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I know, I know. I asked you, begged you even, to pay attention to the Philadelphia Flyers after Tuesday’s win over Toronto.
And then they went out and lost their next game, in regulation for just the second time all-season on home ice, to the Arizona Coyotes, 3-1.
Now, as an avid hockey follower and your friendly neighborhood puck scribe, I can tell you these aren’t your parents’ Arizona Coyotes, or even your older brother’s Arizona Coyotes. This team is good. It’s disciplined. It’s going to be a real threat in the Western Conference to make a long playoff run.
And I’m also going to tell you the Flyers played a pretty good game against them. They controlled possession for much of the night. They outshot the Coyotes by double digits. They stuck to what has been working for them in the previous seven games, in which the Flyers were 6-0-1. It just didn’t work out.
That’s because Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper, who leads the NHL in goals against average, was once again very good in net and his defense in front of him was bend, don’t break.
So the Flyers fell to 16-8-5 and have one more game at home (Ottawa Saturday) before they head out on the road and the schedule lightens up a little bit as they’ve been playing pretty much every other day for more than a month now.
It’ll be important that the Flyers have some stick-to-it in their mindset and keep doing what they’ve been doing to continue being a successful team.
That said, there are some things to discuss from last night that are likely going to change, maybe as soon as Saturday. So, let’s hit it:
The Power Play
If you want to talk about an area of concern, this is it. The Flyers’ power play got off to a really fast start this season, going 13-for-54 (24.1 percent) in the first 14 games, but in the 15 games since, it’s just 6-for-50 (12.8 percent) which won’t cut it long-term.
It’s likely, that with the talent the Flyers have, the power play is somewhere in the middle of those two, which would make it just about league average.
But one has to think, with as much as it’s been struggling, if coach Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Michel Therrien, who is charge of the power play, won’t look to implement changes.
Vigneault admitted that he likes to have two units that share time equally, rather than have one unit that plays 75 percent and the other 25 percent, as is the norm in the NHL.
He also said that he prefers one unit to have four forwards and one defenseman and the other to have a more traditional three-and-two.
Finally, he said he likes using the same combinations, mostly, that are the line combinations from even strength, as that adds a level of familiarity and consistency.
As such, PP1 has been Claude Giroux, Morgan Frost, and Travis Konecny, with the addition of fourth liner James van Riemsdyk as the lone big-bodied net front presence while Ivan Provorov mans the point.
The second unit (PP2), consists of Oskar Lindblom, Sean Couturier, and Jake Voracek up front with Shayne Gostisbehere and Matt Niskanen on the blue line.
I would expect a different look come Saturday.
A couple of guys who have PP experience already this season but haven’t been given a chance of late are Kevin Hayes and Joel Farabee.
However, together at even strength, those two along with Scott Laughton have been clicking as the Flyers third line, so look for them to be added to the mix.
Frost, who has been wildly inconsistent in his past five games after bolting out of the gate with three points in his first two NHL contests, Has not looked comfortable on the power play. It’s likely because he’s used to having the power play from juniors and even in his brief AHL stint, run through him as a quarterback on the half wall.
However, that’s Giroux’s office, so Frost has been situated as the high forward in the slot. He admitted he’s still adjusting to that.
“It is a little different for me,” Frost said. “Throughout juniors I had always played on the wall. But I think getting an opportunity on the power play is special in itself and I just have to learn to play in that spot. I think I could definitely use some work there. I haven’t played much there, so I am just trying to learn.”
Farabee might be better suited for there and with Hayes’ size and strength, I can see him getting a chance in place of van Riemsdyk.
Vigneault had some good things to say about PP2 against the Coyotes, even though they didn’t score, they definitely creates some chances. It’s likely that he’ll let that group stick together a little longer and maybe shuffle the deck on PP1.
I mentioned him earlier, when it came to the power play, but Frost’s struggles have also come at 5-on-5. He had two really good looks at the net in the second period, and shot wide both times. He also had an ugly turnover in his own end in the first period. It didn’t amount to a goal for Arizona, but it wasn’t a good play by Frost.
