3 Takeaways From Flyers’ Loss to Hurricanes

The Philadelphia Flyers blew a lead in the final minutes and lost 4-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. The home team battled back from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 third-period lead, but a goal by Martin Necas with 2:05 remaining and an overtime winner by Brent Burns sealed the win for the Hurricanes. Both teams sit with identical records at the top of the Metropolitan Division through eight games.

Flyers Crushed in Possession Numbers

The analytical numbers paint a bleak picture of the 5-2-1 Flyers in the early part of the season. Their 39.67 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at 5-on-5 ranks 30th in the NHL ahead of only the Anaheim Ducks and the Arizona Coyotes. They have not finished a single game so far this season with a better share of xG than their opponent. They also rank dead last in Corsi For percentage (CF%). Their impressive record is a testament to the play of goaltender Carter Hart as much as anything.

Carter Hart Philadelphia Flyers
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Hurricanes rank second with a 61.09 xGF%, and their Corsi share is the league’s best. They outshot the Flyers 38-29 on Saturday night and earned a 2.24-1.44 advantage in xG at 5-on-5. The defending Metropolitan champs controlled play in the Philadelphia zone for long stretches and created opportunities with great puck movement on the power play, although they were scoreless in four chances.

Even if John Tortorella isn’t particularly high on certain advanced stats, the Flyers will need to play with the puck more frequently to take pressure off their goaltender if they want to sustain their impressive point pace.

Fourth Line Shines

The Flyers at full health have an inferior roster to the top teams in the NHL. Sean Couturier will miss at least three months after his recent back revision surgery. Cam Atkinson is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, and James van Riemsdyk will miss the next six weeks. The offensive firepower in the current lineup is even slimmer than expected.

Nicolas Deslauriers Philadelphia Flyers
Nicolas Deslauriers Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tortorella mentioned the “need to get goals by committee” after the loss on Saturday in reference to the tremendous offensive output of his fourth line. Nicolas Deslauriers got the Flyers on the board in the second period, and Wade Allison put them in front early in the third period. Newcomer Lukáš Sedlák set up both goals with excellent passes for his first two points as a member of the Flyers. All three skaters logged less than 10 minutes of ice time.

Related: Flyers News & Rumors: Couturier, Bellows, Atkinson, van Riemsdyk

Sedlák, who played fourth-line minutes with the Columbus Blue Jackets under Tortorella, spoke about the need for fourth lines to add depth scoring in the modern NHL.

“You see all the best teams in the NHL have a fourth line that can score goals too. It’s not just grinders and fighters anymore. You need four lines to chip in, and that’s what we did today. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

Positivity and Resiliency

Tortorella surprisingly wasn’t focused on the blown lead after the game. “I thought we played two good periods, the second and third. I thought it was the two best periods we’ve played in quite a while,” he said as part of a spirited insistence on looking at the glass half full. A firebrand, old-school head coach who recently benched two of his best offensive players barely acknowledged a blown lead in the final minutes of the game.

The Flyers deserve credit for showing better resiliency than they did during the 2021-22 season. They appear to have moved on from a “woe is me” attitude that they carried when facing adversity too frequently during their brutal fall from grace after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have trailed at one point during four of their five victories this season, and they overcame a two-goal deficit against one of the Stanley Cup favorites to earn one point on Saturday. Philadelphia has seen worse losses in the past two seasons.

Allowing a tying goal with 2:05 remaining in regulation should never be acceptable in a coach’s eyes. However, Tortorella’s positivity wasn’t the equivalent of powerlessly throwing his hands up in the air and letting his team off the hook for mistakes. They will have an opportunity to reassess in road games against the New York Rangers on Tuesday and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

All advanced stats apply to 5-on-5 play, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick