The Philadelphia Flyers played their best hockey of the 2022-23 season in the 10 games following the NHL Christmas pause. They got star efforts from Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes while the perception of head coach John Tortorella seemed like it was improving within the fan base. However, the world of the Flyers took an unexpected turn when Ivan Provorov made a controversial decision that sent the hockey world into a frenzy.
Provorov and the Controversial Pride Night Decision
The Flyers celebrated their annual Pride Night on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at the Wells Fargo Center. Players wore specially made jerseys during warmups with rainbow numbers on the back and used sticks that were auctioned off for proceeds to benefit Flyers Charities and their efforts to grow the game of hockey in diverse communities. The focus of the evening quickly shifted when Provorov elected not to wear the Pride Night jersey and sat out warmups because the initiative conflicted with his Russian Orthodox beliefs.
“I respect everybody. I respect everybody’s choices. My choice was to stay true to myself and my religion,” he said.
He directed the media to switch gears to hockey questions and declined further comment when asked if he was concerned that his decision to miss warmups would affect his status for the game. He led the Flyers in ice time with 22:45 in a 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
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Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman discussed the situation as a whole, including the likelihood that the organization spoke with lawyers about the potential consequences of benching a player who had expressed a religious objection. They also spoke about possible turmoil in the locker room and the plummeting trade value of a player considered on the market ahead of the deadline on March 3.
“At the very least, there’s certain places and teams that would say not a chance now,” Friedman said. “I think it makes it (a trade) extremely difficult if not impossible.”
Tortorella dismissed any personal concern about potential issues arising between teammates inside the locker room because of the situation on Pride Night.
“Not for a second. The meeting at the end of the game, the 15-20 minutes we spent together was very healthy. Really good process in a very important situation. To me, it bonds the team going through something like that. To me, I’m not concerned about the speculation about the team splitting up.”
Streaking Flyers, Disparity in Opponents
The Flyers came flying out of the Christmas break with eight wins in ten games. They deserve credit for their turnaround with the acknowledgment that the strength of their opponents directly correlated with their record during the streak. Their two losses came against the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the top two teams in the Atlantic Division that have a combined point percentage of .763.
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Their eight victories came against the San Jose Sharks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Ducks (twice), the Arizona Coyotes, the Buffalo Sabres, and the Washington Capitals (twice). The six teams own a combined point percentage of .472. The Flyers damaged the perception of the streak with a loss at the Wells Fargo Center to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, Jan. 19 in their 11th game out of the break.
Fans haven’t had enough to cheer for over the past decade in Philadelphia, so they should enjoy whatever wins come in 2022-23. Sweeping a home-and-home series against a formidable team like the Capitals might end up as the high point of the season. Hayes also added a hat trick in the second matchup against the Ducks after Konecny had already lit the lamp three times in the previous home game.
Emergence of Morgan Frost
Morgan Frost turned some heads with a fancy move through the legs to light the lamp against the Ducks. Since the Christmas break, the former Ontario Hockey League (OHL) star has eight points in 11 games. He is carrying a sense of confidence that hadn’t existed during difficult stretches of growing pains during his short NHL career.
“Sometimes I do a lot of dumb stuff out there in practice, that kind of silly stuff. I guess once in a while, it’ll work. So try not to do it too much, but when the situation arises and it’s something that I’ve practiced before, then I’ll use it,” a smiling Frost told the media about his incredible move to beat veteran Anthony Stolarz.
|Advanced Stats for Frost||34 Games Before Christmas 2022||11 Games After Christmas 2022|
|Expected Goals For Percentage||43.26%||52.58%|
|Corsi For Percentage||45.64%||51.66%|
|High-danger Chance For Percentage||41.74%||62.50%|
|Actual Goals For Percentage||35.29%||38.89%|
Frost followed it up with another impressive goal in the first period against Chicago. His shifty move left defenseman Seth Jones flat-footed and allowed for a clear shooting lane to beat Petr Mrázek for the Flyers’ only goal of the night. The 23-year-old still needs to make significant strides defensively and in the physical aspect of the game to solidify himself as an effective all-around NHL player. However, he’s taken important steps recently to prove he’s part of the future in Philadelphia.
Kane and van Riemsdyk
The Blackhawks sit toward the bottom of the NHL standings looking to sell off useful veterans, most notably Patrick Kane, ahead of the trade deadline. The Flyers have improbable odds of earning a playoff spot, and they’ll look to move James van Riemsdyk for whatever draft capital they can bring back. The respective first and second picks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft have now more than likely played their last game against each other in the uniforms of the teams that drafted them.
The Flyers limped through an ugly 2006-07 season with the worst record in the NHL by a comfortable 11 points. The Blackhawks jumped them in the NHL Draft Lottery and selected Kane while the Flyers settled for van Riemsdyk. Kane, of course, scored the overtime winner that clinched the 2010 Stanley Cup Final in Philadelphia and ended the Flyers’ memorable run through the postseason.
Kane notched one assist in a 4-1 Chicago victory on the same ice surface where he scored the most memorable goal of his career 13 years ago. He has five goals and 15 assists in 20 career regular-season games against the Flyers to go along with eight points in the six-game series in 2010. While van Riemsdyk developed into a solid goal-scoring winger in eight total seasons over two stints in Philadelphia, fans will never shake off the irony of the narrative.
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Colin Newby is a freelance writer 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.