BACK ON TRACK: Flyers lose to Blackhawks as regression comes
The Flyers found a way when it mattered most.
Facing the tanking Blackhawks, they were favored to pull out another win before their schedule began to get tougher in the proceeding months. The streak of victories wounded the Tank Agenda, but the Flyers found a way to get back on track.
And by finding a way, I mean they couldn’t actually finish a goal to save their lives. The Flyers controlled the game both from a shots and an expected goals standpoint. But for one team, expected goals became actual goals. And for the other, expected goals became saves.
This is usually regarded as poor luck, but the truth is that the Flyers had been extraordinarily lucky of recent. They lack the high-end talent to reliably finish on their chances, and so they really should be putting up fewer actual goals than expected. But despite that, they had consistently scored more goals than expected.
That was enough to believe that regression was coming, and it slammed the Flyers in the face here. This sort of thing happens in a season, even to the good teams.
Hopefully, the regression continues to come, and we can get back in at least a good lottery position!
But enough of that. Let’s talk about some GOOD Flyers things.
Morgan Frost adds to his growing highlight reel.
The speed. The ability to handle the puck at speed and fake out defenders even while he’s in hyperdrive. That’s the kind of thing that special players do, and make no mistake about it: Morgan Frost has special talent. You know, if he ever figures it out for a full season.
I’m sure there are some Twitter takes about “he only does this against bad teams” waiting to be warmed up. So let me head them off at the pass.
- The Flyers are ALSO a bad team, all that means is a level playing field.
- Morgan Frost plays for John Tortorella and, therefore, can’t afford to take potentially stupid risks like he could with–say–Buffalo.
Don’t get me wrong. I want Morgan Frost to push the issue and try this sort of stuff even when the windows get tighter against good teams. But a coach who’s focused on defensive responsibility and competing hard isn’t gonna trust him if he does it. Don’t get me wrong; Frost can do this against good teams. And he has before.
But the windows get tighter, and the opportunities get slimmer unless you’re willing to try. Even in this game, Frost showed his willingness to dangle through cramped NZ configurations.
That is a wall of defenders, and he just sliced through them as if they didn’t exist. It was incredible.
And as Flyers Clips alludes to… Frost is our one in-house shot at a player who can dominate the transition game. That is immensely valuable to a team. Just ask the Avalanche and how much value they deride from MacKinnon.
Cam York continues driving play.
Analytics don’t usually make Flyers players look glowing. This is especially true of their defensemen. One exception of the rule? Cam York. His ability to tilt the ice and ensure the Flyers create more chances than they surrender is incredible.
At 5v5, the Flyers had a 63% Corsi For and a 76.9% xGF (expected goal share) while York was on the ice. Both were significantly higher than if they had someone else deployed. All numbers per Natural Stat Trick.
These numbers matter and they are not just relegated to this game. This is a young defenseman, and the Flyers are not only generating uncanny amounts of chances against the opponent with him deployed… they aren’t giving much back either.
This ability to create offense and stay solid on defense while playing on the top pair is going to be immensely valuable if the Flyers are ever a good team.
Even if that ability to drive play never became points, it would still provide huge value.
But that ability almost always becomes points when it’s exhibited in a young player. As he gains experience, his poise with the puck will improve even more, and he’ll turn down good plays for great ones. Those great plays will become extra assists and extra goals.
This is a natural process for any NHL player. It’s why this stuff matters.
If York continues to create offense like this, he has all the makings of a defenseman who can rack up points. And he can do it without giving back all of that value on the defensive end.
The Flyers lost, and young players excelled.
I literally could not be happier.
Mandatory Credit: Johnny Ulecka