On a day when many people celebrate a clean slate and making resolutions, the Flyers were still trying to shed their bad habits of 2021. Saturday’s game seemed doomed from the start. After all, many fans and late-night viewers from home had yet to settle into the seats for the night before the Flyers trailed in the game.
Like many games on the seven-game points streak, the Flyers made it competitive and interesting at times. But it was apparently which team was better and which one deserved the result. The Kings made things look easy at times.
The law of averages essentially caught up to the Flyers. Out of the break, they were lucky to get a win in Seattle and stole a point in San Jose. Deservedly, they have nothing to show for a defeat that featured more sloppy play, more poor puck management, and continued lapses in defensive coverage.
Here are five takeaways from the 6-3 loss to the Kings.
1. Sleepy First Shift
It was a rough night for the Flyers starting lineup. Typically, a starting five means very little. The opening shift usually lasts roughly 45-60 seconds and is relatively uneventful. For the trio of Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, and Max Willman, and the pairing of Ivan Provorov and Justin Braun, it took just 12 seconds for the Kings to get on the board.
It was the result of just some sleepy play. Phillip Danault won a board battle and moved the puck behind the net. Trevor Moore gets taken out of the play by Braun, but the puck moves further to Viktor Arvidsson, who was alone due to poor coverage from Provorov. Arvidsson caught everyone off-guard and tucked the puck in on a wrap-around to make it 1-0, just like that.
That was the start of a minus-5 night for Hayes and van Riemsdyk, minus-2 nights for Provorov and Willman, and a minus-1 night for Braun. The same group was on the ice for the Kings’ second goal, very similar to the first, only with Moore getting the goal by poking in a rebound.
That trio of Arvidsson, Danault, and Moore also combined for four goals and 11 points on the night.
2. Farabee Stays Hot
For a few brief moments, the Flyers tied the game up. At the 13-minute mark of the first period, Joel Farabee was in the right place to pick up a rebound and score his 10th goal of the season.
It’s been a strange season for Farabee. He scored in the first three games of the season and had six points in that time to come into the season red-hot. In the next 14 games, he only scored one goal, which was also his only point in that time. In the eight games since, Farabee has six more goals and added an assist for seven points.
Farabee’s 10th goal this season also made for 30 total in his last 80 games. He’s also on pace for 25 goals this season, which considering the ice cold stretch from late-October up to Thanksgiving, is pretty good.
There is plenty of uncertainty ahead for the Flyers, especially if the results just continue to even out and move them lower in the standings. Farabee has been one of the bright spots again. You get an honest effort out of him on pretty much every shift. He’s also one of the more consistent producers on the team.
His future with the team was never really in question after signing an extension in the offseason, but it’s becoming clearer that whatever direction the Flyers go moving forward, Farabee will likely be a player to watch within it for years to come.
3. Discipline Issues
After nearly replicating their opening goal to retake the lead in the first, the Kings continued to press and ultimately got a great opportunity from a total lack of discipline for the Flyers.
It started with a roughing penalty on Travis Konecny, one that is easily avoidable. Konecny simply lost his cool, trying to push the envelope with the peskiness. When Konecny gets under the opponent’s skin and does it subtly, it can be a great quality. But there is a fine line that you need to avoid and Konecny didn’t there.
It didn’t help that Rasmus Ristolainen joined him in the penalty box 59 seconds later with a boarding penalty that was also avoidable. That gave the Kings 61 seconds of 5-on-3 time. They ultimately didn’t cash in until the second period was underway, but the damage was done nonetheless.
Konecny’s discipline issue didn’t stop there. Just seconds into the third period, the Flyers were on a power play when Konecny was whistled for a 10-minute misconduct. Once he returned to the ice, he played one more shift in the game for 19 seconds, coming with 6:10 remaining in the game.
4. A Gutsy Call
Just seconds after Konecny took the misconduct, the Flyers power play became a two-man advantage with another Kings penalty that left them with 32 seconds at 5-on-3. Sensing the magnitude of this opportunity in a 4-1 game, the Flyers called timeout and Mike Yeo made a gutsy call.
