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Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 45: WPG 1, PHI 3 – The Little Victories

Flyers

After breaking a 13-game losing streak Saturday, James van Riemsdyk’s rebound goal above broke a late 1-1 tie to send the Flyers to the All-Star break with consecutive victories. (Steven M. Falk/Philadelphia Inquirer)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 45: WPG 1, PHI 3 – The Little Victories

I’ve decided to only use this bit after double-digit losing streaks, which means it’s the second time you’re seeing it this season.

Again, just pretend the Flyers are the Leafs for the first six seconds.

The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 3-1, over the Winnipeg Jets, heading into the All-Star break on a two-game winning streak after losing thirteen straight, because of course. It isn’t even much of a shock that this is happening. After all, the Flyers have lost eight or more games in a row four times in the last five seasons; they’ve gone on a point streak of at least six games after all of them.

Only time will tell if they’ll embark on a similar run this time around. But if the Flyers keep playing as they did for most of Tuesday night, they’ll give themselves a decent shot too. Philadelphia racked up a season-high 66.23% expected goals share at 5-on-5. In all situations, they were expected to out-score the Jets 4.86-1.64, absolutely taking the Jets apart in the first and third periods. Yes, they did fall behind 48 seconds in on a one-timed rocket by sharpshooter Kyle Connor. But unlike its previous games, where one mistake turned the Flyers into a Jenga tower, their overall foundation was much sturdier on Tuesday.

“I think in the third, there was an eight or nine-minute stretch where we were playing good, and then we started to stray away from it,” Scott Laughton said, alluding to the type of stretch that probably would’ve broken the team not too long ago. “But it was only a couple shifts and we came right back and started playing with the puck.”

There weren’t many bricks loose on the Flyers side Tuesday, but the few that were certainly had the tower shaking. Connor’s goal wasn’t even his best chance of the night; he easily could have double-dipped on a beautiful backdoor set-up on the power-play. Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele wound up with a clear-cut two-on-none that may have made the score two-to-none if Wheeler wasn’t on his strong side for the ensuing one-timer. Pierre Luc-Dubois briefly had an open-net on a strange bounce backdoor in the final five minutes; but he wasn’t able to plant the same type of dagger Jacob Petersen did late in the Dallas game. The Flyers deserved to win Tuesday. But if Carter Hart didn’t deliver another stellar performance, this may have just been the latest hard-fought loss in a long line of them for the Flyers in 2022.

But if Winnipeg had an edge in moments that stand out in casual fans’ heads, the Flyers were far superior in the time between those moments. It was understandably masked by the thirteen-game losing streak, but at 5-on-5, the Flyers are playing some of their best hockey of the whole season as of late. We can break the Flyers’ season thus far into five nine-game segments to easily prove that.

Game Numbers (Dates)Corsi For% (League Rank)Expected Goals% (League Rank)
1-9 (10/15 – 11/4)47.13% (25th)46.34% (27th)
10-18 (11/6-11/24)48.2% (25th)45.52% (28th)
19-27 (11/26-12/14)47.82% (20th)45.65% (25th)
28-36 (12/16 – 1/13)45.87% (26th)43.92% (27th)
37-45 (1/15 – 2/1)48.05% (20th)50.31% (19th)
Stats are 5-on-5 only (except the dates, of course).

Have the Flyers been particularly great in this most recent stretch? No; they’re still in the bottom half by the two most well-known play-driving metrics in Corsi and Expected Goals. But they’re within 0.15% of their best Corsi in a nine-game stretch this season. And they’re out-chancing opponents for the first time in any of those runs. And this is probably the least healthy the Flyers have been in any of those segments; Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis have missed the entirety of this last stretch, and Joel Farabee and Kevin Hayes have missed most of it.

The Flyers’ teamwork and confidence, two years that were understandably off during their losing skid, showed signs of rebounding. It wasn’t just their on-ice play that showed a looser team that was creating tons of chances near Connor Hellebuyck; it carried over to their post-game interviews as well. Our wingers were really good along the wall when their D were pinching and we were able to get out of the zone pretty well. I thought guys were confident with the puck,” Laughton observed. Travis Konecny made sure to point out Laughton’s contributions on the forecheck before his game-tying goal in the second. James van Riemsdyk spoke positively about how the team has tightened up and simplified their game. And Mike Yeo, who’s had little to smile about since taking over as interim coach, cracked a joke when asked about the influence of new assistant John Torchetti.

