The Philadelphia Flyers lost to the Boston Bruins by a score of 5-2 on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Even after a second-period rally by Philadelphia on the back of two goals by Derick Brassard, Boston regained the momentum and scored the final three of the night. Carter Hart sat in favor of backup Martin Jones, who has now regressed from outstanding efforts in his first three starts to look more like a realistic backup-caliber netminder.
Depth Behind Hayes, Ellis
The Flyers will need to count on depth players in bigger roles if they hope to compete in the coming weeks. While the team hasn’t released any official update on the health status of Kevin Hayes, there is a strong possibility that the Massachusetts native will miss substantially more time after already missing 14 games this season. Ryan Ellis will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury.
Nick Seeler was in line to play a suitable role as a seventh defenseman entering the season, but injuries have forced him into action in 14 of 16 games. He showed valuable intensity with his willingness to drop the gloves with Jamie Oleksiak in the second game of the season, but he hasn’t provided much tangible value as a regular in the lineup. According to Natural Stat Trick, his expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at five-on-five play is just 44.24. His turnover behind the Philadelphia net directly led to the Bruins first goal on Saturday. Seeler will be a regular in the lineup for the foreseeable future, and Justin Braun will play on the top pair with Ivan Provorov. The situation isn’t ideal for any of the Flyers blueliners.
Brassard scored both Flyers goals on Saturday, including a much-needed power play goal. The injury bug forced Brassard back to the middle after a quick switch to the wing, and he continued to make the most of it. He has four goals and seven assists in 16 games this season. If Hayes misses a long stretch, the Flyers will count on Brassard to produce offensively. Having an established play-maker like Claude Giroux on his wing should help.
Couturier Looking for “Perfection”
Top-line center Sean Couturier skated with Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk on the wing on Saturday night. The three developed good chemistry in spurts last season. Farabee and van Riemsdyk were among the team leaders in points, and Couturier led all regulars in points per game. They didn’t find the scoresheet on Saturday.
Couturier has built a reputation as a player who can help his linemates gain offensive momentum, and both of his wingers need just that. Farabee has cooled off from his hot start. He has one goal and no assists in his last 12 games. Despite driving play fairly effectively, van Riemsdyk has one point in his last seven games and just six total for the season. Couturier spring loaded the 13-year veteran on a breakaway during the second period against Boston, but Linus Ullmark kept him off the board.
When a team faces the Bruins, their defensive strategy centers around containing the “Perfection Line” of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand. Couturier, the 2019-20 Selke Trophy winner, matched up against Bergeron’s line frequently on Saturday. The highly skilled trio didn’t torch the Flyers as badly as they did in 2020-21 (combined 38 points in eight games), and head coach Alain Vigneault will expect his top line to handle opposing star players regularly moving forward.
Flyers Finally Lose Two Straight
The Flyers have now suffered consecutive losses for the first time in 2021-22. Saturday’s game ended a pattern of alternation between wins and losses over the previous 10 games. They have now won eight games and lost eight this season. Although three of the losses have come after regulation, they find themselves in the middle of the pack in a crowded Metropolitan Division race. Things aren’t getting easier for the orange and black either. They’ll travel south to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. The Carolina Hurricanes, the Metropolitan leaders, will look to avenge their recent loss to Philadelphia in a Black Friday matinee at the Wells Fargo Center. The difficult road ahead appears even more daunting considering the injuries the Flyers have suffered.
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the Legion of Doom and Claude Giroux to no-namers like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. Colin also writes fictional sports stories and covers the Philadelphia Eagles.