Right off the face-off, the Flyers gained control. Despite there being over 17 minutes left in the period, Martin Jones was off to the bench for an extra-attacker, making it a 6-on-3. That extra off the bench was Hayes, who darted straight to the right circle and was set up for a one-timer and a goal.
For the moment, it made it a two-goal game and pulled the Flyers back in, a quick response to the 5-on-3 opportunity and plenty of time left to try to trim the margin. It’s not often you see a coach try something like this, but it was certainly a call that paid off in the moment.
5. Defensive Woes
It’s no secret that teams are dealing with a lot of lineup issues lately. The Flyers certainly have theirs, though some help is on the way. While they didn’t have Carter Hart, Scott Laughton, and Derick Brassard for this game, they will be joining the team on Sunday ahead of their next game in Anaheim.
That said, throughout this surge in COVID cases, the Flyers have not had any forced adjustments to their defensive group. Provorov and Braun remain together, so do Travis Sanheim and Ristolainen, and Keith Yandle and a combination of Kevin Connauton and Nick Seeler.
There is still the absence of Ryan Ellis, both due to injury and COVID at the moment, but that’s not really here nor there at this point. Ellis wasn’t going to be back for this road trip or in time for anything coming up on the schedule in the new couple of weeks. What you see from this defense is what you’re going to get.
Provorov and Braun had an awful first period. As the game progressed, they got better, but the third pairing of Yandle and Connauton struggled mightily. There are possession issues, puck management issues, execution issues, positioning issues, you name it, the mistakes just kept piling up.
The goal from the offseason roster shuffle was to have a player like Ellis be the anchor alongside Provorov. That would give the Flyers the top pairing they felt they needed to take care of the toughest matchups. That would have left Braun to play with Yandle, which may still have its flaws as we’re seeing now, but could also be easier to bear in limited doses and with Yandle having the benefit of another veteran defenseman on his pairing that plays a more stay-at-home style.
Instead, Braun has been playing on the top pairing for nearly the duration of the season. That has left Connauton and Seeler to fill the void on the third pairing. It’s plainly obvious that there are huge flaws in this. Yandle has been owned on multiple occasions in the last month. The Flyers tried to provide some help with the addition of Connauton, and while he’s had some decent games, Saturday’s was not pretty either.
These problems have been especially noticeable in the last three games. The Flyers struggled to get going in the game against Seattle and eventually pulled out an overtime win. They were largely outplayed in San Jose, stealing a point on the back of a rookie netminder. In this game, maybe the overall process was slightly better, but the results sure evened out.
And that was against teams ranked 29th, 17th, and 15th in the standings. Next week, the Flyers will see 10th-ranked Anaheim, then 12th-ranked Pittsburgh before meeting the Sharks again. The week after: top-ranked Carolina, 21st-ranked Boston (with multiple games in hand on virtually every team in the league), and the 6th-ranked Rangers. And as long as Ellis is not yet ready to return and prospects like Cam York and Egor Zamula are deemed not ready yet, this is the group you will continue to see.
That’s how quickly these fleeting few weeks of positive vibes could disappear completely. Following the coaching change, the Flyers didn’t just go on a points streak. They were winning games. They snapped the 10-game losing streak in Vegas, took care of business against Arizona, dominated the Devils, rebounded from a shootout loss in Montreal with an entertaining OT win against Ottawa, then returned from an 11-day break by finding a way to win in Seattle too. That was a six-game stretch with a 5-0-1 record and 11 out of 12 points.
But that stretch quickly turns to what the last three games have been: a lucky win in Seattle, a stolen point in San Jose, and a lopsided loss in LA. That’s a 1-1-1 record in the last three games, which doesn’t sound near as positive.
If there’s anything this new year and start to the 2022 portion of the schedule will bring, it’s more clarity on which direction the Flyers are going this season. For now, they remain alive in the playoffs, deceivingly one point out of the final wildcard spot behind Detroit. But there are two teams behind them within three points. The Islanders also trail the Flyers by six points with four games in hand.
They will either keep up this run on picking up points in bunches and do so against tougher competition or potentially crumble back into one of the NHL’s bottom-feeders like they were so close to doing just a few weeks ago.