Friday’s game featured a little bit of everything that has plagued the Flyers throughout the season.
They allowed a goal on the power play. They missed an opportunity to take advantage of an extended power play of their own. Within two minutes of scoring a goal, they gave one back with poor defensive coverage. They flirted with danger in the second period that was filled with sloppy hockey from both sides.
Then in the third period, they simply didn’t have the ability to match what the New York Rangers were doing. A third goal for the Rangers felt like a dagger. A fourth goal, one that was the product of poor goaltending, truly was the nail in the coffin.
Now with nine games to go, the countdown is on until the end of the season. The Flyers sit 11 points out of the final playoff spot. Their tragic number is down to seven. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. Friday’s game was just another example of all of the problems this team had over the course of this grueling schedule and this prolonged stretch of games without stringing together wins.
Here are five takeaways from Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers.
1. PK Struggles
It’s hard to pinpoint one area that has truly been the Achilles heel for the Flyers. You could certainly look at the penalty kill and call it that aspect of their game that has been doomsday.
The Flyers managed to keep the Rangers off the board on the power play on Thursday. With the success the Rangers have had against the Flyers on the man-advantage this season, it was pretty much inevitable that the Flyers were giving one up in this game.
It didn’t take long either. In the first minute of the power play, Artemi Panarin is left open with space to walk in and pick his spot. He did, passing to an unmarked Chris Kreider at the side of the net. Easy tally.
Kreider has been just one of the many players that has been able to get to that area with ease. It’s been a consistent problem for the Flyers all season.
2. Get One, Then Give It Back
Following the Rangers power play goal, it took the Flyers just 45 seconds to get the goal back. Oskar Lindblom picked up the tally, and just like that, it was a new game again.
But as they have done so often this season, that score didn’t hold for long for the Flyers. They gave another goal right back, this time off poor coverage.
First, Phil Myers gets caught along the boards. He’s essentially out of the play as everything gets behind him. Shayne Gostisbehere freezes in place as Pavel Buchnevich gets the puck. As the forwards try to collapse, Gostisbehere is left in no man’s land, just standing around as Buchnevich walks in untouched. He scored to give the Rangers the lead back just 1:09 after the Flyers goal.
Little did we know it then, but that proved to be the game-winning goal. It also happened to come with the team’s top line on the ice.
3. Ugly Second and a Missed Opportunity
There were no goals scored in the second period. There could have been off of some of the turnovers and overall ugly play that was on display.
Honestly, this was flat-out disgusting hockey. There was no structure of fundamentals to any of it. Both sides struggled to get anything truly going, only generating scoring chances off the other’s mistakes.
The Rangers may have gotten the win in this game, but the writing is on the wall for their playoff fate as well. Despite the win and a Boston loss, their tragic number is down to 11. They are six points behind the Bruins and have just eight games left to play. Boston still has two games in hand.
This period showed why both the Flyers and Rangers are likely heading for the offseason in another two weeks.
That said, this is really where the Flyers could have turned this game in their favor. A too-many-men on the ice penalty was coupled with a tripping penalty, leaving the Flyers with 1:22 of 5-on-3 time. Not only did the Flyers not really generate much on the two-man advantage, with Gostisbehere breaking his stick on a shot attempt and then flubbing a pass that led to two easy clears, the Flyers even allowed a shorthanded opportunity.
That was a chance for the Flyers to turn the momentum, to tie the game and at least set the stage for the third period. Instead, it became yet another opportunity gone by the wayside.
4. Out Like a Lamb
Friday’s game marked the second time Alex Lyon has appeared in goal getting a start with Carter Hart still out with injury. And for the most part, Lyon didn’t have a bad game.
Through two periods, he had allowed two goals on 16 shots and had really kept the Flyers in the game with some saves that helped erase mistakes in front of him. But in the third period, that all changed in a hurry.
Another defensive breakdown allowed Alexis Lafreniere to get to the net and stuff in the attempt, making it 3-1 with 10:36 to play in the third.
Then came the true dagger with 6:20 to play, a weak shot from an angle that rolled up Lyon and into the net from Filip Chytil. That put the game out of reach. It was certainly a shame, because to that point, you couldn’t really fault Lyon on any of the Rangers goals. He had played pretty well into the final 10 minutes of the third period.
Still, Lyon is what he is. You can try to lean on him for a spot start or two in the wake of injury, but he’s not at the level that he would need to be to see regular action. That fourth goal, which seems to be a recurring part of his starts, is the reason why.
5. Another Debut
The Flyers also had a player making his NHL debut for the fourth time this season in Friday’s game. Jackson Cates, who was recently signed out of college from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, got the call and was in the lineup.
His first game was a pretty solid one, all things considered. Cates had a 62.5 percent success rate on face-offs and took three shots on goal in 11:19 of playing time. After kind of getting settled in during the first period, he started to become more noticeable in the second and third, and was certainly given some challenging assignments from a defensive standpoint.
Cates did his part, and he will also be a player that likely sees the ice with more frequency in the final nine games of the season.