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Flyers Miss Rasmus Ristolainen More Than Everybody Thinks

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Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Ristolainen has been one of the Philadelphia Flyers' most impactful defensemen this season. (Photo: AP)

Imagine reading this headline in the summer during training camp. It’s no secret that the Philadelphia Flyers have struggled since mid-February.

A lot of the chatter, deservedly, points to the Flyers trading Sean Walker as the reason for their defensive decline, but that only tells half the story.

The other half of the story is Rasmus Ristolainen, who has missed groups of games on either half of the 2023-24 season.

The proof is in the pudding; the Flyers are 17-9-5 with Ristolainen in the lineup this season. Without Ristolainen in the lineup, the Flyers are a dreadful 19-21-6.

The 29-year-old is no longer the 40-point powerhouse he was early in his career with the Buffalo Sabres, however, Ristolainen, with the help of the Flyers coaching staff, has placed a renewed emphasis on his defensive game. Both he and the team have reaped the rewards of that, as shown by the Flyers’ record with Ristolainen in the lineup.

In fact, Ristolainen has scored just one goal, three assists, and four points in 31 games this season. That’s far from adequate offensive production, but that’s not his game anymore.

Ristolainen has been on injured reserve with an upper-body injury since Feb. 26 after suffering said injury against Seattle on Feb. 10. Since Ristolainen went out, the Flyers are 8-11-5 and have allowed the fifth-most goals in the NHL, with 90.

Only Anaheim, San Jose, Arizona, and Pittsburgh allowed more goals since Feb. 10, and not by much.

Granted, Nick Seeler and Jamie Drysdale also went out for extended periods not long after Ristolainen was put on the shelf, but the numbers just go to show that their departures made things worse, rather than being fully responsible for the entire collapse that has occurred.

It’s unclear what the nature of Ristolainen’s injury is, but having missed 24 games and counting already, it doesn’t appear that the hulking Finn will be back this season with just five games remaining. The Flyers have been forced to turn to Erik Johnson in his wake, and Johnson just hasn’t played winning hockey for them this season.

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