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October 30, 2023

Five thoughts: Flyers stick with the Hurricanes, but couldn't put away crucial chances late

Morgan Frost returned to the lineup, and the Flyers generated a number of quality scoring chances against the Hurricanes, but they squandered many of them, and a 3-2 loss got away late.

After a mess of an outing against Anaheim over the weekend completely got away from them, the Flyers turned around quickly and skated right after the Cup-contending Carolina Hurricanes, but ultimately fell short in a 3-2 defeat full of quality chances that they just couldn't put away Monday night down at the Wells Fargo Center. 

They're now 4-4-1 on the season, and have lost their last two games at home after jumping out to a 3-0 start in games played in South Philly. 

"We have to keep our wits about ourselves when you don't get the results that you want, and just stay about our business each and every day," head coach John Tortorella said postgame. "You can't get too high when you win some games. You can't get too low when you lose them. I know it's a line everybody uses, but that's so important for us this year in what we're trying to do with this organization as we go about our business."

They'll continue on with the Buffalo Sabres coming to town next on Wednesday night, but before then, here are five thoughts on the performance put up against Carolina, and a note on the tragic story over the weekend that shook the hockey world...

Matching the pace

Through eight games – granted, with a couple of exceptions – the Flyers have done remarkably well at matching the pace of their opponents. 

But Carolina? They've been a Cup contender for years now. They're stocked with talent, and experience, and you could see the difference Monday night between the two. 

The Hurricanes' tempo was higher, and their puck movement more fluid. But all credit to the Flyers on this one. They stuck with them until late – even though it wasn't always pretty – carrying a 2-1 lead through the first, and then a 2-2 tie through the second until Tuevo Teravainen netted the game-winner with little time left.

It took some lucky breaks for sure – the Canes went to the box five times – a reversed goal call on an offsides after a Philadelphia challenge, and more steady goaltending from Carter Hart as Carolina was winning the shot battle 23-16 through two, but the Flyers did skate after them as much as they could and took their chances, generating a number of quality ones that just didn't find a way in. 

"You just...I'm sitting behind the bench and we have those chances, and not capitalizing," Tortorella reflected postgame. "You know, sooner or later, against a really good hockey team, we just need to bury one of those. It comes back and bites us."

Stay Frost(y)

And a couple of them were generated by Morgan Frost, who returned to the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch for the six games prior. 

Frost centered the line with Travis Konecny and Tyson Foerster in the start on Monday, with the hope from Tortorella being that he would help dictate the pace against Carolina and generate some offense. 

Konecny's had no trouble in that regard, with a team-leading eight goals and 11 points entering the night's game, but Foerster has so far struggled to produce and Frost just hasn't had a chance to the past couple of weeks. 

They nearly converted on a pass that Frost threaded through to Foerster in front on a late second-period power play, then drew a hooking call in the third after Foerster chipped one off the boards through neutral zone, which sprung Frost into the offensive zone heading toward the net one-on-one with Jordan Staal. 

Staal tied him up with his stick as he went for the wrap-around attempt, putting the Flyers back on a power play that was ultimately, once again, ineffective – they went 0-for-5.

Frost has existed in an odd space ever since he got scratched two games into the season and stayed that way for a good bit, but he seemed to take the time away from the ice overall in stride and showed flashes Monday night of what he can bring to the lineup offensively, even late as he, Foerster, and Konecny kept trying to push for that deciding goal.

Props to Tortorella too. He knew he had to find Frost a heavy offensive role to get him back in the lineup and did – having him grind on the fourth line wasn't going to do anyone any favors – though that came at the expense of Ryan Poehling, who had to sit, but with reason.

The fourth-line finish

The PHD line of Poehling, Garnet Hathaway, and Nic Deslauriers had become the Flyers' established, and physical, veteran fourth line, but as Tortorella noted after the morning skate on Monday, every line in the modern NHL has to contribute offensively. 

And while that line has generated a few of their own chances, they didn't finish any of them.

So looking to change that, Poehling got scratched and Scott Laughton dropped down to the fourth-line center, which created the opening for Frost further up the lineup. 

And the fourth line finally scored, with Deslauriers barreling through everyone in white and red the whole way up the ice until dishing it out to Hathaway in front for the tuck home, you know, just like everyone drew it up. 

Jokes aside, it was a seriously great effort, and for a while, gave the Flyers the lead. 

Hart in his 200th start

Carter Hart made his 200th NHL start on Monday night and gave the Flyers another stellar performance between the pipes, but 31 of 34 shots saved weren't enough to get the job done this time. 

He's given the Flyers a chance nearly every game he's been out there for them so far this season though, which at the end of the day, is all you can really ask out of your No. 1 goaltender. 

This save on Carolina's Martin Necas midway through third to keep it tied was huge:

But he probably wants this one back:

And the deciding goal from Terevainen late just had him stuck in no man's land after the puck slipped out in front. It's a tough save to make. 

But he helped keep it a game until the end, and against one of the NHL's best clubs of the past few years. That's no small task.

Celebrity sightings

A quick bonus before we have to get heavy here. 

Bryce Harper was in attendance sitting front row.

And so was Wally! The Wells Fargo center let him in!

He was a guest of honor, even!

Some context on what an alligator is doing in a sports arena HERE.

A moment for Adam


Prior to puck drop Monday night, the Flyers held a moment of silence for Adam Johnson, who died Saturday after his throat was cut by a skate in a freak accident while playing for the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL in England. He was 29.

Johnson played for Flyers' AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, during the 2021-22 season, but his sudden passing sent a devastating shockwave through the entire hockey world, and now seems to be bringing on the conversation for mandatory neck guards across leagues everywhere, including the NHL. 

On Sunday, several players for the AHL's Providence Bruins took the ice wearing neck guards, the EIHL made them mandatory effective December 31 on Monday in the wake of Johnson's death (with a strong recommendation to begin wearing them immediately), and Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported that several NHL players she spoke to are also considering wearing neck guards.

And personally, as someone who has played their whole life but hasn't worn a neck guard in years, I ordered one Sunday night. Johnson was my age. It was an extremely sobering wake-up call. 

Hockey is a beautiful game, but I think we often lose sight of how incredibly dangerous it actually is, and the risk only grows greater the higher the level and the faster the speed gets. 

The sport doesn't get safer as you grow older, yet the gear requirements lessen – neck guards tend to stop being mandatory once you reach high school, and once you're out of college, the face cage, half shield, or nothing else but the helmet becomes your call. 

And once you step back from it for a second, that's insane to think about considering you have 10 people (plus two goalies and the refs) flying around out there all at once with knives tied to their feet. 

I love hockey. This game is amazing, but it should never cost anyone their life. 

I don't know what happens next. Hockey, historically, is slow to react to, well...a lot of stuff. 

The immediate precedent I can think of though is that neck guards follow the same path as the half shield. 

They'll become mandatory for junior, amateur, and minor leagues across the board, then get grandfathered into the NHL, where after a few years' time, every player is wearing them because that's just what became normal. 

At least that's my bet.

Is that the right answer? I don't know right now.

What I do know is this: This is the subject that has crossed every single hockey player's mind more than once, but in truth, never wanted to seriously stop and talk about. 

But now we're here. It is serious. And it is tragic.

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