In this week’s games, the Philadelphia Flyers looked…well, different, to say the least. Except for the absences of Claude Giroux and Justin Braun, Sunday’s win over the New York Islanders featured a relatively normal lineup. After the trade deadline, though, the Flyers went with an unconventional 11-forward, seven-defenceman roster. The odd setup worked in one game, as the team blasted past the St. Louis Blues with a 5-2 score. However, both the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche doubled up the Flyers, defeating them 6-3. Through these four games, some players facilitated the team’s success. However, others did not perform quite so impressively. Each week, we’ll take a look at Philadelphia Flyers players who are on a hot or cold streak. This week, we’ll examine Kevin Hayes and Rasmus Ristolainen.
Be sure to check out last week’s streaks as well.
Hot and Cold Streaks, Including Kevin Hayes
Hot Streak: Kevin Hayes
After being hindered by injuries for most of the season, Kevin Hayes is finally looking like himself again. His improvement comes just in time, too, as the trades of Giroux and Derick Brassard thinned out the Flyers’ depth at centre and put a heavier workload on his shoulders.
Hayes is currently on a four-game point streak, with two goals and five assists through that stretch. It’s his longest point streak since late 2019, where he scored four points in four games. On Sunday, Hayes accounted for all the Flyers’ goals, finding the back of the net two times – the second of which would be the game-winning tally. On Tuesday, his two assists helped close the Red Wings’ three-goal lead to just one. In the following game, Hayes’ shot produced the rebound that led to Hayden Hodgson‘s first NHL goal. And he picked up yet another assist (though futile) on Max Willman’s goal against the Avalanche.
In general, Hayes simply looked better this week. He was faster and strong on the puck. He was firing shots with more confidence, and – as his point totals showed – was also orchestrating scoring chances. With Hayes’ role increasing, both in terms of ice time and leadership, it’s a good sign for the Flyers that he has been heating up.
Honourable Mention: Hayden Hodgson
It’s very rare that a 26-year-old career AHLer makes it to the NHL. It’s even rarer that an ECHLer tries out for the AHL, makes it, and then gets called up to the NHL in the same season. But with his debut Thursday, Hayden Hodgson became one of the select few players to achieve that improbable accomplishment – and reached two more milestones in that same game. First, he recorded a secondary assist on the Travis Konecny goal that opened the scoring. Later, Hodgson recorded a goal of his own, chipping a bouncing rebound past Jordan Binnington. Granted, he has only played in a small sample size of games thus far, making it difficult to judge what impact he might have on the team down the road. But at the very least, Hodgson’s unlikely road to the NHL gives Flyers fans something to be excited about.
Cold Streak: Rasmus Ristolainen
With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, no one had more pressure on him than Rasmus Ristolainen. The 27-year-old defenceman recently signed a five-year extension carrying a $5.4 million annual cap hit, and all eyes were on him to live up to the lucrative contract.
This week, there was one game in particular in which Ristolainen stood out – and not in a good way. He made three crucial errors that allowed the Red Wings to get off to an alarmingly fast start. The first was a positioning mistake, where instead of pushing Detroit away from the crease, he ended up screening Carter Hart himself with a foot in the goal. The second was a turnover in the neutral zone that quickly ended up in the back of the net. And the third was yet another turnover, this one from a failed attempt to clear that was batted down at centre ice.
Aside from that game, Ristolainen’s possession metrics weren’t great. He had slightly below a 50% Corsi-for percentage in three of the four contests and had around a 30% Corsi-for percentage against the Avalanche (though no Flyer did particularly well in that game). But Ristolainen did avoid the penalty box while registering nine hits and four blocks. All in all, he fulfilled his reputation – a hard-hitting defenceman with awful advanced metrics. And perhaps trying to justify the outrageous contract he was given is a futile cause. However, one thing is for sure – Ristolainen cannot afford to make so many costly, game-breaking errors going forward.