI 4 – History

Even if you only go back to March 26, 2009, Keith Yandle has seen a lot.

Starting from there is probably a bit of a disservice. After all, Yandle had already played 110 NHL games before that day; that’s about 64% of the average NHL player’s career on its own. Not to mention the 109 games in the AHL he played in before establishing himself as a full-time NHL defenseman in the 2008-09 season with the Phoenix Coyotes (just the name itself does a decent job of capturing just how long Yandle’s streak is; even though they didn’t change their name to Arizona until the 2014-15 season, Yandle’s last with the team.)

Or the 66 he spent in 2005-06 with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats alongside Brad Marchand, future NHL teammate Jason Demers, and former Flyer Andrew MacDonald, putting him on the radar and separating himself from most of the 104 players taken before him in the 2005 NHL Draft. Or the three seasons he played for the Cushing Academy of the USHS-Preps, which made the reality of becoming an NHL prospect possible. Same for the numerous practices and tournaments, early mornings, and seemingly endless car rides that countless kids push through for the dream of playing in just one NHL game. Let alone 965. Let alone 965 in a row.

It takes a lot of things to reach a streak like the one Yandle set Tuesday night when he officially passed Doug Jarvis for the longest consecutive games played streak in NHL history, one that ended when Yandle was less than one year old. The most obvious one, and perhaps the most overlooked one, is simply time. When Yandle’s streak began, the No. 1 song in the U.S. was Right Round by Flo Rida. Apple was on just its second iteration of the iPhone. Barack Obama was barely two months into his first term as president. The Phillies were the reigning World Series champions. The Flyers’ leading scorer that season was Jeff Carter with 46 goals. No Flyer has scored even 40 in a season since. It’s safe to say a lot has changed since then.

The role luck plays in such a streak goes without saying. No player in the NHL right now is at exactly one-hundred percent health. Hockey is an extremely physical, fast game that involves shooting vulcanized rubber over one-hundred miles an hour and players skating with knives on the bottom of their feet into boards with little to no give at speeds faster than almost any human can run. And that’s not accounting for general sickness, life events, or any of the other endless list of reasons hockey players can miss a game; including the COVID-19 pandemic, which doesn’t discriminate whether you’ve played four games in a row or four hundred. If anyone should know this, it’s the Flyers; after all, Claude Giroux (328 games) and Ivan Provorov (403 games) both lost lengthy iron-man streaks due to positive tests.

It’s not that Yandle has avoided injury or sickness over the last twelve years; it’s that he’s somehow found a way to play through it. Doing so takes an incalculable but undoubtedly massive toll on even the toughest competitors. It requires not just an extremely high pain threshold, but an even greater love of the sport. There’s an old saying that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. One might think that’s true for all athletes, and to some extent, it probably is. But being a professional athlete is a grind, and a far more grueling one than anyone other than the select few who earn that profession will ever completely understand; not only physically but mentally as well, especially with the rise of social media and the unfettered vitriol that fans can put right in an athlete’s mentions.

Not everyone, even those good enough to reach a major sports league, can endure as long as Yandle has; that should go without saying. A streak like his requires a strong body, but perhaps an even stronger mind. And while it may not “require” humility, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some. Yandle does in spades. It takes earning the trust of your coaches and the support of your teammates to get anywhere close to not missing a game in nearly a dozen years. No one would have any problem if Yandle was pumping his own tires right now; setting an NHL record deserves to be celebrated. And yet every time he’s spoken to the media over the last few days, you would think this was just an ordinary week in Yandle’s storied career.

“I didn’t know how many people were coming, who was coming. I stayed out of it,” Yandle said. “No one told me who was coming. To see the amount of support I had, people taking the time out of their lives to support me, it meant the world to me.” He then stated what’s become incredibly obvious over the last few days: “I didn’t really wanna (talk about) the streak. No one likes talking about themselves.”

