Jackson Cates makes NHL debut, but Flyers' fight with inconsistency continues

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Jordan Hall
·5 min read
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Another new face, but Flyers' fight with inconsistency continues originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A theme to the Flyers' disappointing 2020-21 season has been the club's failure to build momentum off of a victory.

The Flyers could not change that theme Friday night as they took a 4-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The Flyers (21-19-7) went 4-3-1 against New York this season and allowed it to score 4.13 goals per game.

The fifth-place Rangers (24-18-6) are five points ahead of the sixth-place Flyers in the East Division.

• Since the start of March, in games after a win, the Flyers have gone 1-9-0 and been outscored 52-21.

Can you blame any fan for having total reservation after each victory? For whatever reasons, the Flyers have not been able to piece together positives in any way. The Flyers are 10-14-4 with a minus-40 goal differential since March commenced.

In April, the Flyers have scored two goals per game.

"There are a lot of guys right now that are looking to get on the score sheet obviously," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said postgame. "They're probably fighting it a little bit. But tonight, we had some great, great looks to come back in this game — we just couldn't find the back of the net."

• The Flyers' penalty kill went 1 for 2, giving up its 37th goal of the season through 47 games.

The Flyers gave up 38 power play goals in 69 games last season.

On the other side of the special teams battle, the Flyers missed on a huge opportunity to tie the game near the end of the middle period. They had a 5-on-3 for 1:21 minutes but looked too passive and failed to convert. During the power play opportunity, things even got dicey for the Flyers going the other way.

Both of the Flyers' special teams units have taken a step back this season. Both have been a lot like the team as a whole: staggeringly inconsistent.

• Jackson Cates, an undrafted 23-year-old center who signed a two-year entry-level deal with the Flyers 10 days ago, became the fourth Flyer to make his NHL debut this season.

With the club dropping out of playoff contention, Cates became the latest youngster to get an audition as the Flyers continue to evaluate for 2021-22.

A three-year guy at Minnesota Duluth, Cates centered Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel on the Flyers' fourth line. Cates is regarded for his soundness in both ends of the rink. He went 5 for 8 in the faceoff circle and finished with three shots in 11:19 minutes.

"Dream come true," Cates said of his solo lap in warmups and first NHL game.

"Luckily my family was able to make it in, but I haven't been able to see them or talk to them yet. Hopefully I'll be able to catch them outside the bus when we leave here."

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The Flyers wanted to get a look at Cates, so Nolan Patrick became the odd man out. It does say something, though, that Patrick was the odd man out. The season has been awfully tough for the 22-year-old center, to the point where he is considered and made the extra forward when the Flyers want to look at a college product they just signed.

• Alex Lyon made his second NHL start in 14 and a half months.

Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil turned a 2-1 third-period lead into a 4-1 cushion for the Rangers. Lyon probably wanted the Chytil goal back.

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The 28-year-old Lyon converted 20 saves on 24 shots.

New York netminder Alexandar Georgiev went 3-0-0 with 72 saves on 75 shots against the Flyers this season.

• The Flyers trailed at first intermission, which has become commonplace in 2020-21.

Lindblom drew the Flyers even at 1-1 with his seventh goal of the season, but Pavel Buchnevich regained the lead for New York just over a minute later.

Since the start of March, the Flyers have been outscored 42-18 in the first period. On the season, they've gone 6-13-3 when trailing after the opening 20 minutes.

• During the second period, Scott Laughton fought Kevin Rooney, who got tied up with Sean Couturier moments before, resulting in the 2019-20 Selke Trophy winner falling to the ice.

Laughton has gone 18 games without recording a point. He's a secondary scorer and is always getting after it, but it's fair to wonder if he's pressing to do more after signing his five-year extension at the trade deadline.

"It's been a while," Laughton said. "Trying to do the right things and work as hard as I can. I know if I keep doing that, things will work out, but obviously not the stretch you want to have individually when you're fighting for a playoff position earlier on and when you're trying to make something happen.

"Definitely frustrating, but what can you do — you've just got to put your nose down and keep going to work and try to find ways to get on the board."

Laughton is not a guy to worry about. If you're questioning the signing because of his pointless streak in a lost Flyers season, that's silly.

• The Flyers start a stretch of four straight games against the Devils when they welcome New Jersey on Sunday (6 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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