5 Flyers Takeaways From 7-Game Losing Streak

The 2021-22 season didn’t go as planned for the Philadelphia Flyers. They entered with high hopes for a turnaround after a disappointing effort in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, but they only disappointed more. Head coach Alain Vigneault lost his job eight games into a 10-game losing streak spanning through late November and into early December. Interim head coach Mike Yeo led the team to a 13-game losing streak and two six-gamers later in the season.

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While expectations for the 2022-23 Flyers were about as low as they’ve ever been in Philadelphia, a respectable 7-3-2 start sparked some positivity. A seven-game losing streak has put the Flyers right back where they were last November: hopeless about the future and desperate to figure out a way to recreate success buried away in franchise history.

Injuries and Lack of Talent

General manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher bluntly stated in January that the Flyers lacked “top-end talent” on their roster. At the time, the organization hadn’t yet moved on from Claude Giroux, their second all-time leading scorer. They expected Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis to return from injuries to begin the 2022-23 season on time.

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Fletcher dealt Giroux two months later and failed to replace him with any established scorers during the offseason. Couturier, Ellis, and Cam Atkinson haven’t played a game this season. James Van Riemsdyk has missed the last 13 games with a hand injury. Travis Konecny left Thursday night’s game against the Boston Bruins early and missed the next two games with an upper-body injury. Scott Laughton left the game on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens with an upper-body injury that could be a concussion.

Kevin Hayes Philadelphia Flyers
Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Five of the Flyers’ six forwards with the highest career point totals didn’t play in Monday’s home loss against the Calgary Flames. Kevin Hayes has reached the highest points of success in his nine-year NHL career as a suitable second-line center, and the Flyers counted on him for over 23 minutes of ice time because there was no other established veteran forward presence in the lineup. The organization should soon release updates about the status of Konecny and Laughton.

Until reinforcements start coming, which doesn’t appear to be any time soon, the Flyers will work with even slimmer offensive talent. On Monday night, they sent Tanner Laczynski and Zack MacEwen out to begin a crucial power play in the third period down one goal. The two bottom-six forwards have combined for 13 career NHL goals. Head coach John Tortorella had very few options behind them. 

Blue Line Rotation

The blue line rotation hasn’t played out the way most people would’ve predicted before the season began. Tony DeAngelo leads all Philadelphia skaters in ice time by a wide margin, a surprise on a unit with well-known workhorse Ivan Provorov currently playing at a high level. DeAngelo racked up over 31 minutes in Columbus on Tuesday and again in Montreal on Saturday. The South Jersey native has never finished with over 20 minutes average time on ice (ATOI) in any of his six NHL seasons.

Tony DeAngelo Philadelphia Flyers
Tony DeAngelo, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, Rasmus Ristolainen finds himself in an awkward spot. He played just four games on his lucrative $25.5 million contract before taking a seat as a healthy scratch. Tortorella doesn’t trust the 6-foot-4 defenseman right now. Playing a role on the third defensive pair isn’t good enough for a big-ticket player like Ristolainen. He showed somewhat of a spark against the Canadiens with a more aggressive approach in the offensive zone, even flying low for a nasty forecheck at one point. His ice time has increased slightly the past two games, but he is not yet in a full rhythm this season.

Justin Braun, who became a trusted veteran on the blue line the previous three seasons, hasn’t played as much of a responsible game. His ill-advised pinch in Boston left Provorov hanging out to dry for a goal 16 seconds after the Flyers scored to cut their deficit to 2-1. Nick Seeler has surprisingly been active for all 19 games while Cam York, Egor Zamula, and Ronnie Attard all remain stashed in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Flyers’ Special Teams Struggling

The Flyers struggled on special teams throughout the ugly 2021-22 season. They finished last in the NHL with a 12.6% success rate on the power play. They finished 26th with a 75.7% penalty kill (PK) rate. The strong start to the season had to do with improvement on the power play with DeAngelo playing the role as a distributor from the point and a hot start by Konecny.

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The lack of offensive firepower will be hard to overcome if some of the veteran skill players don’t return to the lineup quickly. During the losing streak, the Flyers have scored just two power-play goals in 22 opportunities. One of them came on a 5-on-3 advantage against the Canadiens on Saturday.

The PK has become a legitimate weakness. Opponents have scored eight power-play goals in eighteen opportunities for a 44.4% conversion rate during the losing streak. The Flyers also allowed a goal to the Canadiens at 6-on-5 with 1.9 seconds left to force overtime. The Flyers once again sit in the bottom tier of the NHL on special teams with a PK unit tied for 25th and a power-play unit ranked 29th.  

Emergence of Owen Tippett

The emergence of a young player taking advantage of the opportunity for top-line minutes is the biggest positive the Flyers can take away from this brutal stretch. Owen Tippett played one of the most effective games of his career in Montreal. He was the Flyers’ best player by a wide margin with two goals and six shots on net in 21:06 TOI. His goal in the second period right off a faceoff demonstrated the level of confidence he is playing with right now.

Tippett has six goals and four assists in 14 games in 2022-23. The Flyers will not contend for a playoff position, and they likely won’t be competitive for most of the season. However, if they can identify players who can fill important roles for the organization down the line, they will come away from a forgettable season having salvaged some positive gains for their future.

Flyers Finding Ways To Lose

The 2021-22 Flyers showed no resiliency in the face of adversity. They reacted to bad bounces and key injuries with an attitude of defeat that characterizes losing organizations. They quickly became an embarrassment when things started to head south because they allowed issues to snowball and get out of control.

Tortorella will continue to focus on his team’s effort rather than the results in 2022-23. He continues to speak positively about how they are coming along with limited talent and a long list of injuries. However, the Flyers lost on Saturday when they had a lead with two seconds remaining in regulation. They allowed a backbreaking goal against the Bruins right after they had cut their deficit to one in the third period. They have lost seven straight games, and it’s fair to wonder how long the positive attitude can hold up with undeniably bad performances on the ice. 

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