Though the Philadelphia Flyers have dramatically underachieved, the man at the top of the organizational chart isn’t encouraging major offseason changes.
On Monday, the chairman and CEO of Comcast Specator, Dave Scott, told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer that “it’s beyond disappointment where we’re sitting today.”
“But I’m not discouraged,” he added.
“There’s no excuses. We just didn’t get it done,” Scott continued. “We took a big step back. And I can’t stop thinking about our fan base.”
Those fans have borne witness, in limited numbers, to a Philadelphia group that went from a league-best 25-6-4 record on home ice last season to a disheartening 11-11-4 campaign this year.
Playing Right Vs. Pittsburgh
But as the Flyers play out the string, they offered up a treat on Monday night — an entertaining and decisive 7-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are battling for the top seed in the East Division.
For the first time in 11 games, Philadelphia opened the scoring, thanks to Kevin Hayes’ 12th of the year at 5:58. By the end of the first period, they’d fired 20 shots on Casey DeSmith and built a 3-0 lead. At the other end of the ice, Alex Lyon was pulling pucks off the goal line like it was no big thing.
Alex Lyon made one of the best saves you'll see all season!
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 4, 2021
Wade Allison added his second-career NHL goal in the second period, building the lead to 4-0 before Sidney Crosby and Jason Zucker got the Penguins on the scoreboard early in the third. But there was no comeback to be had. The Flyers rounded out their night with three more goals — Joel Farabee’s 17th of the year, Claude Giroux’s second of the night into an empty net, and the second of the season from Robert Hagg.
Philadelphia finished the night with a season-high 45 shots on goal — and saw DeSmith leave the game with a lower-body injury after facing 37 shots through two periods.
The Penguins have not provided an update on DeSmith’s status, but have indicated that Tristan Jarry will get the start for the second half of the back-to-back on Tuesday night. He gave up two goals on seven third-period shots in relief on Monday.
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Lyon Gets 1st Win
At the other end of the ice, Lyon made 35 saves to record his first win in five NHL appearances this season — and his first NHL victory since a 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 1, 2020.
“Everyone was extremely happy with his battle level, his compete level,” said coach Alain Vigneault after the game. “He really gave us a chance.
“What we did tonight was we made the other team pay for their early mistakes and Alex made some big saves. They had some real good looks. No doubt he was a big part of tonight’s win.”
Last year, Lyon was getting regular AHL action as well as stepping into the Flyers’ lineup when Carter Hart was injured. On the taxi squad for most of this season, he has seen a lot less ice — just four games in March with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, along with his NHL minutes.
That rust has taken a toll.
“I think tonight was really the first game that I felt like a hockey player,” Lyon said. “It takes a little bit of time to find that rhythm and find that groove. I felt tonight I found a really good recipe for success.
“Even more than the win, I’m just personally happy. You just go through some negative thoughts like ‘Am I ever going to win a game again?’ and stuff like that.
“Tonight I felt like everything really came together. Just happy to move forward with that in mind.”
Brian Elliott will get the nod for the second half of the back-to-back on Tuesday. Lyon will presumably get one more start during the Flyers’ back-to-back road games against the Washington Capitals on Friday and Saturday. The team will close out the 2020-21 campaign by hosting the Devils next Monday.
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Rivalry Brings Out Flyers’ Best
Was it the long-simmering rivalry with Pittsburgh that ignited the Flyers on Monday?
“They played well against us tonight, and they’ve played well against us this year,” said Jason Zucker. The veteran forward is now in his second season in Pittsburgh.
“It’s obviously an in-state rival and it’s a big rivalry for us. They’re always up for these games, and we are as well. Obviously tonight, we weren’t quite ready for that one. You got to give them credit. They’re a good team. They played well tonight and against us this year.”
When the Flyers deliver the effort that they did on Monday, Dave Scott’s careful approach to roster rehabilitation seems sensible.
“I think we’re closer than our record shows,” he told Carchidi. “If you look at it, it’s the same core group we had last season. And we took a big step under difficult circumstances, playing up in Toronto in the bubble.”
Scott’s offseason wishlist includes another scorer and a top-pairing defenseman, perhaps along with a change at the backup goaltender position.
Travis Konecny also believes his group can put together more games like the fans saw on Monday.
“I’ve been saying it all year,” he said. “We know we can play the right way. It’s just a matter of us doing it.”