“Yeah. I thought I started out pretty well, but over the course of the last six or seven games I’ve been a little up and down,” Frost said. “I’m still pretty encouraged with my play. I’m trying to get better every game and learn as much as I can. As a rookie I know I’m not going to be perfect every game every time. It’s all about the ability to bounce back and stay positive.”
Vigneault was also non-committal about staying with the lines as currently situated after losing Thursday. He said he would go back and look at the tape and consider any changes he needed to make and address them at practice on Friday. The interesting thing there is the question that led to that answer was about Frost and staying on Giroux’s line.
I’m not sure what the juggle could be for the Flyers with Michael Raffl out for a month. There’s not a lot of versatility in the lineup when you take out your best Swiss Army Knife.
Scott Laughton can always move to center on a line, but I’m not sure Vigneault wants to break up that line with Hayes and Farabee at this point since it has played so well together since Laughton returned to the lineup from his broken finger.
The Flyers recalled Misha Vorobyev, who can play center, but he couldn’t even crack the lineup against Arizona as Vigneault chose to dress seven defensemen and just 11 forwards.
Claude Giroux can move back to center, and maybe the Flyers give JVR another crack at the wing alongside Giroux and Konecny and Frost drops down to the fourth line centering Pitlick and either Vorobyev or Chris Stewart, but that wouldn’t be a long-term option as Frost either has to play regular minutes, or he should be sent back down to the Phantoms to play more regularly.
Either way, I expect a shuffle of some sort and I expect Frost to be in the middle of it.
Not Letting This One Get to Them
The Flyers have had a propensity in recent years to start losing multiple games right after winning a bunch in a row. It’s a weird thing to be so streaky as a team. Individual players being streaky makes sense, but teams? That’s weird.
And yet, the Flyers have been. It’s what’s made them wildly mediocre and maddeningly frustrating at the same time.
That said, Vigneault has a different approach to coaching losses. There will be no feeling sorry for yourself. You lose, you get right back on the horse and ride again.
And the Flyers have leaders who were preaching the same message after this loss.
“It’s just a mentality,” said Niskanen, who scored the only Flyers goal. “Recognize what you did well, adjust a couple of things you need to improve on and get ready for the next one. I don’t think you need to over analyze it just because we lost one. Guys should be confident because we have been playing some pretty good hockey and get ready for Saturday.”
Vigneaut basically said the same thing, just quantified it a little more:
“I haven’t been here in the past, so I can’t comment on what happened prior,” he said. “I do know that what we’re going to do is analyze this game, make the corrections that we need to make and focus on our next game on Saturday against Ottawa.
“What I will say about tonight is I think we had a 10 for effort. We worked extremely hard, we had the puck most of the night in their end. And we get a seven for execution. Making the plays. Maybe not getting on the inside, but we got some real good looks where we didn’t execute and weren’t able to get it on net. The ones that we did, when you look at all the numbers after tonight, we’ll be double in possession and double the shots. But we couldn’t find a way to beat their goaltender. So, I like the way we worked. But execution-wise with the puck, we’re a little off and a lot of people say they defended well. We had the puck all night. So that’s what happened.”
Ottawa is not a very good team. The Flyers can’t sleep on them, but it’s probably just the matchup the Flyers need after a tough loss like Thursday.
You knew I wasn’t going to let this go, right?
The Flyers announced 17,440 was the attendance. That’s ridiculous. There’s no way that’s what was present.
Now, the paid attendance is different from actual butts in seats. That’s called the “drop number.” It’s the actual number of people who walk through the door.
I requested that drop number via text from a spokesperson who would be able to provide it, and although there was a text exchange, the total was never given to me.
My best guess was that there were about 13,000 people present. You can make a guess for yourself based on this video shot by Russ late in the first period:
— Russ Joy (@JoyOnBroad) December 6, 2019
A lot of grey seats visible. A lot.
For more Flyers coverage, follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy provide pregame and intermission coverage of every Flyers home game from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts Follow @SnowTheGoalie Follow @AntSanPhilly Follow @JoyOnBroad
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