He may not like it, but Yandle was on center stage Tuesday night, and deservedly so. Just dressing in 965 straight NHL games is impressive, but it obviously took a lot more than 965 nights worth of work for Yandle to reach this milestone. Take it from the only other man to play in 964 consecutive NHL games; “this streak is a tribute to (Yandle’s) character, commitment, and love of the game.”

Yandle may be a role player now; and his struggles, some of them glaring, during his time in Philadelphia are no secret. But at his peak, Yandle was an outstanding offensive defenseman. He’s put up five 50+ point seasons, including a career-high 62 just three seasons ago. He wore an “A” on his sweater in eight seasons. His 1,075 career games are nearly split exactly between the Western Conference (558) and the Eastern (517). He’s one of only a handful of active players to have played in the Western and Eastern Conference Final. Yandle’s played on a President’s Trophy winner… and the 2014-15 Coyotes and their sixth-worst points percentage (.341%, 56 points) of any team in the cap era. He’s been traded. Signed a big UFA deal. Been bought out. Averaged over 24 and below 15 minutes a night. Simply put, Keith Yandle has seen it all.

But he has never seen the Philadelphia Flyers like this. No one has.

That’s because until Tuesday night, the Flyers had never fallen this low, at least in this way. Never before in their 55-year history had the Flyers lost thirteen consecutive games. Of course, no team in NHL history had ever suffered multiple ten-game losing streaks in their first forty games; these Flyers bypassed that benchmark seemingly forever ago, even if it’s only been about a week. In a game where the Flyers had as much incentive to win as they’re probably going to have in any game the rest of the season, they were utterly flat and lifeless.

Much of the second half of the Flyers’ losing streak has been unlucky. The team has played legitimately good games, topping the 58% expected goals mark three times and out-chancing their opponents overall in their previous six contests. Mike Yeo’s message changed from dissatisfied to complimentary of the team’s work ethic and competitiveness. This wasn’t a team quitting on their coach the way they did on Alain Vigneault in early December; this was a Flyers team that just didn’t have enough gas in the tank, in part (but not entirely) due to their lengthy and seemingly always growing injury list, to get over the hump.

The Flyers had reason to believe they were a bounce away from winning one of those games, and that bounce, even for a team as utterly snake-bitten as they have been in 2022, would come eventually. As Gerry Mayhew said after the team’s tenth straight loss last week, “I don’t know what it’s gonna be, but hopefully a lucky bounce or two, and things can change around for us.” Then they got that bounce Tuesday. Twice, in fact. The Flyers jumped out to one of the luckiest two-goal leads in hockey history, with Claude Giroux scoring from a near-impossible angle from well away from the crease just 57 seconds in, then Justin Braun blasting a puck in off Andy Greene’s skate.

Unfortunately, the Flyers almost immediately found out that Mayhew’s belief a lucky bounce or two would be the catalyst to turning their season around or even winning a hockey game for the first time in 2022, would ultimately be incorrect. New York scored less than a minute after Braun’s goal, tied the game before the first intermission, and then completely took the Flyers to the cleaners. Philadelphia’s 0.86 expected goals for (5-on-5 only) and 1.21 (all situations) were their second-lowest of the season. Their 28.68% expected goals mark at 5-on-5 was a season-low. Their 17 shots on goal were a season-low; and their fewest since a putrid 16 in Game 7 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals against this same Islanders team the Flyers have managed just one regulation win against in 21 tries since 2019-20.

But this probably shouldn’t have been a shock. After all, each of the Flyers’ last four games carried significant emotional significance beyond the game itself, and they’ve found a way to lose all four. They lost Jake Vorâćek’s return last Thursday, failing to avoid another ten-game losing streak. They failed to help get Rasmus Ristolainen closure after becoming the poster child of the Sabres’ short-comings at the end of the Jack Eichel era, with Ristolainen’s goal essentially the only bright spot in what was otherwise a total annihilation. Yandle not only tied Jarvis’ streak in front of the home crowd on Monday, but Michael Raffl also returned to Philadelphia for the first time since his eight-year Flyers career ended (even if that excitement was mitigated since Raffl didn’t play due to injury). And Tuesday, given the circumstances and their performance, may have been their worst game of the season.

