Well, this is about when we might normally say that the Flyers survived their back-to-back against tough divisional opponents in the Capitals and Rangers, but that might not be completely accurate. After dropping last night’s game 4-0, the Flyers were outscored 13-2 over their last two games, and had six players take injuries on Tuesday and miss last night’s game. Not great!
The Flyers were without Cam Atkinson, Patrick Brown, Nate Thompson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam York, and Carter Hart in this one, so we had all of Tanner Laczynski, Egor Zamula, and Felix Sandstrom were called up from the Phantoms ahead of this game (got all that?). The Flyers had 14 of 20 players dressed for this game be age 25 or younger, so the kid team is here.
So, since we’re without a prospect report this week, we’re merging it with our postgame observations, because suddenly all of the prospects are here or something.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
He may not be putting up a very flashy highlight reel of plays every single night, but there seems to always be a couple of smaller plays that Cates makes that make us say “that was really good, that was really smart.” Last night we saw him continue to push pace well, show strength and poise in puck battles along the boards, and he flashed a bit once in particular, making a clean check on Panarin to force a turnover. For as much as we talk about it taking some time for players to get adjusted to the pace of play at this level, Cates has stepped right in and seemed to have no problem with it. He’s continuing to impress us and impress his teammates (Scott Laughton shouted him out after the game for how smart he plays, and how much he enjoys playing with him), and he’s putting together a strong case to stick with the team heading into next season .
All of the players called up from the Phantoms for this game were tossed right into a tough situation, given how the last game had gone, but this was especially true for Sandstrom. He had a diminished defense playing in front of him and not providing as much help as you might hope, and he had a high powered offense on the other side to contend with. All told, he held up pretty well, all things considered. He stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced for a .909 save percentage. It wasn’t the prettiest of showings — speaking of pace, things seemed to be moving a hair quickly for Sandstrom and he looked more like he was just reacting to plays rather than reading and anticipating them, so he didn’t look his most comfortable —But it was fine enough for his first game back in a while. If Hart is going to be out longer term, we’ll see how Sandstrom is able to build on this, but it’s not a terrible foundation to start with.
It was beginning to feel like we might not see Zamula with the Flyers again this season, but surprise! He’s back again. He was immediately tossed into a pretty big role (he played 22 minutes on the second pair on the evening), and that’s a tough ask, but he held up well in these minutes. He looked a bit more comfortable than he did in his first game earlier in the season, and seemed more confident with the puck in general (confident enough to activate for a nice low chance in the offensive zone, we might add).
The question of his strength being improved enough for him to be able to hold up over a longer stretch of games at this level remains open, but hey, it was enough for him to survive this first game back.
What an ugly pair of games for Brink to get his first taste of the NHL in, huh? It’s a trial by fire (and that might be putting it lightly), but Brink is doing well in his first few games. We didn’t see quite as much of his offense popping as it did in his first game, but he still looked good. He still tacked on three scoring chances across all situations, and brought a nice bit of that signature tenacity still.
This one did end in a bit of a tough look for Brink — he had a golden opportunity for a power play goal late in the game, for his first NHL goal, and the puck not only just skipped over his stick, but was immediately picked up by the Rangers and sent the other way for the empty net goal — and that’s just unfortunate. It’s a really unlucky play and a tough outcome, but it shouldn’t sour what was otherwise a pretty good game. The Flyers’ curse has just made its way to him at warp speed.
Laczynski made his season debut for the Flyers on the fourth line last night, and it was really nice to see that finally happen, with how he’s been through the wringer this year with injuries. It was a sort of quiet night for him (he only played a little under nine and a half minutes) but he looked solid and comfortable back up at this level. He chipped in one high danger scoring chance in those minutes, and looked to be settling in nicely with new line mates Oskar Lindblom and Zack MacEwen. Like Cates, Laczynski doesn’t tend to bring flash in droves, but the finer points in his game all seemed to be clicking well enough. The statuses of all of the injured forwards remain up in the air, so we’ll see if Laczynski sticks around into the weekend, but even if this was the only look for now, he jumped right into the mix and was able to keep up well.
Speaking of kids playing in limited roles last night, it was also a relatively quiet one for Attard. And honestly after how messy Tuesday was for him, that’s probably the best thing that we can say. It’s been a bit of an up and down battle for him as he works on mitigating some of the risk in his game at this level, but last night he got things started back in the right direction again (which feels like an even greater accomplishment when we note that he did it when paired with Keith Yandle again). Not much going on for him on the offensive side, but he did get a look on penalty kill which, though brief, does say something about the belief that coaching staff has in him (at least relative to some of the others in the lineup) . He’s getting some good opportunities here, and we’ll see if he’s able to keep this moving in the right direction.