The Philadelphia Flyers lost their seventh consecutive game on Saturday night in a 3-2 defeat against the New York Rangers. They now sit 13 points out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Cam York scored his first NHL goal to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead just over midway through the third period, but the Rangers tied it up 37 seconds later on a goal by Filip Chytil. Chris Kreider scored the game-winner less than three minutes later.
Rookie Defenseman Cam York
York was the biggest bright spot for the struggling Flyers. He has quickly jumped into a role as one of the top contributors on an undermanned blue line during his five-game stint in the NHL. His goal in the third period came on a blast from the point that beat Vezina candidate Igor Shesterkin cleanly. He has replaced veteran Keith Yandle as the quarterback on the top power-play unit, and interim coach Mike Yeo counted on him as the offensive catalyst on the back end when the Flyers trailed 3-2 in the final minutes. He has played over 20 minutes in four of his five NHL games this season.
The rookie played with fifth-year defenseman Travis Sanheim most of the night, but Yeo continues to mix and match his defensive pairings. Rasmus Ristolainen is likely to return to the lineup on Monday night against the New York Islanders and force the Flyers to make a lineup decision on the blue line. York has undoubtedly proven that he is one of the six best defensemen in the organization, and they need to work their lineup plans to find a suitable position to accommodate a player with an extremely bright future in orange and black.
Flyers Struggle Against Star Players
The Flyers had allowed three hat tricks in their previous four games entering Saturday night. Top-line scorers Troy Terry of the Anaheim Ducks, Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks, and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins have all scored three apiece against Philadelphia during their current losing streak.
Last season, the Flyers allowed more goals than any team in the NHL. They couldn’t stop prolific forwards from lighting up the scoreboard in blowout games on a regular basis in 2020-21, and the Rangers were the top culprits. They embarrassed the Flyers 9-0 and 8-3 in two games over a nine-day span in March 2021.
The trend looked like it was going to continue on Saturday night. The Rangers came out strong on the opening shifts of the first period and drew a penalty on Flyers captain Claude Giroux. With the man advantage, reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox dished to Mika Zibanejad for a perfectly executed power-play goal. Zibanejad now has 20 points in his last 10 games against the Flyers. Fox also assisted Kreider’s game-winner. It was his 15th helper against Philadelphia since the start of 2020-21.
The Flyers did tighten up on New York’s only other power-play opportunity and kept the floodgates from opening in South Philadelphia on Saturday. However, their defensive execution against top-line players is once again a glaring cause for concern. Yeo accurately pointed out that “little glimpses, little spurts of where we’re doing the right things” need to happen more often. They will try to build on the glimpses of effective defense moving forward.
Flyers Home Crowd
The dull home crowd at the Wells Fargo Center has reflected the lackluster product on the ice in recent weeks. Outside factors involving the spread of COVID-19 and local government restrictions imposed on the arena have certainly contributed. However, the Flyers crowd has not sounded lively at recent home games. The loudest chants in the building on Saturday night came from Rangers fans wearing blue and red, and a similar scene took place on Jan. 6 when substantial amounts of fans cheering for the arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins populated the arena.
The Flyers are not in a good position as a team on the ice or as an organization off the ice. The team has lost seven in a row, and Yeo has candidly stressed the need for his team to show more resiliency and better fight. The fans are not satisfied with what they’re seeing. Uncertainty looms in the upcoming months, and the organization needs to seriously consider the possibility of apathy setting into the fan base for the first time in their 55-year history.
The Flyers have a packed schedule in the week ahead. They’ll start with a home-and-home against the Islanders on Monday and Tuesday before the Columbus Blue Jackets visit Philadelphia on Thursday. They’ll travel to Buffalo for a Saturday matinee against the Sabres on Jan. 22. Several Flyers have publicly criticized the NHL Health and Safety protocols and the impact the rules have had on their lineup, but the issue should simmer now that their COVID-19 protocol list is clear.
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. Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.