No one deserves the shell of themselves the Flyers have turned into; part due to injuries, part due to the players they do have underperforming, part due to bad luck. The fans don’t deserve it. Yandle doesn’t deserve it. Fortunately for the latter, he won’t have to endure it much longer. Yandle will almost certainly move his no-move clause and be traded at the deadline. Yes, angry Flyers fans on Twitter, someone will want Yandle; he can still provide utility on the power-play and would be more useful if the Flyers were able to deploy him on a sheltered third-pair alongside someone who can make up for his defensive deficiencies like Justin Braun, as the Flyers planned to do when they expected Ryan Ellis to be a fixture on the top-pair. Even a less revered, more expensive Erik Gustafsson fetched a 7th at last year’s deadline.

But there aren’t enough life rafts for everyone. There will be changes, but the entire team isn’t going anywhere. The hiring of new assistant coach John Torchetti, who coached the AHL’s Iowa Wild and even led the Wild to the 2016 playoffs as interim head coach (ironically, after replacing Mike Yeo) bodes well for Fletcher’s job security. The team also announced that the rest of the coaching staff will remain intact through the season’s end.

As for the fans? Well, that’s for you to decide. Most will stay, no matter what they might say in comments sections; if only for the sole fear that the team will start winning the moment they jump ship. But that may be less of the case than it’s been during any other downwards spiral in the Flyers’ lengthy existence. The history of the Flyers, which drew so many people, and their kids, and their kids in, isn’t the same as the present. It really isn’t even close. Maybe that sinking realization will be enough for the Flyers to finally — mercifully — truly hit rock bottom.

Lindies

For more on everything that’s gone into Yandle’s streak, check out this video from NHL PR.

The Flyers may have lost again, but at least it was a more enjoyable experience for those watching on TV. That’s because, for the first time since Feb. 20, 2020, Jim Jackson and Keith Jones got to call a Flyers road game in person (it was actually Jackson and Bill Clement on that last broadcast, but the point stands). The Flyers were one of two teams at the start of the season not sending their announcers on the road (the Bruins were the other). Great to see two of the best voices in hockey back where they long.

After Linus Sandin made his NHL debut Monday (and dressed again Tuesday), it looks like the Flyers will have another player appear in their first NHL game this week. Isaac Ratcliffe, the Flyers’ 2nd round pick in 2017, was called up to the taxi squad, and Mike Yeo confirmed he’ll play in the team’s next game on Saturday. It’s a bit of a surprising promotion; Ratcliffe was once a fairly hyped prospect after scoring over a point-per-game for the OHL’s Guelph Storm in 2017-18. But he has just 34 points in 108 career AHL games and only 10 in 33 this season. But you never know when a prospect is going to click — some never do, but there are some late bloomers. The 6’6” left-winger will get a great chance to prove he can fall into the latter category on Saturday.

Would’ve at least been nice to get some 3-on-3 out of this game (although the risk of going to the shootout may have been worth avoiding).

In case you missed it (and if you’re a die-heart enough fan to be reading this article, you probably didn’t), Chuck Fletcher and Dave Scott held a mid-season press conference Wednesday morning. It’s far too extensive to break down in here, so expect a deep dive into that when Saturday’s game rolls around, barring something especially noteworthy or/and crazy in that game.

3 Stars

3rd: Keith Yandle (PHI) – Sets All-Time Record for Most Consecutive Games Played (965)

2nd: Mathew Barzal (NYI) – Goal (8), Assist (18), 4 Shots, 20:46 TOI

1st: Zach Parise (NYI) – Goal (3), Assist (9), 4 Shots

Next

PHI: 1/29, 1 PM vs. LA (21-16-6, OTL1)

NYI: 1/27, 7 PM vs. LA (21-16-6, OTL1)

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

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