“In between the second and third period, (Torchetti) said, ‘Let’s go win this period.’ I think that was the difference, we’ve been missing that kind of insight,” Yeo deadpanned before breaking out in a fit of laughter.

If the Flyers can sustain this positivity, both on and off the ice, it should bode well for their future. Not in the sense that it’s likely, they’ll even be within striking distance of a playoff spot at any point this season; that ship has almost certainly sailed. But since Chuck Fletcher and Dave Scott poured cold water on any talk of the Flyers undergoing a rebuild, there isn’t nearly as much value in collapsing over their final three months.

If the Flyers do plan to return to at least playoff contention in 2022-23, it benefits them to play as well as possible to finish 2021-22. Doing so would only boost either each player’s future outlook with the team or increase their value as a trade-chip. Besides, it would take a truly special collapse for the Flyers to finish any lower than fourth-worst in the NHL. And there isn’t much of a difference in lottery odds if the Flyers finish, say, fifth-worst (17.3%) or tenth (9.3%). Yes, 17.3% is almost double 9.3%; but both scenarios still leave more than an 80% chance of the Flyers picking outside the top two. And even if the Flyers do settle into a stretch of consistently hanging with teams from a play-driving standpoint, their lack of talent (especially after the deadline) might lead to their first sub-hockey-.500 season since 2006-07.

It would be one thing if the Flyers saw this season as the first of a multi-year stretch where they were set to be a consistent bottom-five team; then bottoming out would have a stronger case. But whether you agree with them or not, that doesn’t appear to be the direction the front office is leaning. An organization is always at its strongest when everyone is pulling in the same direction. So if the Flyers front office wants to right the ship, it’s better if the coaches and players do their best to follow suit. It may not solve all of their questions in the short or long term. But it should put them in a better position to start finding some answers.

Lindies

The Flyers should get some reinforcements back when they return to play on Wednesday, but their big names still remain sidelined. Derick Brassard should be back; it sounds like he maybe could have played Wednesday; but Yeo understandably said it didn’t make much sense to bring Brassard back for one game, then have him sit for another week. He also said Patrick Brown has a “decent chance” of coming back, which could at least be a boost for the bottom six. Everyone else falls under Yeo’s distinction of not having a timeline; except maybe Joel Farabee, who Yeo said could be back in “2-3 weeks.” Though he also made sure to reiterate that isn’t guaranteed.

Yeo was probably originally planning on slotting Brassard on the Flyers’ third-line. But that doesn’t look like it’ll be the case anymore. Ever since they were put together in the Dallas game, the Max Willman-Morgan Frost-Gerry Mayhew trio has been surprisingly stellar, racking up a 62.57% expected goals rate together. They once again delivered a strong game Tuesday, even though Frost didn’t practice Monday and was questionable for the game with a non-COVID illness.

Tuesday’s victory was the Flyers’ first regulation victory since Dec. 14, a 6-1 thrashing of the Devils in just Yeo’s fifth game as interim coach.

I forgot to bring back the POG Starter Jacket Standings on Saturday, so enjoy a double-dose of them today.

Here’s Saturday’s.
And here’s Tuesday’s!

Starter, Jones, Unknown – 2

Sander/Sanner/Sandra/Sanny, Gobs, G, Hollywood, Risto, Coots, Jones, Honey Badger, Mayhew, Sergeant – 1

Let’s close the final FFR of the first half of this season by focusing on some things much more important than what the Flyers are doing on the ice. Before Tuesday’s game, the Flyers announced a slew of things they’re doing to honor Black History Month, including players using the Hockey Diversity Alliance’s #TapeOutHate tape. On Feb. 21, they’ll host the NHL’s Black Hockey History Museum before their matinee game that day. And on Wednesday, the team released this video for National Girls and Women in Sports Day as part of their “New Heights” series.

3 Stars

3rd: Kyle Connor (WPG) – Goal (25), 21:05 TOI

2nd: Carter Hart (PHI) – .969 SV% (32 Saves/33 Shots), 1 GA on 1.64 Expected Goals Against (All Situations)

1st: James van Riemsdyk (PHI) – Goal (11), 7 Shots

Next

WPG: 2/8, 8 PM vs. MIN (27-10-3, W5)

PHI: 2/9, 7 PM vs. DET (20-20-6, W1)

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

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