How many times this season have the Philadelphia Flyers played tight, only to bend in the final period like the cheap seats? They dictated the pace against the Edmonton Oilers despite the shutout. Last night, despite scoring four goals and leading the majority of the game, an unstable performance in the defensive zone gave the Minnesota Wild a win.
The ambiance is palpable; it is not a lack of effort. When adversity hits, the Flyers crumble. In the last 21 games, Philadelphia has won only three times. Virtually no deep solutions are available. What positive points can this group bring in 2022-2023?
Both teams made mistakes. Cam Talbot usually excels against the Flyers, but he allowed four goals on sixteen shots heading into the third period. Philadelphia matched that energy by playing on their heels in the first period. Derick Brassard and Ivan Provorov also made a few incredibly low IQ plays in the defensive zone, blowing two separate leads.
Another missed lead in the third left the Flyers with another heartbreaking loss at home. This is the story of 2021-2022.
Here are almost a handful of the Heartbreaker’s observations from last night against the Wild:
Don’t be cute (+)
Overall, Claude Giroux and Travis Sanheim’s feeling after the loss to the Edmonton Oilers was that there were too many assists to make the perfect play. Last night the focus was on putting the puck on the net. Scott Laughton, Patrick Brown, Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk answered the call with four goals in total.
Laughton picked the pocket in the neutral zone before accelerating on his own to a fine finish.
Brown made himself available working closely with Zack MacEwen on a backdoor stream. A quality change of the fourth line.
Konecny, thinking quickly, picked up a puck from Laughton before throwing it past Talbot. An opportunistic attack.
Then van Riemsdyk screened Talbot as Giroux watched the penalty, telling everyone he was looking for a pass but shooting on goal instead. One deflection led to another for the Philadelphia Flyers’ leading power-play scorer.
Against the Oilers, too many scoring chances went incomplete because the pass execution wasn’t there. Mikko Koskinen didn’t have to work as hard as Talbot. Konecny has embraced the “shoot first” mentality that Cam Atkinson blazed earlier this season. He and three others scored in a contagious attacking effort.
Defensive Breakdowns (-)
Just before Ryan Hartman scored his first goal last night, the Philadelphia Flyers allowed the Minnesota Wild to get to grips with the two hundred feet of ice. It was a passive approach as the Flyers were expected to remain disruptive. Philadelphia allowed the Wild to skate freely across the rink, connecting with every pass and running down every lane without resistance, while Hartman parked on the crease for a spike drill. But hey, give credit where it’s due because it was a low-risk, high-reward game design from Minnesota.
Unfortunately, that lazy defensive effort wasn’t the worst offender.
There was plenty of room to clear the puck to the benches, but Brassard broke a cardinal rule. You never clear to the center. He did, got caught and suspended Carter Hart against Frederick Gaudreau.
Later, Provorov tried to overdo it, compensating for other mistakes. Konecny couldn’t find any separation in the neutral zone, but Provorov still forced a pass that didn’t stand a chance. It was as if Carson Wentz was putting on skates. Matt Boldy served as instant karma, immediately scoring on Hart.
Brassard is a 15-year NHL veteran. Provorov, well, he always had trouble turning the puck over. They are, however, the players invested in training. Is it the right decision to put Brassard in the lineup ahead of Morgan Frost? No, because if Frost makes that mistake, he’s a developing rookie, not a 15-year NHL veteran.
Giroux: Special teams (+)
There were two particular moments when Giroux did the extracurricular activities correctly to defend or score. Coincidentally, these two cases were on the power play and shorthanded. Against the Minnesota Wild, a team interested in Giroux, he did his part to maintain or increase his value from the 2022 NHL trade deadline.
When van Riemsdyk scored, he had to focus solely on his presence in net. Giroux did the rest of the work, watching a pass to create a shooting lane, then using van Riemsdyk as a suitable screen to convert the chance into a power play. He and Sanheim communicated effectively from the penalty spot, eliminating cross passes with a tight defense. Due to their positioning and attention to detail, a successful clear followed.
Giroux certainly leads this team. We saw what this team would be like without him on the ice.
If the writing is on the wall, Chuck Fletcher at least saw Giroux create a positive impact for the Philadelphia Flyers last night against a team competing with interest; and maybe Fletcher has a good deal in mind with his former franchise.
It’s about the players (-)
Here is a candid response from Yeo:
“Winning in hockey could be pushing and getting the puck out of your zone. Winning in hockey can be about taking a hit to advance the puck to make sure the puck goes deep, or even if you don’t, keep it in front of you. These are the things we show on video, and we will continue to show, but it has to come from them. That’s what it’s all about right now. We can keep preaching it, keep trying to motivate. I love this group, I believe this group, but they have to take it over.
It’s about the money. These Philadelphia Flyers are not capable of playing winning hockey on a regular basis. They will compete, but they cannot close the games. Learning to win has been the mantra, especially with the number of recalled players in the roster. To punctuate the press conference, Yeo said that when his team faced adversity, they “fall apart”.
Focus and execution are lacking with the Flyers. It is not an absence of effort.
(Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)