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Two eerily similar goals from Kevin Hayes and 26 saves from Carter Hart led the Flyers to victory in their first game after the Claude Giroux trade on Sunday. (Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 62: NYI 1, PHI 2 – The Afterparty

Two eerily similar goals from Kevin Hayes and 26 saves from Carter Hart led the Flyers to victory in their first game after the Claude Giroux trade on Sunday. (Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 62: NYI 1, PHI 2 – The Afterparty

Say Hay(es)! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 2-1, over the New York Islanders, in the first game since May 2, 2005, that Claude Giroux is not a part of the organization. After getting the magical send-off he deserved on Thursday, the longest-tenured captain in team history became a Florida Panther on Saturday afternoon. And somewhat surprisingly, the team not only earned a win in the wake of Giroux’s official departure but a rare regulation victory over the New York Islanders; just their second in 21 games over the last three seasons (and eighth win in total).

If the Flyers are going to have any success the rest of this season, Sunday’s victory likely showcased the exact blueprint they’ll need to follow. It isn’t realistic to expect the Flyers to play outstanding hockey for a full 60 minutes given just how poor their roster is. And that certainly wasn’t the case on Sunday. While the Flyers played decently in the first period, it was certainly a lethargic start on both sides. And when Patrick Brown inadvertently deflected a long-distance Casey Cizikas shot past Carter Hart, it would’ve been understandable if Flyers fans were preparing for the dam to burst yet again, even if the team’s overall play (52.53% expected goals) was nothing to scoff at.

The second period was the main blemish on Philadelphia’s 5-on-5 play Sunday; they generated just 31.02% of the expected goals (1-0.45). But they found a way to break through the Islanders’ stout defense; twice, actually. Both goals came about in fairly similar ways; the Flyers won a battle near the front of the net, and Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee set up Kevin Hayes backdoor for two shots even a goalie as dialed in as Ilya Sorokin couldn’t stop.

The first came off a dogged forecheck by Farabee, stripping Sebastian Aho right near Sorokin and not giving the Islanders any time to set up defensively. The second came on a Philadelphia power-play, which unsurprisingly has looked better since Cam York returned to the NHL. The Flyers won the battle for a loose puck off an Owen Tippett shot (more on him later). And while falling, Farabee found Hayes standing just outside the chaos for his second of the day.

“We want guys finishing and feeling good about themselves. And Hayesey – the guy’s been through so much this year,” said Mike Yeo. “This is a guy that could’ve packed it in. But he wants to play. And I have so much respect for him.”

Much has been made of the Flyers’ struggles to win close games, and with good reason. Sunday at least presented them with a “stoppable force meets movable object” situation; the Islanders are now just 1-19-3 when trailing after forty minutes, after all. But the Flyers did everything right to protect their one-goal lead. They held the Islanders to just eight shots. They generated nearly 60% of the expected goals of the period. Arguably the best chance of the period — a James van Riemsdyk breakaway — belonged to the Flyers. Perhaps most importantly, after Barry Trotz got on the officials late in the second period for what he felt were some missed calls on the Flyers — a situation that usually results in the complaining coach’s team getting a call — the Flyers drew the only penalty of the third period.

The Flyers made it as easy as possible for themselves to win this game. And given just how short-handed the team is likely to be down the stretch, they’ll need to do that most nights to win. Other than Carter Hart stopping everything, there really isn’t another plausible path to victory over the next 20 games. You can argue whether or not the Flyers would be better winning those games or not. Their lottery odds would certainly suffer from a late-season hot streak. But no matter the outcome, finding out what the Flyers have in their roster, especially their younger players, is crucial. That will go a long way in deciding what moves Chuck Fletcher does (and doesn’t) make over the summer.

The Flyers will probably be better off, both in the long and maybe even short-term, if they maximize their lottery odds. But if they can find a way to do while generating some positive momentum for the players they see as part of their future, that would obviously be better. Sunday’s game is just the beginning of seeing how short-handed the Flyers get; Justin Braun sat as a precaution before an impending trade, and other pending UFAs like Derick Brassard and Keith Yandle could be moved as well. But it’s also the beginning of seeing how much pushback they can give in a time where everyone is (understandably) betting against them.

