Two more games in the books and the losing streak is up to nine games. The first game against the New York Islanders was close throughout the first two periods before the Islanders got a pair of goals. The Flyers responded, and made it a game going to the third, but another early goal by the Islanders seemingly dashed all hopes of avoiding an eight-game streak.
In the second game on Tuesday, the Flyers were convincingly the better team for a majority of the night. But when you’re mired in a slump like this one, or the one from earlier in the season, the win to snap out of it doesn’t come easy. Much like over the weekend, the Flyers were closing in on that elusive win before it was essentially ripped away.
Here are five takeaways from the home-and-home with the Islanders.
1. Opponent’s Firsts
Play the Flyers lately and you might just end up with a first on the season or perhaps your career. In Robin Salo’s case, you might get your first NHL goal one night, only to have it taken away and score again the very next night.
With the Islanders up 1-0 in Monday’s game, Salo took a shot from the blue line that made its way through traffic. He was initially given credit for his first NHL goal, but it was later changed to Casey Cizikas, which happened to be his first goal of the season.
One night later, Salo scored just 2:08 into Tuesday’s game and there was no doubt that this was his first NHL goal. Add in that Cizikas scored the tying goal on Tuesday for his second of the season, and Matt Martin scored into an empty-net the night before to get his first goal of the season.
2. Keeping It 100
It was a long 20 games for Travis Konecny. For that time, he sat on 99 career goals and couldn’t seem to buy one. He had stretches where he would come close and not be able to finish. Then there was his two-game stay on the COVID protocol list which also took him out of action.
Finally, on Monday night, Konecny got career goal No. 100 in unique fashion. It was nothing more than a centering pass that took a friendly bounce off an Islanders defender and in. That was the only offense on the night for the Flyers.
The next night, Konecny was on the end of another friendly bounce, but this time scored the more conventional way. A turnover behind the Islanders net led to the puck coming right in front for him to finish off his 101st career goal and tie the game up at two.
3. A Lead Slips Away
When the Flyers played the Rangers on Saturday, it seemed like they were in position to put an end to this current losing streak. There was under 10 minutes to play in a close game against a superior opponent and the Flyers had suddenly claimed the lead. In a matter of seconds, the game was tied again and the Rangers eventually won in regulation.
The Islanders have been a different story. This wasn’t a superior team. In fact, the Flyers were consistently the better team on Tuesday night. So when they got the 3-2 lead in the third period on Claude Giroux’s goal and there was no immediate relinquishing of that lead, the minutes started to tick away and it didn’t seem the Islanders had the answers.
There were even multiple times the Flyers were closing in on icing the game with another goal. It was evident the Islanders were starting to cheat a bit in terms of sending more guys up ice into the rush, and it was leading to some wide-open hockey at the other end.
With 4:28 remaining, that goal came for the Islanders that forced the game into overtime. For the second time in three games on this current streak, the Flyers were starting to enter the homestretch with a lead and couldn’t find a way to finish the job.
4. 0-for-9 on the Road to Nine
The overtime between these two teams was thrilling. There were huge saves at both ends. Carter Hart robbed Brock Nelson on a wraparound, made two more saves in tight on Scott Mayfield, then made a similar save on a wraparound on Anthony Beauvillier.
Seconds after the final save of that prolonged sequence that stretched into the final minute of overtime, Semyon Varlamov came up with his best save, a point-blank stop on a two-on-one feed from Travis Sanheim to Joel Farabee.
After all that excitement, the game went to a shootout, and what followed was anything but entertaining. For eight rounds, neither team could score. In the Flyers case, most couldn’t even hit the net. On nine attempts, the Flyers had five shots miss the net completely. Varlamov took care of the other four attempts pretty easily. Hart was much busier, making six saves on the first eight attempts for the Islanders.
Finally, Oliver Wahlstrom put an end to the prolonged skills competition to give the Islanders the two-game sweep in the home-and-home.
An 0-for-9 night in the shootout only extended the Flyers long-standing struggles in this department. They are 0-4 this season in shootouts and have yet to score a goal in any of them, going 0-for-16 on the season.
5. Two-Year Turn
It’s no secret where the Flyers are this season, but the Islanders have had a pretty mighty fall of their own since last summer’s run that fell one win short of reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Now, given the number of games the Islanders have to make up in short order in the coming weeks, they will almost certainly make up the points they trail teams like the Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
But still, if you were wondering how a team like this goes two straight seasons in the conference finals to last in the Metropolitan Division – at least for now – it was on display in these two games. Both teams have trouble finishing and both look lethargic on the ice at times.
It’s a far cry from what took place less than two years ago. Remember these two teams reaching Game 7 of a conference semi-final series in the playoffs that concluded in September 2020? Feels like forever ago, doesn’t it?
And while the Islanders push for a playoff spot seems unlikely, they at least have enough games in hand to essentially surge past every team on the bubble on the outside looking into the playoff picture in a matter of weeks if they can get on a run. The same can’t be said for the Flyers, who not only continue to go the wrong direction, but are starting to have company directly below them.