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Hayden Hodgeson (No. 42) delivered a rare feel-good moment for the Flyers, scoring his first NHL goal (and second point of the game) to help Philadelphia to its first road win in 2022. (Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 64: PHI 5, STL 2 – Hodge Podge

Hayden Hodgeson (No. 42) delivered a rare feel-good moment for the Flyers, scoring his first NHL goal (and second point of the game) to help Philadelphia to its first road win in 2022. (Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 64: PHI 5, STL 2 – Hodge Podge

A plan so crazy it just might work. And it did! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, on the road for the first time since Dec. 29, 5-2, over the St. Louis Blues. Not only did the Flyers snap a nearly three month span of road woes, but they did so against one of the better teams in the West in… somewhat comfortable fashion. The Flyers lead almost wire to wire, including by multiple goals for about a third of the game.

If there is one, fringe benefit to being so far out of the playoff race as the Flyers are right now (other than the prospect of a high draft pick), it’s the ability to do almost anything they want over their final eighteen games. While there’s obviously a lot at stake for each individual player and coach over the next month, the team has the luxury of being able to play loose as the result of having zero expectations for the rest of the season. Obviously, it’s not the position the Flyers want to be in, one they didn’t think was even possible five months ago. But it’s the position that they are in, and there’s no point in doing anything except trying to make the best of it, acknowledging that “best” isn’t necessarily (or likely) the same thing as “good”.

There’s no line combination too weird for the 2021-22 Flyers to try out the rest of the way. No power-play formation to obscure to consider. No prospect who isn’t worth a look at the NHL level (assuming they’re an emergency call-up; the Flyers only have two post-deadline recalls left, so they have to allocate those wisely). The Flyers can’t rely on being able to play consistently good hockey to attract attention the rest of this season. What they can be, however, is interesting enough to warrant a peak, if only for a brief moment. If their madness produces magic? More power to them. If it doesn’t? Well, cross it off the list of possible solutions and move on to the next one.

The Flyers are in a position where they can not win, at least enough to make those wins matter. But that also means they cannot lose; losing a game just means better lottery odds, and winning one means a much needed confidence boost for a team that has so little to celebrate since mid-November.

Thursday’s game represented the ideal level of weirdness the Flyers should be operating at. They liked Joel Farabee’s test-drive at center on Tuesday well enough to give him a full game there. Cam York remains a fixture on the top pair, finishing just under a minute from catching Ivan Provorov for the team lead in ice time and learning how to play on his off-side at the NHL. The Flyers used an emergency call-up on 26-year old forward Hayden Hodgson, who signed his first NHL contract on March 21. He assisted on Travis Konecny’s opening goal in the first period, then added a crucial insurance marker to complete a storybook debut. “I don’t know if you can draw up (Hodgson’s) debut any better than that,” said Mike Yeo.

Seeing plans so crazy they just might work is the fun reason to watch how the rest of the Flyers season plays out. But there is a darker one as well. For a team that has disappointed as much as the 2021-22 Flyers that has as little cap space next season as they did and is committed to a quick retool, it’s obvious that change is coming. Being bad puts you on a collision course with change, and the Flyers are already way too far down that road to change course.

That means there might only be eighteen games left of James van Riemsdyk, who with Claude Giroux gone is now the lone holdover from the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup Final run. It might mean only eighteen games left of Travis Konecny, the team’s leading goal scorer in 2019-20 who delivered his first multi-goal game of the season tonight in a badly needed (and long overdue) offensive breakout.

It could be the final eighteen games in Orange and Black for one of the team’s two top healthy defensemen in Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov, the first two first round picks of the Ron Hextall era. The latter has led the team in ice-time every year since his rookie season in 2016-17 and looked like a top-pair defender as recently as 2019-20. The latter is the favorite to win the Barry Ashbee this season for the team’s best defenseman, an award Provorov has brought home three times. And given just how poor the season has gone, everybody outside of Joel Farabee and Carter Hart could plausibly be shiped out. Even Farabee probably isn’t untouchable if he would put the Flyers over the hump in a deal for a potential superstar.

All bets are off for the Flyers moving forward. And they obviously aren’t wrong to be looking to change the status quo. Even in victory, they were heavily outplayed by the Blues tonight (43.02% expected goals percentage). But you’d be hard pressed to find a Flyers fan who can’t find some small part of the team, even just one player, that they enjoy watching. They might not have that option in just a few short months. Come for the nostalgia, stay for the weirdness, and just hope something fun happens. The Flyers checked all three boxes Thursday, and that might be bigger reason to celebrate than the scoreboard.

Lindies

Mike Yeo might’ve said he liked Hayden Hodgson’s debut, but it’s the evidence that speaks the loudest. Usually, a rookie, especially one who isn’t a top prospect like Hodgson, won’t play very much in their debut. The exact opposite happened Thursday: Hodgson finished sixth among Flyers forwards with 16:23 of time on ice.

Part of the reason he played so much is the Flyers got some not great news on the injury front. Oskar Lindblom missed tonight’s game with injury, and it also doesn’t sound like Scot Laughton will be back soon. Nothing but the best to both, especially Laughton.

You just gotta laugh this one, folks.

This is also the Flyers’ first road regulation win since Dec. 11, a 5-3 win over the Coyotes. One thing those games had in common: a Patrick Brown goal. No, Jordan Binnington didn’t hand it right to him like Karel Vejmelka did in that last road RW.

Though the Flyers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, there really is no such thing as a comfortable victory over the Blues. St. Louis entered the night a league best 16-10-4 when giving up the first goal.

Kevin Connauton picked up his first point of the season (and as a Flyer) with the primary assist on Konecny’s 1-0 goal.

Tonight was Travis Konecny’s first multi-goal game since his first career hat-trick in the Flyers’ second game of the 2020-21 season. He had played 109 games in between multi-goal games. Although for what it’s worth, Konecny’s never been a true game-breaking sniper; he’s only reached three multi-goal games in a season once (2018-19), and never topped that mark.

POG Starter Jacket Standings! No surprises here.

Starter – 3

Jonesey, Unknown, Honey Badger, G, Hollywood – 2

Sander/Sanner/Sandra/Sanny, Gobs, Risto, Coots, Mayhewooligans, Sergeant, Big Mac, Hodgeson – 1

On his very first shift as a Florida Panther, Claude Giroux recorded an assist on an Aleksander Barkov goal. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry, to be honest. That fellow former Flyer Robert Hägg had the secondary assist definitely makes me laugh, however. Florida won 4-3, with Giroux assisting on the game-winner and delivering a dominant debut that earned him the second star. I miss him already.

3 Stars

3rd: Cam York (PHI) – 2 Assists (4, 5), 20:33 TOI

2nd: Hayden Hodgson (PHI) – Goal (1), Assist (1), 4 Hits in NHL Debut

1st: Travis Konecny (PHI) – 2 Goals (11, 12)

Next

PHI: 3/24, 9 PM @ COL (45-14-5, L1)

STL: 3/26, 8 PM vs. CAR (42-15-6, W1)

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