Flyers 1 Bruins 6
Brad Marchand and the Bruins took the Flyers to task in a 6-1 rout Saturday night. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

At this point, I’m just going to start copy and pasting old articles every game, because right now there’s no need to write anything new. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, whatever to whatever, to the Boston Bruins. Ok, it was actually Flyers 1, Bruins 6 — you know what, it doesn’t really matter what the score is tonight, or any night soon, for that matter. If they keep playing like they did tonight, the Flyers are going nowhere.

Their bad habits have caught up to them sooner rather than later. The poor defensive zone exits. The lack of creativity in the offensive zone. The lack of high-danger chances at 5-on-5. The rapidly declining special teams. Goaltending and timely finishing can’t save you forever. The Flyers have depended on those far too often this season, and it bit them big time in Beantown. And this nightmare performance makes the point they threw away on Thursday night even more important.

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. The Flyers looked awful again tonight. They’ve been flat and slow for the vast majority of the season. They have yet to outshoot and out-chance a team in the same period, let alone the same game at 5-on-5 this season. It’s been frustrating to say the least. The only thing more painful than watching a bad team is watching a not-bad team that you know is going to be bad soon. The Flyers transitioned from the former phase to the latter in the last four periods.

What’s really frustrating is the lack of reasons and progress. The Flyers should be a good team. In fact, I’ll dare and say they are a good team; they just aren’t one right now. Yes, there are lots of injuries and no Matt Niskanen. But come on. There are enough good players in this lineup to put in a better effort. The drop-off from Matt Niskanen to Erik Gustafsson (and temporarily, Phil Myers to Mark Friedman) aren’t that huge.

Last season, the Flyers had a pretty mediocre first month in the standings, going 5-5-1. However, their underlying numbers were spectacular. They had a dazzling forecheck. The penalty kill was rapidly improving. Alain Vigneault’s system obviously wasn’t even being run to perfection in his first month as head coach. There were tangible reasons for hope right in front of our eyes.

Right now, the Flyers aren’t showing anything that makes it seem like this slump is ending soon. The only hope comes from looking at the roster on paper. Perhaps the eventual returns of Sean Couturier and Phil Myers in the coming weeks will be enough; at the very least, they’ll certainly be a big boost. However, the Flyers aren’t a player or two away from being good. Passable, maybe. But this team was supposed to be the first Flyers team in a while realistically aspiring for more than an upset first-round series win.

Couturier and Myers will help carry play and create chances. But they can’t win puck battles or actually exit the defensive zone for their teammates. Waiting around for them to swoop in and save the day isn’t good enough or viable. The numbers don’t lie; no one is playing worse than the Flyers right now. They’re 30th in the league in 5-on-5 Corsi and 29th in Expected Goals%. Last season, the Flyers were ninth and fifteenth best in those stats, respectively. It’s not a good look, to say the least.

Everything that made the 2019-20 Flyers so special is gone right now. The forecheck feels toothless. The penalty kill had their first bad night by the eye test, but the numbers (63.6%) are terrible. The power-play is basically the opposite tonight, except they were also awful tonight. There isn’t enough speed and purpose with their puck movement, especially compared to the clinic the Bruins power-play (3/4) put on tonight. Even in a pandemic, we can always count on the Flyers forcing way too many passes instead of shooting the puck. But no amount of forced feeds is enough to hold a competent offense to just sixteen shots on goal.

The sad part is the Flyers actually played a pretty good defensive game tonight, allowing just 1.11 5-on-5 expected goals against, easily their lowest margin of the season. Of course, they also wasted it by generating their fewest expected goals FOR of the season tonight. Not to mention the special teams were a mess and Carter Hart had a rough third period. When it rains, it pours.

These problems aren’t going to fix themselves in one game. Things will get better eventually; It will be genuinely impressive if they don’t. There isn’t a single roster in the league that can’t play better than whatever the Flyers put out tonight. The magic of last year’s team can and hopefully will come back. Every team is susceptible to nights like this from time to time.

All of this being said, Flyers need to start making progress very soon. Everything matters more in this shortened season, which figures to be closer than ever. A slower than normal start for the usually slow-starting Flyers may make a massive difference come May. I do believe that better days are ahead. But the time and place to shift the narrative isn’t anytime, anywhere; it’s here and now.

Flyers fans, if we’re going to be mad, let’s at least distract ourselves for a little bit with the first blockbuster trade of the season.

Lindies

Eighteen periods down, and here are the numbers. The Flyers have been outshot at 5-on-5 fifteen times and out-chanced sixteen. It’s just not good enough. Tonight’s terrible defeat was a long time coming.

Travis Konecny appeared to hurt himself hitting a Bruins player early in the first period. It was the same type of innocent check that shelved Couturier, Myers, and Frost, and had Flyers everywhere biting their nails. Thankfully, TK didn’t miss a shift and finished the whole game. Crisis seemingly averted.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel was one of the most positive surprises for the 2019-20 Flyers. However, he hasn’t been as effective to start this season. Part of that is his lack of disciple is starting to re-emerge. As a first year pro in 2017-18, Aube-Kubel got into frequent penalty trouble and was suspended on three separate occasions for the Phantoms. Only San Jose’s Evander Kane has taken more minors than Aube-Kubel’s four so far, and it’s not like all of those have been “good” penalties.

Fine, I’ll make one, and only one, positive comment — I thought Jake Voracek had a pretty good game. I’ve seen him make that slap-pass to a fly-by deflection that created the Hayes goal before (and against the Bruins, nonetheless), and it’s beautiful every time. He looked good with the puck tonight.

Brad Marchand’s goal extends his point streak against the Flyers to eight straight games.

Craig Smith’s game-winning goal was his first as a Bruin, because it’s basically illegal for those type of goals to be scored against any other team.

Tonight was Claude Giroux’s 610th game as Flyers captain (his first was January 18, 2013). G is now tied with Bobby Clarke for most games played in Flyers history wearing the “C.” It’s a testament to Giroux’s great play and leadership over the years. Now let’s get to work on some more team hardware for him.

“Bad” news for G, however — his goal on Thursday was actually changed to TK’s on review. Konecny now has five tallies, tied for the NHL lead with Canucks captain Bo Horvat. I doubt Claude cares that much.

The Bruins have earned at least a point against the Flyers in fourteen straight games. The Flyers last regulation win against the Bruins was January 15, 2016. Back then, the teams were partners in mediocrity. One of those teams has soared to greater heights, and it’s not the Flyers.

Jim Jackson and Keith Jones mentioned Sam Morin (who is now/back on the taxi squad) possibly getting into a game soon, and I’d be shocked if their wrong. Morin certainly brings physicality to the lineup, something the Flyers desperately need. It’s probably not much more than a weirder version of those random Tyrell Goulbourne call-ups from a few years ago, but maybe it can move the needle just a little.

Carter Hart straight up murdered his stick on the crossbar at the end of tonight’s game. You know it’s bad when Hart, the most happy go lucky kid in the league, go off like that. I didn’t think he played terribly tonight in the first two periods; the last two goals were certainly sketchy. Honestly, I’m happy to see it. This team hasn’t looked like they care enough during their games so far. Maybe some energy like this is what they need to start turning things around.

3 Stars

3rd: Charlie Coyle – Goal (2), Assist (1)

2nd: Patrice Bergeron – 2 Goals (2, 3), Assist (3)

1st: Brad Marchand – 2 Goals (2, 3), Assist (4)

Next

PHI – 1/25, 7 PM @ NJ (2-1-1)

BOS – 1/26 vs. PIT (3-2-0)

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*Advanced Stats via Natural Stat Trick