NEW YORK – If you want a feel-good story, watch Get Back, the brilliant three-part Beatles series that is a reality show – 52 years after it was filmed — at its best.
In other words, it is the opposite of watching the Flyers these days.
Give the Flyers an “A” for effort Wednesday. They went into Madison Square Garden against the scorching New York Rangers and despite suffering an injury to another key player (Joel Farabee), they controlled a good chunk of the second and third periods. The Flyers had a lot of puck possession and had the Rangers on their heels.
No matter. On a five-minute, second-period power play, they created great chances, but Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin made seven of his 33 saves. One of the saves was on a point-blank blast by Cam Atkinson, and it drew chants of “I-gor, I-gor” as it paved the way for New York’s 4-1 victory. Making the save even more remarkable: Shesterkin, who may be the NHL’s best goalie right now, had lost his stick and had hastily borrowed teammate Jacob Trouba’s to deny Atkinson.
“Everybody knows our power play hasn’t been what we want it to be,” said Kevin Hayes, who returned to the lineup and played in just his third game this season. “I thought we really generated a lot of chances. We had some good looks, both units. We were in their zone the whole time, and their goalie played good.”
That’s seven consecutive losses for the Flyers, during which they have been outscored, 29-12. That’s 16 straight games in which they have failed to score more than three goals. And after going 0 for 3 in nine minutes of power-play time, they are a mind-boggling 4 for their last 53 (7.5%).
No wonder coach Alain Vigneault was (finally) fuming after a loss, even if this was one of his team’s better efforts during the skid.
Vigneault didn’t care about the effort, didn’t care that the Flyers had a 34-28 shots advantage – 23-13 over the last two periods – or that their power play looked much better than in previous games.
He complained about the Flyers’ first penalty kill, which resulted in a goal when Trouba’s point shot sailed past goalie Carter Hart, who appeared to be screened by defenseman Justin Braun.
“Our PK gives up that first goal on a play we had talked to our players about. Should have gotten a blocked shot from one of our two forwards there,” Vigneault said, referring to Oskar Lindblom or Connor Bunnaman. “Didn’t get it, and our goalie doesn’t see the puck.”
He complained about the Flyers again not depositing their Grade A scoring chances.
“At the end of the day, you need to find a way to finish and we didn’t do that,” he said. “Just like we need to find a way to win a game, and we didn’t do that tonight, also. The power play had opportunities and it could have made a big difference in helping us come back in this game, but we’re just not making the plays we need to make.”
Asked if he was more satisfied with the power play’s puck movement and scoring chances, Vigneault interrupted the questioner.
“I’m not satisfied about anything here,” he snapped. “We have to find a way to win games. This is serious here. We’re not scoring right now; we’re not finishing, so we’re going to have to find a way to win games 1-0 or 2-1, until we get that finish that I know some of these players have, but definitely right now, we’re not seeing it, we’re not executing it. We’re going to have to tighten up defensively and find a way to win 1-0 or 2-1.”
Truth be told, that’s been the Flyers’ M.O. for most of the season. After scoring 23 goals over their first five games, the Flyers offense has been, well, offensive. They have just five wins in nearly five weeks. They scored only two goals in each of those five victories, excluding an empty-net tally. Four of the wins were by 2-1 scores as they beat Vancouver, Washington, Carolina, and Calgary.
Most of the Flyers’ expected big guns are in long scoring slumps, and now they may be missing Farabee after he appeared to injure his left shoulder in the opening period.
The good news is that, after a day off Thursday, the Flyers will get back-to-back practices to prepare for their next opponent. “I think it’ll be good for us to work on our game and work on our structure,” Hart said.
The bad news: The next two games are against powers Tampa Bay and Colorado on Sunday and Monday, respectively.
You may want to watch Get Back instead.