Lindies

The early returns on Owen Tippett, the lone player the Flyers acquired in the Giroux trade, were promising. It was intriguing to see Tippett, a shoot-first winger taken in the 1st round of the 2017 Draft who hasn’t lived up the hype as soon as expected, paired with Frost, a pass-first center taken in the 1st round of the 2017 Draft who hasn’t lived up the hype as soon as expected. Tippett did a little bit of everything in his Flyers debut. He drew a penalty just a couple of shifts in, hit iron in the second, and looked dangerous on the power-play. For someone who’s spent most of the year in the AHL, Tippett looked like he belonged in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Yeo had great words for both players. On Tippett; “(The puck) got off his stick in a hurry. I liked him shooting off the flank on the power-play. I liked his wall play in a lot of areas. And for a guy who when I talked to him this morning said he’s working on his 200-foot game, I didn’t have anything to point out or say to him today. So obviously a great start for him.” On Frost: “This was, for me, one of his best (games at center, as opposed to wing) today. He looked confident and comfortable with his wingers, and I think his wingers complimented him well. Definitely liked the way he played at both ends of the ice, which is obviously (a) real important part of being a centerman.

One player Tippett won’t have to worry about battling for ice-time with is Gerry Mayhew. After playing on the second-line Friday, Mayhew was placed on waivers yesterday. Sure enough, Mayhew was claimed by the Ducks just before puck drop. In truth, this move is a bit less shocking than most Flyers fans may find it. Mayhew had fallen into a rotational role at fourth line left-wing with the younger Max Willman. He hadn’t scored a point since Feb. 21, a nine-game scoring drought. Still, it’s disappointing to see one of the few fun elements of the 2021-22 Flyers officially come to an end.

The obvious line coming out of today’s game will be “the beginning of a new era,” something both Yeo and Joel Farabee brought up… but also somewhat walked back. “I talked to a few different guys today — whether it’s ice time, there’s a bit of an opportunity for guys to step into… I don’t want to say a new era, that sounds a little bit corny, but that’s kind of what it is.”

Yeo specifically mentioned Farabee (and Travis Konecny) as part of that comment; in his own post-game presser, Farabee said, “With G leaving, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for other guys. We’ve got something to prove to ourselves and our teammates for next year. It’s kind of, a little bit of a new era, almost in a sense.” In truth, the true new era probably won’t begin until 2022-23 (assuming Giroux doesn’t return in free agency). But as Farabee said, there’s nothing that says the Flyers can’t make some progress before then.

Three of Casey Cizikas’ eight goals this season have come at the Flyers’ expense.

One key for the Flyers entering the day was shutting down New York’s red hot-duo of Brock Nelson and Anders Lee. Not only is the former in the middle of a career year, but the pair have 17 of New York’s last 29 goals. Consider it mission accomplished; both Nelson and Lee had sub 35% expected goal shares, combining for just three shots (all from Nelson). Lee also took a penalty in the game.

It’s worth noting Mike Yeo brought up Ivan Provorov’s game on his own at the end of his presser. “I thought he had a helluva game today. I thought it was an outstanding reminder of what a great defender and what a great defenseman he is.” Provorov’s certainly had a challenging season; perhaps no one has been more affected by the teams’ injury situation than him. But the eye test and numbers back up Yeo’s comments. Provorov led the Flyers’ defense with a 55.34% expected goals share and finished with a 1-0 goal differential.

Sunday marks Kevin Hayes’ eighth career two-goal game, and boy, was it overdue. His last one in the regular season came all the way on Feb. 25, 2020, against the Sharks. For context, that was the first game after the Nate Thompson and Derek Grant trades at the 2020 deadline. Although Hayes did have a two-goal game in Game 2 of the Flyers’ second-round series in the bubble against the Islanders.

Read up on everything that happened at last year’s trade deadline to get yourself ready for tomorrow.

On a related note, updated POG Starter Jacket Standings!

Starter – 3

Jones, Unknown, Honey Badger, G, Hollywood (Last Win: Nov. 16, 2021) – 2

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

3 Stars

3rd: Ilya Sorokin (NYI) – .946 SV% (35 Saves/37 Shots), 2 GA on 2.7 Expected Goals Against (All Situations)

2nd: Travis Konecny (PHI) – 2 Assists (27, 28)

1st: Kevin Hayes (PHI) – 2 Goals (6, 7), 4 Shots, 21:23 TOI

Next

NYI: 3/22, 7:30 PM vs. OTT (22-35-5, L1)

PHI: 3/22, 7:30 PM @ DET (25-30-7, L1)

Trade Deadline: 3/21, 3 PM EST

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

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