The Philadelphia Flyers fell 4-1 to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night in their seventh consecutive loss. Just one day after general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke confidently about his team’s ability to turn their season around, they extended a miserable offensive drought despite the return of Kevin Hayes to the lineup. Morgan Frost provided the only offense with his first goal since Nov. 2019. The Flyers have now scored just 27 goals in their last 16 games.
Power Play Problems
The Flyers went 3/40 with the man advantage during the month of November. Their power-play structure disappeared. Regardless of their shuffling personnel, they had trouble gaining the opponent’s blue line and setting up in the offensive zone. Fletcher acknowledged the struggling power play on Tuesday. He put the onus on the players to execute with cleaner zone entries and more shot attempts.
The power play finished 0/3 on Wednesday and failed at pivotal points in the game. Just after the Rangers went ahead 3-0 early in the second period, New York winger Dryden Hunt took a charging penalty on Justin Braun and received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. While the Flyers showed better structure during the extended five-on-four, Igor Shesterkin shut down their attack with timely saves on their best chances.
The Flyers began the third period with 1:43 of power-play time but couldn’t score to cut the 3-1 gap in half. They failed to convert on their third and final power play after Adam Fox committed a delay of game penalty in the final five minutes. Head coach Alain Vigneault elected not to pull Carter Hart to get a six-on-four advantage, even with his team in desperation mode. If the Flyers are looking for positive takeaways, the power-play structure improved from the mess of the past few weeks. However, it’s fair to wonder how long a team can stay afloat with no goals coming from their power play.
Flyers Struggling Blue Line
During the first two periods, the Philadelphia defensemen looked out of sync and overmatched. Ivan Provorov struggled with controlling the puck in the defensive zone. He had two giveaways on breakout passes that prevented the Flyers from moving up ice in transition. According to Natural Stat Trick, his expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at five-on-five has dropped to 43.58. Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen were caught puck-watching while the Rangers executed tic-tac-toe passes to set up Chris Kreider for his 16th goal of the season.
The Flyers miss Ryan Ellis, their prized offseason acquisition who they expect to miss about a month. They will need the rest of their defensemen to move the puck in transition and help kick start a struggling offense. The blueliners improved their play during the third period and helped the Flyers maintain a territorial advantage by pinching aggressively because of the two-goal deficit they faced. Their effort was too little, too late against the Rangers, but it could be a step in the right direction.
Are the Flyers Different in 2021-22?
The Flyers limped to a disappointing finish and missed the postseason for the fifth time in nine seasons in 2020-21. Two of the lowest points of their season were 9-0 and 8-3 losses to the Rangers just eight days apart in March 2021. Mika Zibanejad torched Philadelphia’s hopeless defense for 12 points in the two contests. The blowout losses to New York were microcosms of how mistakes snowballed and spiraled out of control in 2020-21. The Flyers, at the very least, didn’t leave Hart hanging out to dry at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday after the Blue Shirts went up 3-0.
Entering the 2021-22 season, the Flyers also wanted to hold their opponents accountable for taking liberties. They brought no response to the major penalty, and their inability to capitalize with the man advantage allowed the Rangers to move on from the incident unscathed. While they showed small steps toward progress in the third period, the Flyers are in danger of falling out of the playoff race with a tough stretch of five games in seven days beginning Sunday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
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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 forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.