Shortly before Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders, the Flyers announced that Kevin Hayes would miss three or four weeks, thus becoming the team’s fifth center who is currently sidelined by an injury.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” interim coach Mike Yeo said prior to the matchup. “We need guys to step up right now.”
But it wasn’t enough.
Despite playing one of their best games in weeks, the Flyers fell in a shootout to the Islanders, 4-3, at the Wells Fargo Center.
Oliver Wahlstrom won it in the ninth round of the shootout, handing the Flyers their ninth straight loss, including defeats in the last two nights against the Islanders.
“I feel bad. There was some tremendous efforts out there,” Yeo said. “We’re being tested right now, and we have no other choice but to keep coming back and keep coming back with a great attitude and trying to get better.
“If we have to be two percent better the next game, then we’ll do that,” he added.
The Flyers’ shooters were 0 for 9 in the shootout; four of their shots sailed wide, and another shooter lost control of the puck as he made a move. Flyers shooters are 0 for 16 in shootouts this season.
“At this point, we’re just finding ways to lose hockey games,” captain Claude Giroux said, adding that if they “keep doing the right things, we’ll get rewarded.”
The Flyers were the better team in regulation, and the Isles had more scoring chances in the overtime.
Some quick observations:
1. Yes, that was the Flyers who overcame early adversity.
Twenty-six seconds after Josh Bailey got position on Travis Sanheim and gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead, Travis Konecny answered for the Flyers.
If you been watching the Orange and Black (and Blue) this season, you know it’s usually the opposing team that quickly responds after a Flyers goal.
This time, Konecny knocked in a rebound — his second goal in as many nights, after going 20 straight games without a tally — after Oskar Lindblom kept the puck alive in front. Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov made bad plays that contributed to each of the Flyers’ first and second goals. Konecny’s goal made it 2-2 with 6:06 left in the second.
The Flyers dominated the second, outshooting the Isles, 14-7.
And they carried the momentum into the third as they continually swarmed the net. Lindblom, who had an outstanding game, was sent in alone on a two-on-one 33 seconds into the period, but Varlamov denied him.
About 3 1/2 minutes later, on another two on one, Claude Giroux took a deft feed from Cam Atkinson (six shots), and whipped a shot past Varlamov to give the Flyers their first lead of the night, 3-2.
But the Isles tied it when Casey Cizikas got inside position on Justin Braun and deflected a shot past Carter Hart with 4:28 to go.
Braun however, had a strong game. He blocked three shots, some in key spots, “and gave us energy,” defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen said.
2. Maybe the Flyers enjoy playing from behind?
How else can you explain their futile starts recently?
The Flyers talk about getting off to better starts. Then they miss assignments and, more time than not, fall behind and chase the game.
It happened again Tuesday as uncovered defenseman Robin Salo rifled a shot past Hart to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead just 2:08 into the game. It was the seventh time in the last eight games they had surrendered the first goal, and this one was the first of Salo’s career.
“We can talk about them missing centers, but it’s uncalled for to let a guy come in alone to the top of the circle,” fumed Steve Coates on the radio broadcast. “… We can send people to the moon, but I can’t figure out why we can’t get off to a good start.”
This time, they woke up and controlled the last half of the first period.
Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first Black player and one of the classiest men you will ever meet, being honored around the league tonight, and his number is being retired by his former team, Boston. It should be retired by EVERY team. #Flyers pic.twitter.com/MIqKCRgK4y
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 19, 2022
3. The Flyers’ power play showed good things happen when you shoot … wide.
Cam York fired a shot off the end boards, — it didn’t appear to be a set play — and Varlamov inexplicably failed to clear the carom. Bad (non) move.
James van Riemsdyk, alone in front, knocked it between his legs to tie the score at 1-1 with 5:21 remaining in the first. It was van Riemsdyk’s 10th goal and sixth on the power play.
The power play’s ineffectiveness has been a big reason for the Flyers’ recent problems; they had taken just 11 shots on their last 15 power plays before Tuesday.
4. Rasmus Ristolainen is far from perfect in the defensive end, but he gives the Flyers’ momentum with his physicality, as he did with a bruising hit on Matt Barzal.
Ristolainen, 27, playing on back-to-back nights after missing two games because of COVID-related matters, had nine hits, all in the first two periods.
From here, assuming the price tag isn’t ridiculous, the Flyers need to sign the 6-4, 221-pound defenseman; he can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
5. The more you see Zack MacEwen, the more you admire him.
MacEwen is an old-school player. Plays the game with more heart than skill and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, even if the opponent is 6-9, 250-pound Isles defenseman Zdeno Chara.
Chara, incensed that MacEwen had leveled Scott Mayfield, rushed at the Flyers’ fourth-line right winger and both dropped their gloves with 11:28 left in regulation. Chara clearly decisioned the 6-3, 205-pound MacEwen, but he deserves credit for standing up to the veteran and trying to give the Flyers some momentum.
6. You had to hold your breath when you saw top-line left winger Joel Farabee grab his left shoulder late in the game.
Farabee, who is arguably the Flyers’ must exciting player, was checked into the boards by Dobson with a little over eight minutes left regulation. The 21-year-old winger went to the bench and was given attention by trainer Jim McCrossin.
He didn’t miss a shift. And he nearly won it, but Varlamov robbed him in the closing seconds of the overtime.
The Flyers are 53-96 in career shootouts, the worst mark in the NHL; they are 0-4 in shootouts this season. … Before Wahlstrom connected, neither team scored in the shootout. … Hart, who was strong in the shootout, hasn’t won since Dec. 14, a 6-1 victory over New Jersey. … This was the first game where fans had to show proof of being COVID-vaccinated, and the crowd was sparse. … Farabee’s goal with 8:48 left in the first period came off the board when the Islanders challenged it and the video showed the Flyers were offside. … The Flyers host Columbus on Thursday; the Blue Jackets’ Jake Voracek is currently on the Blue Jackets’ COVID list. … Konecny scored goals in back to back games for the first time since Oct. 15-18. … The Flyers had a 34-31 edge in shots. … Giroux had two points and won 71% of his faceoffs.