PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Flyers are racking up points in November, but lately, they’re losing more games than they’re winning. The month began well with a 5-0-1 record with wins over the Eastern Conference’s best, but the tides have since turned.
The Flyers have lost five of their last six games, but they’ve done so by picking up loser points in three. In the long run, the points help, but it was yet another frustrating week for the Orange and Black, who appear too content playing on the seesaw at the playground.
Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the week that was.
1. Frost here to stay?
Last week began with a transaction that sent Flyers Twitter into a frenzy, and for good reason. The Flyers made the call to Allentown to summon prospect Morgan Frost from the minors to address what became a glaring need: center depth.
Frost’s call-up allowed Claude Giroux to move back to left wing and Michael Raffl to the fourth line. But as general manager Chuck Fletcher and head coach Alain Vigneault showed with Joel Farabee’s call-up, Frost would be put in a position to succeed — and he did.
The 20-year-old scored goals in his first two games, becoming the sixth Flyer to do so and the first since David Laliberte in 2009. Playing on a line with Giroux and Travis Konecny, Frost showed incredible hands and playmaking ability.
Nine combined points from 28-48-11 and a must needed W.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 22, 2019
He also set up one of Giroux’s two goals on Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes with an incredible cross-ice pass that left the Flyers’ captain immediately in awe. Upon scoring, Giroux immediately pointed at Frost because it was the kid who created the goal.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 22, 2019
When Frost was called up, it wasn’t clear if it was a short-term shot in the arm or perhaps something longer. Scott Laughton was inching closer to returning and his return created a bit of a salary cap pickle. But Frost’s play in his first two games bought more time.
Here’s something to cool off with. pic.twitter.com/xHvc1vvKPt
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 20, 2019
The Flyers sent Andy Andreoff down to the Phantoms and placed Nolan Patrick on long-term injured reserve when Laughton returned for Saturday’s game. Frost had a costly turnover that led to the Flames’ first goal Saturday, but again flashed the skill that has so many excited for him.
With most of the veterans struggling to finish, Frost has been a breath of fresh air. Like Farabee, he still has plenty to learn at the NHL level. But in his first three games, Frost showed that his call-up wasn’t premature. He’ll surely have his struggles and it’s still far from a foregone conclusion he’ll stay.
For now, he’s earned himself a few more games at the very least. If he plays like he did last week, he won’t be seeing Lehigh Valley again any time soon.
2. Ghost earned his benching
When the Flyers took the ice Saturday afternoon, they did so with a fan favorite in the press box as a healthy scratch. Vigneault scratched Shayne Gostisbehere on Saturday afternoon and explained afterward that he preferred Robert Hagg in the lineup because Calgary plays a heavier game.
But, that’s where the Flyers are with Gostisbehere. He’s no longer a lock to stay in the lineup, as it should be. It’s been another troubling start for “Ghost,” and frankly, resetting him on Saturday was a smart move by Vigneault.
If Vigneault is going to hold players accountable, it applies to all. On more times than once, he’s sent messages to vets such as Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk. On Friday, Vigneault told reporters he’s “expecting a little bit more as far as plays with the puck” from Gostisbehere.
“An offensive defenseman has to have the ability to beat the forecheck and to know when to jump in. I have seen some of that. Ghost is a little bit like our team — he’s a work in progress, he can play better, he will get better,” Vigneault told reporters.
Then on Saturday, Vigneault scratched Gostisbehere.
Gostisbehere hasn’t played to the level that he’s capable of, and when an offensive defenseman isn’t producing offensively, his value on the ice takes a hit. The fancy numbers aren’t too supportive of Gostisbehere this season, but the ugly numbers say all you need to know.
In 22 games, Gostisbehere has one goal and five assists with a minus-5 rating. Once a lethal weapon on the power play, he has just four power play assists. He has just one goal and one assist at even strength. He’s lacking confidence with the puck and having trouble hitting the net with his shots.
Without hardcore production offensively, it’s hard for the coaching staff to overlook his defensive deficiencies. It’s hard to imagine Ghost being benched for more than one game — we’ll see Monday night. But even if it does last longer, it’s not out of the blue.
Gostisbehere earned his healthy scratch. It’s up to him to earn his spot back in the lineup.
3. Loser points keeping Flyers alive
Twenty-three games into the season, it’s hard to define who the Flyers are. They’re still establishing an identity under Vigneault, but one thing that has plagued this team for years is its inconsistency.
At times this season, the Flyers are every bit the part of an objectively good team capable of who knows what. Others, they’ve looked lost. In straight wins and losses, the Flyers are 11-12, but since hockey awards a point for overtime losses, they’re 11-7-5 — which is one way of saying they’re above hockey .500.
The Flyers are playing a lot of free hockey of late — eight of their last 12 games have gone to overtime or a shootout. As of Sunday, they hold the second wild-card spot with 27 points. It’s entirely way too early to look at standings — another month is when things will start to matter.
But even with all the ups and downs, they’re still in the mix. They’re in a much better position than they’ve been in the past few seasons.
You can thank the NHL’s system of rewarding losers for playing extra time. For now, the Flyers will take it. If, and when, the consistency comes, things could be merry in South Philly.