Former Penguin Derick Brassard had some chances, but it was another pointless nice for Philadelphia’s one red-hot second line in an overtime defeat to a battered Penguins team. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 9: PHI 2, PIT 3 (OT) – Thinning Ice

That’s a wrap(around). The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 3-2, in overtime, to the Pittsburgh Penguins. After battling back to force overtime late in the third, Kris Letang finally pushed an aggressive Penguins attack over the edge, sneaking a wrap-around goal over the goal-line by inches, leaving the Flyers on the wrong side of their first overtime decision of 2021-22.

Unless a team starts the season incredibly hot or incredibly slow, fans quickly begin looking for The Turning Point. It’s the moment where everything changes, one way or the other. Of course, they’re hoping for a positive swing, but a Negative Turning Point at least provides some closure and lessons for how to swing back onto the positive side of the ledger next year.

In reality, Turning Points almost always exist looking backward, not forwards. Very rarely can you tell exactly when a team’s fortunes have permanently swung positively or negatively for good. Tonight’s game likely won’t be that Turning Point for the Flyers. It’s a game that, on paper, the Flyers should have won. The Penguins lost Sidney Crosby (their best player), Brian Dumoulin (their second-best defenseman), and head coach Mike Sullivan due to COVID. Evgeni Malkin is still out with knee surgery. Bryan Rust is hurt as well. The game was played in PPG Paints Arena, a building the Flyers have dominated at since it opened its doors in 2011; the Flyers have a better record there than any visiting building where they’ve played at least 20 games.

Did the Flyers deserve to win it? Eh. But it’s not fair to say the Flyers deserved to lose it, either. After falling behind before many people even turned the game on, Philadelphia recovered with a pretty strong back of the first period. The Flyers did slightly outshoot the Penguins overall. However, they were slightly out-chanced, as Tristan Jarry’s 36 save performance was more about quantity than quality. The Flyers had some chances tonight; the third line looked especially stout, and even the fourth line had quite a few chances for the second straight game. But against a Penguins team severely weakened down the middle and on defense, the Flyers’ offense was closer to ok than great.

Just because the Turning Point probably wasn’t tonight doesn’t the team is heading full steam ahead towards it. November officially marks the end of wiping away struggles when the simple phrase, “it’s early.” And with an absolute gauntlet ahead of them; Philadelphia’s next nine games are against teams with a combined record of 62-19-14 (.726 points percentage, a 119-point pace over 82 games). And only one of those opponents (Dallas) has lost more than they’ve won. And there are quite a few issues that could destroy the Flyers over that stretch.

Perhaps none of them are larger than the second defense pair. Travis Sanehim and Rasmus Ristolainen have struggled to develop chemistry, with the later issues Sabres fans warned everyone about showing up far too often. Out of 118 defense pairs with at least 40 5-on-5 minutes entering tonight, this pair ranks 109th with a horrid 36.19% Expected Goals. The Flyers spent the entire game chasing a way-too-easy deflection for Brock McGinn 16 seconds in with that duo on the ice. The lid has come off the “lightning in a bottle” second line of Joel Farabee, Derick Brassard, and Cam Atkinson; they haven’t scored in four games, and tonight they were outscored 1-0 and gashed to the tune of a 20% Expected Goals share. The power-play is 3 for its last 20. Philadelphia hasn’t scored a 5v5 goal in eight of their last ten regulation periods.

Issues can be resolved, of course. For example, the third line was snake bitten until it wasn’t, taking advantage of a whiffed pass by Mike Matheson that ended in Scott Laughton’s second game-tying 3rd-period goal in Pittsburgh this calendar year. But the Flyers are probably lucky to find themselves at 5-2-2 through just over 10% of their season. At 5-on-5, the Flyers have a PDO (team shooting percentage + team save percentage) of 103.8. In other words, they’re getting a lot more saves and scoring on a lot more of their shots than you’d expect. And the Flyers are only 18th in Expected Goals For per 60, so it’s not like their offense is a low-volume, high-percentage attack.

