After 10 games without a win, any victory was going to be a welcome sight for the Flyers. Another welcome sight for the Flyers came on the schedule. They had the NHL’s last-place team in the Arizona Coyotes waiting to face them on Saturday night.
This starts a stretch of games against teams in the bottom quarter of the league standings, and while the Flyers are there themselves, this could be a chance to string some wins together.
It may not make a difference in saving their season, but wins are wins at this point. The Flyers will certainly take them in an effort to see if they can right the ship.
Here at five takeaways from Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Coyotes.
1. JVR Cashes In
For the first time in 12 games, James van Riemsdyk scored with a power-play tally in Friday’s game. It’s no secret that van Riemsdyk is a streaky scorer, and Friday’s goal may have just opened the flood gates.
JVR wasted no time getting on the board in Saturday’s game, taking just 1:14 to bury his chance after a steal in the neutral zone.
Later in the game, van Riemsdyk scored on a deflection on the power play, getting another goal to suddenly bring his season total to five in two games.
It’s been a rough season for van Riemsdyk, no doubt, as it has been for many players on the roster. But if the Flyers are going to get out of this slump, they need several players to start making things happen. van Riemsdyk is definitely one of those players, and with three goals in his last two games, he may be heating up at a good time for the Flyers in a spot where they may be able to string together some wins.
2. A Gift for Brown
Just seconds after the Coyotes tied the game up in the second period, the Flyers got the lead back with a total gift.
Karel Vejmelka controlled the puck and attempted a pass across ice. He whiffed and connected with Patrick Brown. Brown wasn’t going to miss the wide-open net. The Flyers never trailed following that tally.
Just six days earlier, the Flyers were on the other end of a goal like that. A Carter Hart giveaway allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning to score a shorthanded goal. At the end of the week, such an instance was able to put a smile on their faces.
3. Finding a Scoring Touch
For several weeks, the Flyers collective lack of scoring was a huge problem. It got to such a bad point that Alain Vigneault said the team would need to find ways to win games 1-0 or 2-1 just to break out of the losing streak.
The losing streak ended with a 4-3 win. The next night, a 5-3 decision helped the Flyers build on it. Even earlier in the week, the Flyers scored five goals in a loss.
In their last four games, one being a shutout loss to New Jersey, the Flyers have scored 14 goals. The Flyers had only scored 15 goals from their previous win on Nov. 16 through the final game under Vigneault on Dec. 5, a duration of nine games.
This doesn’t mean the Flyers problems are solved in this area. They still have players that have more to show and definitely need to produce. But the overall production is a step in the right direction, especially when everything that could go wrong was going wrong at the start of the week.
4. Ending the Week on a High Note
Speaking of which, the Flyers certainly used Saturday’s win over the NHL’s last-place team as a way to go out on a high note.
Consider the week leading up to this. The Flyers were a rested team embarrassed on home ice by the Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-1, on Sunday night.
On Monday morning, they fired their head coach. On Monday afternoon, a viral video of a police dog leaving a literal dump and chase on the Flyers logo at center ice was all over the internet. On Monday night, another loss, this time by a 7-5 score to Colorado.
On Wednesday, another loss to bring the losing streak to 10 games, this one as uninspired as ever in a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
By Thursday, that had a majority of Flyers Twitter changing their profile pictures to images of a Flyers fan with a brown paper bag over his head.
So to close out the week with wins on Friday and Saturday to not only snap the losing streak, but also pick up back-to-back wins for the first time since Oct. 27 and 28 has to feel good.
Now, this doesn’t mean the Flyers are back on track and the focus should magically shift to playoffs and what wonders the coaching change did. None of that is suddenly apparent after two late-night games out West. It will take a lot more of this to make such a proclamation, one that probably won’t come to fruition this season or do much to change the course of where the franchise is.
But if it were to actually turn the season around, that has to start somewhere. With this being the Flyers’ 26th game of the season, it was a good place to start with a lot of road still left ahead.
5. Returning Home
Where does the road ahead begin? For now, the Flyers have a couple of days off before their next game. They will take Sunday off completely to return home, then have a practice on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
As of the conclusion of Saturday’s games, the Devils are just one point ahead of the Flyers and ranked 23rd in the league. The Flyers are sitting in 24th. Of course, during the 10-game losing streak, the Flyers lost two games to the Devils. Tuesday’s game is the final head-to-head meeting between the two teams this season.
Following that game, the Flyers will face the 31st-ranked Montreal Canadiens on the road on Thursday night, then return home again to face the 30th-ranked Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Once that run of games is over, the Flyers will be back to facing top teams in the Metro Division, with Washington and Pittsburgh on the schedule before a pause for the holidays. That said, some confidence going into those games can make a difference in how you play against even the best teams.
The games ahead give the Flyers a chance to string together some results, and while the outlook for the season still looks bleak and seemingly rests on a bit of a winning streak right away, the opportunity is there. If the Flyers take advantage, maybe they can change some of the narrative too.