Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 52: WSH 1, PHI 2 – Faraback
Honorable mention to Backssard as a possible title contender. The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 2-1, over the Washington Capitals. Their six-game losing streak is over, as are the injury absences of Joel Farabee, Derick Brassard, and Carter Hart. The result was a fairly low-event, evenly played game that saw the Flyers end February the way they began it; on a winning note.
Of course, those two victories were Philadelphia’s only two of the month; even for the shortest month of the year and a week-long break for the All-Star Game, it’s obviously not anywhere near what the Flyers are hoping for; even after acknowledging all of the factors out of the team’s control (mainly injuries and COVID). The fact that it’s twice the amount of wins they had in January speaks volumes about just how lost this season has become.
The returns of Farabee, Brassard, and Hart won’t solve that. Getting a top-six winger, middle-to-bottom-six forward, and starting goaltender back is a significant boost. But that group pails in comparison to the one of the players the Flyers are still missing; a group led by their top two centers and best defenseman. Those absences, two of which are more or less certain to last the rest of the season, will and have prevented the team from being able to feign a turn-around after falling out of the playoff race in November.
But getting that trio back is still noteworthy. The Flyers are essentially guaranteed to make significant changes this offseason. The next 30 games will be a part of how drastic and which changes are made to try to return the Flyers to playoff contention. Being as close to full health as possible allows the Flyers to make the most accurate assessments possible when determining their specific course(s) of action this summer. If the Flyers avoid any more major injuries and win a handful of games, it means they’re at least a little bit closer to turning things around.
Yes, the wins don’t carry over from this season into next. But momentum can, both positively and negatively. The Flyers have felt like a broken record, emphasis on broken, for a long time now. They’re largely been an average 5-on-5 team for the last month and a half (49.33% expected goals, 16th in NHL since Jan. 18). Over that span, they also have the second-worst points percentage in the league, leaving only the Devils. Even if you are doing all the rights, or at least far more than you were previously, eventually everybody needs results to justify their commitment. Go without positive outcomes long enough, and it’s easy if not inevitable for nihilism or doubt to set in; both for old and especially young players.
The Flyers didn’t play their best game post-All-Star break today; far from it. Their first period was tremendous, with Corsi For and Expected Goals percentages in the mid-70% range, and a 2-0 lead courtesy of a snipe by Claude Giroux off the game’s opening faceoff and a bit of a lucky bounce for Cam Atkinson off Conor Sheary to allow him to finish off a 2-on-1. The Flyers’ next forty minutes weren’t as strong; they did have a slight 15-14 edge in scoring chances over that span, but just about every other stat leaned Washington’s way; including goals, courtesy of a T.J. Oshie one-timer seconds into a power-play.
But that was all the Capitals could muster. Carter Hart didn’t miss a beat in his first game in eleven days stopping 27 of 28 shots that accounted for 2.49 expected goals for (all situations). It legitimately felt like a formula for success moving forward, not merely a victory by chance. Largely low-event hockey, find a way to capitalize when you do find your groove and get good goaltending as well. There’s basically nothing the Flyers can do to fix themselves this season. But it is possible to start improving their future as soon as the present. With Farabee, Brassard, and Hart back, the Flyers finally at least have the means to give themselves a chance to start making some gains, however incremental they might be.
Part of the reason I went with Faraback or Backssard (I also considered Farabackssard, but yeah, that’s a no) is of course Brassard’s struggles to actually stay in the lineup after returning. Will the fourth time be the charm? The answer is a definitive… maybe.
The Flyers improve to 13-3-6 when scoring first with today’s win. It also snaps a five-game losing streak for the Flyers against Washington at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s Philly’s first home win against the Caps since the game that turned the 2019-20 season around for good; Jan. 8, 2020.
Claude Giroux’s goal not only set quite the tone for today’s game but also continues his climb up the league’s all-time scoring leaderboard. He’s just three points shy of joining Bobby Clarke as the only Flyers to score 900 points in Orange and Black.
The Flyers sent Connor Bunnaman back to the Phantoms with Farabee and Brassard returning. Have to think it’s likely that Max Willman and, controversially, Morgan Frost will be joining him barring more injuries. The Flyers clearing don’t think Frost has earned or is at least ready to handle a top-six role that would give him a realistic chance of thriving offensively. Brassard’s return fills his 3C spot, and the Flyers seem committed to keeping him at center. The team could make room for him if they wanted to, but it’s clear the organization isn’t willing or doesn’t feel the need to do so. Both Frost and the Flyers need to handle things better the next time he comes up to the NHL; after all, he’ll already be 23 in May.
Elliotte Friedman’s latest 32 Thoughts article was pretty Flyers heavy; let’s go over the two big points, both involving two big, right-handed defensemen. Starting with the one that’s currently a Flyer, Friedman writes he believes Rasmus Ristolainen (who had an assist today) “gets moved,” citing Ristolainen’s desire to finally play in the playoffs, both for the chance to win the Cup (or just make his first playoff appearance) and also because his camp thinks the physical nature of playoff hockey suits Ristolainen’s play-style, potentially raising his market value.
Ristolainen has certainly been better for the Flyers than he was at the end of his time in Buffalo (which says more about the latter than the former). He does make some legitimately strong plays; just look at this big hit from Saturday that directly led to the game-winning goal.
Having physicality and being tough to play against are important traits. But he remains a flawed player, and the Flyers tossing the big extension it would keep to prevent him from leaving (not to mention the pick/prospect compensation a deadline trade could bring back) is a high-risk move.
Then again, so would (albeit probably to a lesser extent) trading for Jeff Petry, who Friedman said he could “see Philadelphia in on.” Petry, like most Canadiens, isn’t having the most stellar season, although he grades out fine to good in most of the micro stats Corey Sznajder tracks at All Three Zones, especially exiting his own zone (something the Flyers as a team struggle mightily at). He also grades out relative positive to his teammates in Corsi For, expected goals, and on-ice goals for percentages. Trading for a 34-year old with three years left after this season at a $6.25 million cap hit inherently carries risk. The Flyers could certainly do worse if their right-side next year is led by Ryan Ellis and Petry, pending what it would take to acquire the latter.
Last, but certainly not least — the long-awaited return of the PoG Starter Jacket standings!
Starter, Jones, Unknown – 2
Sander/Sanner/Sandra/Sanny, Gobs, G, Hollywood, Risto, Coots, Jones, Honey Badger, Mayhew, Sergeant, Big Mac – 1
3rd: T.J. Oshie (WSH) – Goal (6), 4 Shots
2nd: Claude Giroux (PHI) – Goal (17), 65% Faceoffs, 20:15 TOI
1st: Cam Atkinson (PHI) – Goal (18), 20:22 TOI
WSH: 2/28, 7:30 PM vs. TOR (34-14-4, W2)
PHI: 3/1, 7 PM vs. EDM (28-20-3, L1)
All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick
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