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Quick Hits: Week Ahead, Flyers Daily, Phantoms

February 19, 2024, 1:38 PM ET [181 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Quick Hits: February 19, 2024

1) The Flyers will hold an 11:30 a.m. practice on Monday at the FTC in Voorhees. They are also scheduled to practice at the Flyers Training Center on Tuesday at the same time before a flight to Chicago. There will not be a morning skate on Wednesday prior to that evening's 8:00 p.m. ET game against the Blackhawks at the United Center.

The game in Chicago will be the Flyers final match outside of the Eastern time zone for the remainder of the 2023-24 regular season. It's also the Flyers' only game on the docket all week before a weekend back-to-back matinee set against the New York Rangers (home) and Pittsburgh Penguins (away).

Prior to the weekend, the Flyers will have a complete off-day on Thursday. On Friday, they have an 11:30 a.m. ET practice at the FTC.

2) Joel Farabee has continued to generate shots on goal and get scoring chances but he's battling through his first production slump of the season. He has two points (0g, 2a) over the six games since the All-Star break and has gone nine games without a goal (0g, 3a). It's not too much cause for concern, however. Farabee has registered 26 shots on net over the last nine games, and just hasn't been able to get any to go in the net for him. Getting himself to the low slot and directly to the paint -- as he's done so well for most of the season -- should take care of the issue. The game in Chicago on Wednesday will be a good opportunity for a breakthrough night.

3) I am a bit more concerned about Cam Atkinson's recent play. After breaking out of the longest goal-scoring drought of his career (26 games), Atkinson had a run of 10 points (5g, 5a) over the course of a six-game point streak. However, since then, Atkinson has gone pointless in his last eight games with 11 shots on goal. The Flyers could really use another production run from the veteran winger.

4) From what I was told, the injury that Cam York sustained last Thursday in Toronto was, thankfully, not a concussion. It was a different upper body issue. York gave it a go to play in the Stadium Series on Saturday. As with many Flyers, the MetLife Stadium game wasn't one of York's better outings this season -- although he did skate 19:31 across 32 shifts and registered four shots on goal.

5) Morgan Frost was another Flyer who had a forgettable night, especially in the first period, on Saturday. He took a careless high-sticking penalty with the Flyers down 1-0 in the first period; the first penalty Frost took in two months but his third in Philly's last two games against New Jersey. Later in the first period, Frost lost a defensive zone faceoff to Devils winger Tyler Toffoli (who'd stepped in to take the draw after Erik Haula was tossed from the circle). Frost then lost track of Toffoli, who scored moments later on the fat rebound of a Brendan Smith shot.

Frost finished the Stadium Series game with a minus-two (+1, -3), one shot on goal on two shot attempts, and 4-for-13 on faceoffs. Philly needed a better game from him than that. On the positive side, he had an assist on Owen Tippett's power play goal, starting a nice puck movement sequence that ended with Tippett taking a pass from Travis Konecny and sniping a wrister home from the center slot. Frost blocked three shots and was credited with three hits. So, it wasn't all bad. But it wasn't nearly good enough, either. Frost has five points (2g, 3a) in his last five games.

6) Flyers Daily: In the Mondays with Meltzer edition of Flyers Daily, Jason Myrtetus and I talk about the Stadium Series from not only a game analysis standpoint but also in terms of the overall experience and atmosphere. It's the Flyers fourth outdoor game I've covered -- the first two being the 2012 Winter Classic (plus the 2012 AHL Outdoor Classic) at Citizens Bank Park, the 2017 Stadium Series game in Pittsburgh and the 2019 Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field. I was not at the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston or the 2021 game in Lake Tahoe in person.

From a media standpoint, I found the pressbox vantage point tougher for me in the 2024 Stadium Series than in any of the previous outdoor games I covered. The contingent of Flyers staff seats was located in the first row of the very spacious press box.

The stage where the Jonas Brothers performed in our straight-ahead line of view (well past the end boards on the side the Flyers attacked in the first and third periods). It was easy enough to peer around the opaque window dividers, but the action itself was quite far away and the Devils' jersey numbers were extremely hard to see (the Flyers' were significantly easier plus I recognize the skating styles). The TV monitors in our row were not very helpful for two reasons: 1) They were way overhead, and 2) the typical broadcast delay meant that it wasn't what was happening on the ice in real time, so you'd miss several seconds by glancing up to check the monitor (for example, to see if a shot was partially blocked or simply went wide) if play was still ongoing.

I was not particularly happy with the Postgame 5 that I wrote for the Flyers' website. I try to incorporate more game-flow description of notable play and more analysis into the second half of each postgame writeup -- the top portion is primarily for goal descriptions, the middle two sections are for listing the Flyers starting lineup and then picking a turning point of the game. I thought my postgame writeup from Saturday was a bit sparse compared to normal.

In terms of the overall experience, it's always fun. You see friends and colleagues from other markets. It's a treat to see the fan atmosphere and take in the 30k view of the spectacle.

7) I commented about this on Twitter/X but I wanted to expand slightly on it here. Back when Ray Ferraro played in the NHL, he was one of those opposing players that you loved to hate.

There was always a decent chance that he'd burn your team for a key goal or make a big play for an assist. More than that, though, Ferraro was an agitator. He'd chirp constantly at opposing players and at the referee(s). For a player who had 1,288 career penalty minutes in 1,258 games, he sure acted indignant any time a call went against him. He was a hack-and-slash type, especially when matched up against bigger centers. Ferraro could also be goaded into retaliatory penalties.

Although he was unquestionably a talented offensive player -- you don't score 400-plus goals and nearly 900 points in the NHL otherwise -- there was always a bit of a trade-off for the six NHL teams that had Ferraro on their roster. While you had to respect his fiery competitiveness, he was a defensive liability at times (a minus-104 for his career). I remember when he was with the Islanders and Rangers in particular, that I used to hope he had to defend Eric Lindros or Rod Brind'Amour because there was a pretty good chance for a Flyers' goal (or at least a prime scoring chance).

In his broadcasting career, I respect Ferraro's knowledge and experience. He knows his stuff. I'm not a fan, however, of how comes off as scolding to players and a bit arrogant. For a guy who saw as many red lights go off behind his own goalie and took as many skates to the penalty box (often complaining about the call the entire time) as he did, you'd think he'd at least be a little more self-deprecating about analyzing defensive miscues or undisciplined penalty. Overall, I find him kind of grating, whether it's an NHL game or an event like the World Juniors.

8) Phantoms update: After a week-long break in their game schedule, Lehigh Valley returned to action on Saturday with a 2-1 home loss to the Syracuse Crunch. A late first period power play goal by Rhett Gardner (6th, assisted by Bobby Brink and Samu Tuomaala) stood as the lone tally for the Phantoms. All three goals scored in the game were on the man advantage. In a losing cause, Parker Gahagen made 24 saves on 26 shots. Felix Sandström (illness) was unable to play, so Reading Royals callup Nolan Maier served as the backup goalie.

The Phantoms have three games this week, all on the road: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday evening (7:00 p.m.) and the Charlotte Checks on back-to-back afternoons on Saturday (4:00 p.m. ET) and Sunday (1:00 p.m.).

Lehigh Valley continues to hover right around "hockey .500" (20-19-7) this season. Ian Laperriere's team is four points behind sixth-place Springfield for the Atlantic Division playoff cutoff. With only 13 regulation wins to date, the Phantoms have ground to make up, too, in the primary tiebreaker category should they finish tied in points for a playoff spot.
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