The Flyers are on their West Coast road trip this week, which means the game will start at 10 p.m. or later for fans at home.
First up on Tuesday night were the NHL-worst San Jose Sharks, who started the season a miserable 0-10-1 and were outscored 20-3 in their previous two games.
So, of course, the Flyers were only able to score one goal against them in a 2-1 loss – their fifth in their last six games.
I stayed up to watch it. I can’t say I really have a good reasoning for it right now, but anyway here are a few thoughts about the team that comes out of it…
What’s wrong with Frost?
Sean Couturier was ready to return to the lineup Tuesday night, and to make room for him, Morgan Frost was withdrawn.
And that is extremely strange at this point.
Was Frost great? No. He has yet to score a point in the six games he has played so far.
But was he so bad that he repeatedly got scratches like that? I would also argue no.
He was ineffective and barely noticeable in the first two games of the season against Columbus and then Ottawa, so a deficit a night after that could have easily been seen as an early wake-up call.
But then Frost just sat there, and when he got back into the lineup for the homestand last week, he really wasn’t that bad.
On a line with Travis Konecny and Tyson Foerster, Frost was a remarkably active skater who created scoring opportunities. The problem was that they just couldn’t put any of it down, which was just as big, if not more, a problem for Foerster than it would be for Frost.
But despite his struggles scoring at the moment – Foerster is still looking for his first goal after Tuesday night’s defeat – he has apparently been given a lot more leeway than Frost to figure it out. The same goes for Noah Cates and Owen Tippett, two other notable young forwards who have been quiet in terms of production lately.
And when it comes to the lineup, the idea that there isn’t a spot for him right now is also highly questionable.
Yes, Couturier’s return meant another center would have to come out, and head coach John Tortorella previously said when Frost first sat that a return to the lineup for him would have to come in an offensive role – somewhere in the middle six , where he was with Konecny and Foerster.
But this role clearly exists and hasn’t gone anywhere.
When Frost was reinstated last week, Ryan Poehling sat and Scott Laughton dropped to the fourth line with Nic Deslauriers and Garnet Hathaway, each running with just as much energy as before.
There just seems to be a strange discrepancy here.
Still only 24 years old, Frost has had a decent resurgence since December of last season and was re-upped for two more years before this season.
But on a team that is currently very busy figuring things out for the future, Frost seemingly won’t be given a real opportunity to prove he can be a part of it.
The whole thing is just strange.
Quantity over quality
The Flyers outscored the Sharks 39:19 and at first glance dominated the possession battle.
First and foremost, thanks go to San Jose goalkeeper Mackenzie Blackwood. He had a fantastic performance with 38 saves and was inches away from a shutout when he got to the puck just a split second earlier, which after review turned into Joel Farabee’s goal.
But if you take a step back and think about most of the chances the Flyers had on Tuesday night, they were almost all on shots that either went straight into Blackwood’s pads or missed. Too few really made the Sharks sweat.
“We couldn’t find a way to finish it.” Tortorella said after the game. “I thought we had a lot of near chances but just couldn’t get to the net. Territorially I thought we controlled it, but we just didn’t get enough good chances.”
And lack of finishing at the net is a growing and extremely frustrating trend of late, just like the power play, which by the way…
The power play is still very bad
Thanks to the man advantage, the Flyers beat the league’s 28th penalty taker 0-4 on Tuesday evening.
Overall, the power play has an 8.9 percent success rate so far this season, the second-worst in the NHL.
And going back to the loss to Anaheim on Oct. 28, the unit is 1-for-22.
It’s bad and didn’t get any better in San Jose.
“Special teams killed us again” Sean Couturier said after Tuesday night’s loss.
Is it possible to refuse penalties?
The faceoffs have also gotten worse
Here’s another trend that’s under the radar but potentially just as concerning: The Flyers are getting pushed around in the faceoff circle.
Against the Kings here in Philly on Saturday night – a 5-0 loss – LA dominated them in the draw, winning 58 percent of the games.
Then on Tuesday night against the Sharks, they were blown out of the crease again, losing 70 percent of the puck drops.
This season, the Flyers are winning just 45.6 percent of their faceoffs overall, tied for 28th in the league with Minnesota.
For a roster with Couturier, Laughton and Cates whose reputations are based in part on being strong in the faceoff circle, that’s not a good sign and something to keep an eye on moving forward.
To their credit, the Flyers did commendably well in summoning energy from the start and keeping up with their opponents.
Perhaps it was an adrenaline rush at the start of the season that saw them do well there for a while, but recently that jump in their game seems to have faded a bit.
Maybe it’s the schedule catching up, teams adjusting, missing Carter Hart, wobbling in front of the net, or all of the above, but either way, it’s pretty difficult for the Flyers to stabilize right now .
When they fell behind halfway against the Sharks on Tuesday night, you sensed that this game probably wasn’t going to go their way, and it didn’t.
But at the same time, you have to keep an eye on the rebuild and ask yourself whether it might be better – or most likely – in the long run.
However, no one ever said it had to be fun to watch, and Tuesday night’s game definitely wasn’t.
However, perhaps they can regroup a bit with some time off before facing Anaheim again on Friday night.
Bonus: “record” attendance
Before we get started, a point about the larger NHL product.
Last week, commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was on track for a “Record participation rate” this season.
Commissioner Gary Bettman says the NHL is “enjoying record attendance this season.”
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) November 1, 2023
Here’s where San Jose’s SAP Center was last Thursday against Vancouver before the Sharks were beaten 10-1: It was so sparse and quiet when the Flyers were there on Tuesday night, while the Wells Fargo Center also had a crowd so far this season a lot of empty places.
Call me a skeptic, Gary.
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