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Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 55: CHI 3, PHI 4 – FABulous

The reunion of the Joel Farabee-Derick Brassard-Cam Atkinson line sparked the Flyers to a third-period comeback and extended their lengthy regular-season home winning streak against Chicago. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 55: CHI 3, PHI 4 – FABulous

Third time’s the charm! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 4-3, over the Chicago Blackhawks. One game after blowing another chance to win a game in the late moments, the Flyers returned the favor to a different Central Division foe with two third period goals in what felt as much like a playoff game as one between two teams on pace for barely more than ten points than the current President’s Trophy front-runner (Colorado) can.

And that wasn’t by coincidence on the Flyers’ side. While the team has certainly been making progress with their structure and habits over the last month-and-a-half, their performance on Thursday was so poor that Mike Yeo felt the need to call the team out. Cam Atkinson called it “an embarrassment” in the wake of Saturday’s contest. And against Chicago, the lone current non-playoff team of their eight-game homestand represented their best chance to win for just the second time in their last ten games. Not to mention the team wanting to build off a rare positive moment this season, with Kevin Hayes returning from surgery for his first game since Jan. 17.

It certainly looked like they were on that path to start the game. Philadelphia came out of the gates with an extra pep in their step, holding a 10-3 edge in shots on goal at the under ten-minute timeout; plus a one-nothing edge where it matters most, courtesy of an Oskar Lindblom deflection. But the Blackhawks started to come on in the period’s closing minutes, then struck 24 seconds into the second immediately off a face-off. Chicago took two separate leads in the middle period thanks to a pair of Dylan Strome goals. It reflected so much of what went wrong Thursday, with all of Chicago’s goals coming off simple mistakes, the type winning teams can’t afford to make as consistently as the Flyers have.

But the Flyers looked like a team eager to prove their coach’s assertion from Thursday that crumbling is “a growing trend” for them. With their backs against the wall, the Flyers played a strong third period. It wasn’t overly dominant, but the Flyers did outshoot Chicago 8-7 and had an edge in expected goals as well (55.49%). Most importantly, their new-look-forward group made the chances they did generate count.

Well, new look in the sense that Hayes returned and Yeo shuffled around the lines as a result. But the biggest change he made was reverting to one of the brightest spots of the team’s start to 2021-22; the FAB line of Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson, and Derick Brassard. The trio hadn’t played together since Nov. 10, but their chemistry re-clicked seemingly instantly. Not only did their line collect a whopping 89.07% expected goals share — making them easily Philadelphia’s best line — but they flipped the game on its head. A nice passing play saw Brassard squeak the equalizer through Kevin Laniknen 3:09 into the frame. Two shifts later, Atkinson froze Lankinen with a beautiful shot, showing the national audience he remains an upper-echelon goal-scorer.

Perhaps the ensuing chaos of the next few minutes, featuring several big scrums — some retaliatory (namely after Kirby Dach drilled Kevin Connauton with a high-hit, forcing the Flyers defenseman to leave the game), some originating out of thin air — made it easier for the Flyers to hold this lead than so many of the ones they let slip away before. Valuable time for Chicago ticked off the clock when the focus seemed to be more on scrums than scoring. And for a change, it was the Flyers’ opponents shooting themselves in the foot down the stretch, with a late too-many-men penalty effectively icing the outcome.

There’s a reason I began my projected lineup turning point with today’s game in Tuesday’s recap. No matter how well the Flyers were playing in February, there was really only so much they could do with just how decimated their lineup was. The Flyers had been hinting Hayes would return today for about a week, and if he’s anything close to 100%, it would be a fairly sizable boost to the Flyers’ lineup. Wade Allison shouldn’t be far behind; he was also activated off IR Saturday and sent to the Phantoms (presumably) to get his legs back under him before being recalled. The Flyers’ forward core is still below-average on paper, but it’s much more respectable than it was before.

Unfortunately, this won’t last long for the Flyers. Even if they manage to stay healthy (which is certainly no guarantee), the trade deadline will further thin the lineup, both in terms of quality and quantity. The culture and momentum changes that are Philadelphia’s biggest incentives for the rest of the season will never be more attainable than they are in the next two weeks. Saturday marks a solid start towards that quest. But it will take some semblance of sustained success, something that has consistently avoided the Flyers this season, to maximize this window.

Lindies

I haven’t had a chance to talk about Rasmus Ristolainen since Crossing Broad’s Anthony SanFilippo reported the Flyers offered him a 6-year, $37.5 extension ($6.25 million AAV). Ristolainen certainly has been better than expected for the Flyers this season; his base underlying numbers are solid relative to his teammates (+1.65% Corsi, +3.34% Expected Goals). However, he remains a very flawed player, one whose propensity for physicality can bring more trouble than good. Case in point: watch him (#70 in black) on Strome’s 2-1 goal today.

https://twitter.com/nosalaryretaind/status/1500222268244467712

That’s not to mention that one of Ristolainen’s greatest assets in Buffalo, his power-play work, has gone largely unutilized by the Flyers. He was on the power-play today, but not on the point; Daryl Williams tried to maximize Ristolainen’s size advantage by placing the defenseman as the net-front presence on PP2. Ristolainen did have a quality chance, so we’ll see if the Flyers stick with this quirk.

It ultimately didn’t help the Flyers score, however, as the Flyers’ PP drops to 3 for its last 39 with a weak 0-4 showing Saturday. It’s back to the point where the man-advantage is doing more bad than good; Strome’s 3-2 goal came second after a misplay at the conclusion of the Flyers’ third man-advantage.

Congratulations to former Flyer Wayne Simmonds, who played his 1000th NHL game Saturday night for Toronto. Hard to believe it’s been over three years since Simmonds last suited up in Orange and Black. I figured I’d put this right after the Ristolainen segment(s) since Simmonds had the perfect blend of physicality and skill. No one wanted to go toe-to-toe with the Wayne Train; nor could many who tried stop him.

Similar to how Travis Konecny desperately needed a goal Thursday (he has just three tallies since Nov. 15 before that game; two of which can be categorized as extremely lucky), Martin Jones needed victory today. It’s his first since Dec. 29; Jones went 0-6-2 with a .874 save percentage in the interim.

Philadelphia narrowly avoided a potential 16th one-goal loss this season; only Washington and Anaheim have suffered more such defeats this season. Close actually was close enough today.

The Flyers remain undefeated since Nov. 9, 1996, at home against the Blackhawks in the regular season; a run of seventeen games. Yes, they didn’t win the game that mattered most against Chicago during that span. But it’s still a nice streak (and I added the regular season qualifier, anyway).

POG Starter Jacket Standings!

Starter, Jones, Unknown, Honey Badger – 2

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

Finally, if you’ve got an extra prayer tonight, use it for Flyers prospect Jackson Cates. He suffered a scary collision into the boards and had to be stretched off the ice during Saturday night’s Phantoms game. Nothing but the best to him.

3 Stars

3rd: Joel Farabee (PHI) – 3 Assists (9, 10, 11)

2nd: Derick Brassard (PHI) – Goal (5), 3 Shots

1st: Cam Atkinson (PHI) – 2 Goals (19, 20), Assist (22), 3 Shots, 3 Takeaways

Next

CHI: 3/6, 7 PM vs. TB (36-12-6, W1)

PHI: 3/8, 7 PM vs. VGK (31-21-4, W1)

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