Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 39: PHI 0, NSH 4 - Too Late Now to Say Saros
New year, same Flyers.
In their first game of the 2019 calendar year, the Philadelphia Flyers lose, once again being shutdown offensively (as has been a theme of the back end of this road trip) in a 4-0 loss to the Smashville Predators.
Ultimately, this road trip was one of clarity for the Flyers. After this 5-game trip, during which the team went 1-3-1, it is clear what the Flyers are. They are not a playoff team. They are not even mediocre. They are bad. Awful, in fact. The Flyers sloppy defense, inconsistent and oft-injured goaltending, and atrocious special teams have turned what look like a surefire playoff team on paper and turned them into one of the biggest losers in the sport. The only teams below them in the standings are LA, St. Louis, and Ottawa, who combined to win a toal of 0 playoff games last year (and only the Blues were a popular pick to reach the playoffs this season).
The Flyers may have outshot the Preds 13-6 in the opening stanza, but it sure felt like Michal Neuvirth was the more tested of the two goaltenders. While backup Jusse Saros played like his counterpart, Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne, the Flyers defense bled 2 goals in the 2nd, thanks to a 4-on-2 rush for the Predators the first try and a wide-open Victor Arvidsson right at the side of the net in the 2nd. Smashville tallied twice more in the 2nd off an Arvidsson breakaway, and once more from Rocco Grimaldi (I've never heard of him, either) after a miscue from Ivan Provorov. If this sounds like the same Flyers as last year (that being 2 days ago), well, that's because it is.
It's not like the Flyers didn't have their chances, though. Sean Couturier was shut down on a breakaway in the 2nd, as was Wayne Simmonds moments before Arvidsson put the game away with the 3-0 goal. They hit 4 posts. But the Flyers again just didn't click, and have now scored just twice in their last 3 games, the lowest over a 3-game stretch since they scored 1 goal in 3 games 2/4/17 - 2/9/17.
Now 8 games into his tenure, I'm going to start putting some blame on Scott Gordon. The Flyers forward line combinations were as follows on Tuesday:
Obviously, with Nolan Patrick out, things look a bit worse, but there are some glaring issues here. While a solid player by advanced metrics, Michael Raffl is not a viable option at 1st line left wing. He can hold his own there in the event of a mid-game injury, but it's not a move Gordon should be making. Speaking of, Scott Laughton, while also most of the same things Raffl is, is not a 2nd line forward. If only there was someone lower in the lineup who could be prom-oh yeah, Oskar Lindblom. He may not have scored in 14 games, but that's because he's mostly been with Phil Varone/Dale Weise/Scott Laughton in that time, usually receiving less than 10 minutes of ice time per night. Once Nolan Patrick returns (likely Thursday), Lindblom should be put back on his wing, preferably alongside Voracek, to give that line the chance to thrive like they did at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
But as the calendar year shifts, the attention of Flyers fans does as well, from the on ice product to the front office. Chuck Fletcher has several notable UFAs on his roster (Raffl, Elliott, Neuvirth, Weal, and especially Wayne Simmonds), and the bulk of his next 2 months should be spent trying to maximize the return from those players should he decide they won't be a part of the team's future. Simmonds will be his big fish - even on a down year, Simmer's history of 30+ goal seasons, excellent PP work, and fiesty style of play should net at least a 1st round pick in return, probably a bit more. The Flyers still have a bright future, thanks to the great young talent stockpiled by Ron Hextall, but it's up to Fletcher and company to realize that vision as soon as possible.
Regardless of what happens, I think we can safely say this image will be the Picture of the Year for the 2018-19 Flyers.
I'm not sure what's funnier - the image itself or the fact the Predators got 4 goals in this game and this wasn't one of them.
With yet another 0/2 effort on the man advantage, the Flyers PP has now scored a goal in just 3 of their last 24 games. At 12.6%, they are officially dead last in the league.
After the game was over, the Flyers held a closed-door, players-only meeting. At least they're holding themselves accountable, but this isn't the first time this has happened this year and yet not much has changed.
The Flyers did get off to a better start in this game defensively, holding Smashville without a shot for 7:50 to start play. But like most good things this Flyers season, it obviously didn't last.
With the loss, the Flyers have now lost 4 straight games (3 straight in regulation) for just the 2nd time each this year. They are a pathetic 6-10-4 over their last 20 games. Even if they play like the Lightning the rest of the season, the Flyers still very well might not make it to the playoffs.
Look on the bright side, though - the Flyers DO have the #1, 2, and 3 players in... faceoff percentage. Yay. They're Jordan Weal (60.9% - kinda nice), Claude Giroux (60.1%), and Scott Laughton (60%) among players that have taken at least 100 draws this year.
1st - J. Saros (NSH) - 1.000 SV% (32 Saves/32 Shots)
2nd - V. Arvidsson (NSH) - 2 G
3rd - C. Smith (NSH) - 1 G
PHI - 1/3 vs. CAR (16-17-5)
NSH - 1/4 @ DET (15-19-7)