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3 Flyers Takeaways From Avalanche Loss: Transition Struggles; Tippett Injured



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Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche were too hot to handle for the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon. (Photo: AP)

The Colorado Avalanche, led by Nathan MacKinnon’s four points and Logan O’Connor’s hat trick, waxed the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-4, at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday evening. Whether you’re a fan or a coach, the incomplete effort across the full 60 minutes was tough to watch.

Halfway through Period 1, the Flyers held a 6-1 advantage in shots on goal and looked destined to have a repeat of their performance against the Dallas Stars from Thursday night. That is, until O’Connor lifted his skate to deflect a shot past Carter Hart. The referees ruled it a goal after a review, and that’s the kind of day it was going to be for Philadelphia.

Flyers Power Play is Still Objectively Bad

Despite a “goal” from O’Connor and, later in the period, Mikko Rantanen, the Flyers had their chances to avoid falling into a 2-0 hole. Jonathan Drouin and Josh Manson sent Philadelphia to the power play twice in the opening frame, but the Flyers came up empty-handed both times.

I get that they have the league’s worst power play by conversion rate, but sometimes, they seem even worse than that. The timing of the opportunities matters the most, and the fact is that the Flyers won’t go very far this season unless that changes dramatically.

This is an Avalanche team that has a Hart Trophy favorite, a Norris Trophy favorite, and a checking line (led by O’Connor) that has been one of the best in all of hockey. Philadelphia just couldn’t afford to let a team like that off easy, and they did multiple times. Their third and final failed power play in the second period was, arguably, the nail in the coffin for the Flyers.

Can We Talk About Cam Atkinson and Morgan Frost?

Talk about two guys that have drastically changed the tune around their seasons.

Both Cam Atkinson and Morgan Frost were healthy scratches for the Jan. 4 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and since then, both players have been playing with their hair on fire.

After being reinstated in the lineup on Jan. 6, Atkinson went four more games without a goal or a point and extended his goal-less streak to 26 games. Then he scored twice against the Winnipeg Jets. And then again against the Stars. And then again on Saturday against the Avalanche.

Suddenly, Atkinson has four goals in his last four games, along with three assists. The 34-year-old’s 25 points in 45 games puts him on pace for roughly 46 points across an 82-game season. Before missing all of the 2022-23 season, Atkinson had 50 points in 73 games in 2021-22.

He hasn’t necessarily lost a step, and one could argue that Atkinson had a chance at 60 points if not for that 26-game goal drought.

As for Frost, he has nine points in his last eight games. He and Atkinson are both on four-game point streaks.

Just by watching Frost, you can see his confidence oozing on the ice. That has bled back into the team, which was evident on the now-snapped five-game win streak that the Flyers were on.

If this is a level the 24-year-old can play at on an every-night basis, it will be arguably the most significant revelation for the Flyers this season. Frost scored 46 points in 81 games with Sean Couturier on the shelf last season and finds himself with a chance to match that despite having far fewer opportunities this season.

Flyers Struggle With Defending in Transition

Say what you will about Carter Hart allowing five goals on 15 shots, but the whole product was lacking against the Avalanche.

Ryan Poehling ended up being the only Flyers skater who wasn’t on the ice for a Colorado goal.

Rantanen was allowed to take a one-timer for Colorado’s second goal without a single Flyers defender within five yards of him. That’s not a transition goal, but it shows where the Flyers were at in terms of focus and discipline. One of the best wingers in hockey was totally neglected while setting up shop in a dangerous scoring position.

MacKinnon quickly waded through Philadelphia’s neutral zone setup, scoring on a breakaway for the Avalanche’s third goal just 43 seconds into the second period. Travis Sanheim was in no-man’s land, and Jamie Drysdale was positioned too close to the wall, which meant Tyson Foerster was the closest player to MacKinnon.

It was already too late.

Later on, Miles Wood caught Rasmus Ristolainen flat-footed and created a passing lane unabated. O’Connor snuck behind Egor Zamula at the far post to deposit the tap-in.

Adding insult to injury, literally, Owen Tippett played one shift in the third period and was ruled out with a lower-body injury. Head coach John Tortorella was unable to provide any kind of update after the game.

You have to credit the Flyers for fighting back and bringing themselves within one, at 5-4, in the third period. On the other hand, they shot themselves in the foot too many times to have earnestly picked up a point, let alone two.

Potentially without Tippett, the Flyers will host the Ottawa Senators at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.

For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page.
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