And to think the Flyers could have drafted defenseman Cale Makar back in 2017 but opted instead for Nolan Patrick with the second overall pick.
The Flyers were once again reminded of this oversight on Friday night as Makar scored twice, giving him a franchise-record 24 goals for the season, as he led the Colorado Avalanche to a 6-3 win at Ball Arena in Denver.
Makar looks like a shoo-in for the NHL’s Norris Trophy (most outstanding defenseman) and no one on the Flyers should have a problem with that.
The rest of the Avalanche weren’t too shabby either, as Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo and his players were quick to point out.
“Whether we didn’t have enough energy or too much respect for them, we didn’t check the way we had been,’’ Yeo said. “When you don’t do that against a team like that, give them that much time and space, they’re going to make you pay.’’
The Flyers had played the previous night in St. Louis so there had to be an element of fatigue, plus playing in the mile-high atmosphere of thin air Denver factored in as well.
“We can’t just use it as an excuse,’’ Yeo said. “I mean there are going to be teaching moments here. You have to play games when you’re tired and how you play them is real important. I don’t think the chances they had was the result of us being tired. I thought we played a little bit safe in the first period against a team with that kind of skill. Maybe a little bit of that is fatigue.’’
James van Riemsdyk indicated the fatigue factor and lack of execution went hand-in-hand.
“It’s just a matter of executing the little details against a team like that,’’ he said. “On a back-to-back you’re got going to have much room for error. We weren’t as sharp as we could have been against the team we just played against. . .they’re going to make you pay.’’
Five of the first six Colorado goals were either scored on screen shots or deflections, making it a very frustrating night for Flyers goalie Carter Hart, who faced a career-high 51 shots and a truckload of quality scoring chances.
Hart was the victim of some serious bad luck in Colorado’s four-goal first period.
Two of the Avalanche markers came on shots on which Hart was screened by his defensemen. On the other two, Avalanche shots deflected off the sticks of Flyers defensemen.
Nazem Kadri, who posted a goal and two assists in the first period alone, started the four-goal outburst at 7:20. Kadri rushed right up the middle and fired a shot past Flyers defenseman Nick Seeler, who was blocking Hart’s view.
“Obviously they’re one of the best teams in the league,’’ Seeler said. “A lot of speed coming and if you don’t have a gap, tight, it’s going wto be tough. They move the puck really well. Everyone is always moving. When they get going, it’s tough.’’
JVR tied the score at 13:02 off an assist from Joel Farabee. JVR got off an initial shot on Pavel Francouz, then dashed in to clean up the rebound.
But the Avs needed only 44 seconds to go back ahead. Colorado went on a power play and the Avs struck quickly, five seconds to be exact. Makar wound up with the puck at the point after Kadri won a faceoff. Makar’s shot went past an accidental screen created by Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim at 13:46.
J.T. Compher then made it 3-1 when his shot from the goal line hit Seeler’s skate and hopped into the net at 16:17. Mikko Rantanen closed out the scoring by finishing off a Nathan MacKinnon entry at 18:06.
Colorado broke through again at 12:19 of the second. Kurtis McDermid’s point shot appeared to change direction on the way to the net (possible deflection off Patrick Brown’s stick) as Hart hardly moved as the puck went by.
As time was running out in the second period, Flyers fourth-liner Zack MacEwen broke a 52-game goal drought with a break-in goal as the clock showed 31 seconds left. Then Max Willman scored in the third period (breaking a 27-game drought) to pull within 5-3 before Makar scored again to make it 6-3.
Hart knew the Flyers were going to have their hands full.
“They’re a good team,’’ he said. “They came out hard and fast and they were all over us. Just had to battle through it. It’s just the talent on their team, they have some good high-end players. It’s tough to defend. All you can do is give it your best.’’
Travis Konecny, who scored two goals in Thursday night’s 5-2 win at St. Louis, was a late scratch due to a lower-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day.
>Flyers statement on passing of Gil Stein
In a statement released on Friday night, the Flyers said they “are mourning the passing of Philadelphia native and former team executive Gil Stein. After a career in public service in Philadelphia, Stein served the Flyers organization in key roles before moving on to the National Hockey League, where he spent 15 years as an executive and became NHL president from 1992-93. The Flyers organization extends thoughts and prayers to the Stein family.’’
The Flyers return to action on Sunday when they visit Nashville to play the Predators. It’s the fourth game of the five-game road trip. Note the 6 p.m. starting time. . .With Konecny out, Oskar Lindblom returned to action after sitting out the St. Louis game on Thursday. . .The Flyers’ power play has dropped all the way to last in the NHL. It is three for its last 29.