FFR2 Gm 33: PHI 3, WPG 7 - Home, Sweet Home
I'd usually be critical of a loss like this, but considering the circumstances, just be thankful this road trip is done.
For the second time in as many seasons, the Winnipeg Jets hang a seven-spot on a distraught Flyers team, beating them this year by a final tally of 7-3. It ends a nightmare road trip for the Flyers that saw their injury count rise to six players, all forwards, and the team as a whole outscored by a 14-5 margin against three of the hottest teams in the Western Conference.
There was simply no way the Flyers were going to win this game. With Tyler Pitlick suffering a concussion and Scott Laughton dealing with a groin injury, Philadelphia was forced to call-up wingers Carsen Twarynski and Nicholas Aube-Kubel just hours before puck drop. Both are decent players with bottom-six potential capable of hanging around at the NHL level.
But with both entering the lineup Sunday evening, the Flyers dressed more forwards that either started the season in the AHL or have spent the majority of the season with the Phantoms or in the press box. Three of their four forward lines featured at least one player who should be in the AHL right now. Good luck stopping the Jets potent attack or beating the unflappable Connor Hellebuyck with that lineup.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Flyers hung with the Jets through the first 30 minutes. They found themselves down 2-0 after intermission thanks to a dart of a shot by Nikolaj Ehlers and a point shot from former Flyer (go figure) Luca Sbisa through a screen. But the Flyers got back in it early in the 2nd, finally snapping their power play woes (0 PPGs in the last six games) on a backhander from Matt Niskanen.
Still, something didn't feel right. The Flyers had some decent spurts early in the game and honestly weren't playing terribly. But it felt like despite the close score, the game was just waiting to unravel.
And then, it happened. You could see the frustration in Joel Farabee mounting. Farabee hasn't scored a goal on an actual goaltender in 18 games. He had a great chance on the power play earlier in the game, only to put the puck off the side of the net. He had just been cross-checked in front of the net and was looking for someone to dole out the same punishment he had just received on. Unfortunately, the person he chose, Mathieu Perreault, was way away from the puck, and Farabee absolutely decked him. The hit was high, albeit not direct head-to-head contact, but it was very clearly illegal. Farabee deservedly received a 5-minute major and a game miscount for the hit. The Jets took full advantage, with Blake Wheeler sniping through a screen and Mark Scheifele burying a one-timer from the slot on Farabee's penalty. The Jets would go on to add two more goals shortly after the penalty expired, turning the game from tight to one-sided in the blink of an eye.
James van Riemsdyk and Shayne Gostisbehere scored late in the second and early in the third, respectively, with another Jets goal in between them. But the game was basically over by then. To be honest, it didn't really matter. I think we all knew that the Flyers weren't winning this game, with the roster and the backup goalie and the difficult emotions they must all be going through right now.
The important thing is they made it through this road trip. Obviously, it would have been better if they could've progressed in the standings during it, but as we learned on Friday, some things are bigger than hockey. For now, the most important thing is the Flyers are home. I'm not sure how many of them have seen Oskar since the diagnosis (Robert Hagg did say he was with Oskar when he was given the news), but now they'll all have a chance to see him again and let him know how much he means to them, and for him to do the same.
All of this adversity stinks. It's not fair, but then again, life usually isn't. I don't know if the Flyers will be a better hockey team for going through this, but they will be better people, and I'd like to think there's at least a little bit of a correlation there. Nice guys don't have to finish last, you know.
Thankfully, the schedule starts to ease up starting now. The Flyers won't play a team with more wins than losses until January 4th. They'll have a 4-day break over Christmas, just like the rest of the NHL. There is only one road game (Ottawa, 12/21) scheduled between now and December 28th. This road trip is the toughest hurdle the team will face on the ice for quite some time. If they can bag points against these lower in the standings teams coming up, odds are we won't even remember this in a few months.
The hard part is over for the Flyers as a team. Now, it's time to rest, to recharge, to heal as much as they can. I'm not ready to give up on this team, and you shouldn't be either. It will likely take some time, and it may not be in the same way, but this group will fly again.
Brian Elliott entered the game with a .916 save percentage, and somehow came out with a .904. It takes a lot to lower a save percentage .012 this late in the season, but 6 goals on 17 shots will do that. This wasn't all Elliott's fault, but he certainly wasn't at his best on Sunday.
Per Adam Kimmelman, Nicholas Aube-Kubel was the 20th different forward the Flyers have used this year, the same amount as they used all of last season. Forward is officially the new goaltender, folks. Next year, look out, defense.
Props to Twarynski and Aube-Kubel for doing their best in such a difficult circumstance. In addition to the travel and short rest, both had played in a game for the Phantoms Saturday night. Extra congrats to Aube-Kubel for his NHL point, a primary assist on the Ghost goal.
Kevin Hayes also had a good day. In his first game against Winnipeg since the Jets traded his rights to Philly in June, Hayes created 6 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick. He was a beast on the PK, ragging the puck to eat up time and even creating a mini-breakaway. He topped it off with an assist on JVR's goal.
Phil Myers was out of the lineup today, replaced by Robert Hagg. Myers was officially listed as a healthy scratch, and I honestly didn't mind the move - Myers was pretty bad against Minnesota. I wonder if his back spasms from last Saturday are still lingering.
There's no clear-cut timeline on Pitlick or Laughton's injuries. Pitlick will likely be out "indefinitely" like Konecny. AV said Laughton will be "out a little bit," per Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Oskar Lindblom deserves to be an All Star. If you agree, write him in for the Metropolitan Division captain and vote up to 10 times a day at this link: https://www.nhl.com/all-star-ballot
1st - Blake Wheeler (WPG) - 1 Goal, 2 Assists
2nd - Neal Pionk (WPG) - 3 Assists, Team-High 22:38 TOI
3rd - Mark Scheifele (WPG) - 1 Goal, 2 Assists
PHI - 12/17 vs. ANA (14-15-4, W1)
WPG - 12/17 vs. CAR (20-11-2, W1)
*Thumbnail Photo: Fred Green/The Canadian Press via AP