The bottom line is the Flyers haven’t played nearly well enough at 5-on-5, especially over their last three games. Overall, tonight’s game was more chaotic than actually bad; the Flyers played loose, but so did the Penguins, and the Flyers were able to breakthrough in time to secure a point. It should go without saying that any point this early in the year is crucial (unless maybe you’re 9-0-0 Carolina, who the Flyers play twice this month). And Pittsburgh has beat talented teams like Tampa Bay and Toronto with a similarly short-handed roster. The Flyers don’t need to fix all of their issues on Saturday. They might not be able to fix all of them this season; they didn’t in 2019-20, and that season turned out ok. But in a city known for trusting the process, the Flyers need to show some progress in theirs. Sooner would be better.

Lindies

Some evidence to back up the quality vs. quantity assertion about the Flyers tonight. The Flyers peppered Jarry for 38 shots tonight, a season-high. Their 17 first-period shots were also a season-high for a period. And every player had at least one shot on goal tonight except for Travis Sanheim, including at least one for thirteen different players just in the first period (per Jordan Hall). However, they generated 3.19 Expected Goals (all situations), their 3rd highest in a game this season, and 0.63 xG per unblocked spot attempt, just their 6th best mark this season. In other words, the average Flyers unblocked shot was more dangerous in five other games than tonight and less dangerous than three others. That’s the definition of quantity over quality.

Game #Expected Goals (All Situations)Fenwick For (Unblocked Shot Attempts For)xG Per Fenwick
12.7747.059 (T-7th)
22.7538.072 (5th)
32.2130.074 (T-3rd)
43.0240.076 (2nd)
53.1943.074 (T-3rd)
62.0839.053 (9th)
71.5326.059 (T-7th)
83.949.08 (1st)
93.1750.063 (6th)

Carter Hart deserves some love tonight for a performance I honestly think the numbers might underrate. The Flyers wouldn’t have gotten a point if Hart wasn’t so spectacular, denying numerous odd-man rushes and quality chances. His 2-on-1 save after a fanned pass by Ristolainen off Brock McGinn (who was Pittsburgh’s most dangerous forward to my eyes) would’ve been a classic “remember that save” even if Laughton didn’t tie the game moments later.

McGinn’s 1-0 goal is the second quickest a Penguin has scored into a game against the Flyers since 1979-80. The only exception is Rico Fata, who tallied 13 seconds into a game in 2003.

Claude Giroux made some history of his own; his assist on TK’s beautiful 1-1 goal was his 330th power-play point, putting him three shy of tying Bobby Clarke for most ever by a Flyer.

Giroux’s former teammate Jeff Carter skated in his 1,100th NHL game tonight. Carter is 14th among active players in games, and he, Alex Ovechkin, and Joe Thornton are the only active players with at least 1,100 games and 400 goals.

Jake Guentzel’s 2-1 goal gives up 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists) in 20 regular-season games against the Flyers. Granted, Guentzel’s been about a point-per-game player since 2018-19, although his habit of killing the Orange and Black started back in the 2018 playoffs.

If you’re a hockey fan, there’s no way you don’t want to know more about the Jack Eichel trade.

Finally, here are some injury updates on the Orange and Black. Ryan Ellis didn’t practice with the team on Wednesday or go on the road trip; his lingering lower-body injury (which Alain Vigneault revealed is the same issue that he dealt with before the start of the season) will keep him out of the Flyers lineup for at least three weeks. Kevin Hayes both practiced and went on the trip; he’s eligible to come off LTIR as soon as Wednesday, but that’s not a guarantee. And Wade Allison skated for the first time since suffering a scary ankle injury in a rookie game back in September. There still isn’t a timeline on Allison’s injury, but seeing him back on the ice is an encouraging step.

3 Stars

3rd: Tristan Jarry (PIT) – .947 SV% (36 Saves/38 Shots), 2 GA on 3.17 xGA

2nd: Jake Guentzel (PIT) – Goal (2), 4 Shots, 3 Hits, 4 Blocks

1st: Kris Letang (PIT) – Goal (1), 4 Shots, 28:54 TOI

Next

PHI: 11/6, 7 PM @ WSH (5-1-4, OTL1)

PIT: 11/6, 7 PM vs. MIN (6-3-0, W1)

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