Flyers Backcheck: Back to Earth, Coyotes Outlast Flyers

We’ve seen this song and dance before. No, not the one step forward, two steps back part – although we’ve witnessed that in bunches as well. Monday’s 4-2 loss to Arizona was yet another disappointing outcome. One that would see a late third period surge from the orange and black. But at the end of the night, the Coyotes outlast the Flyers behind a 30-save performance from Devan Dubnyk. Did someone mention playoffs?

Slop Isn’t Just for Billiards

After head coach Craig Berube berated his players in practice for sloppy play, the Flyers responded with what else? More slop. But despite turnovers at all ends of the ice, Philadelphia was able to generate 14 first period shots on net. Of those 14, Vinny Lecavalier was credited with five of them. The fresh faction of Lecavalier, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde turned out to be a bright spot in what now stands as Philly’s second straight loss.

The Flyers’ fourth line would turn in eight of the team’s 32 total shots, but with Steve Mason back in net, the goal scoring was yet again a day late and a dollar short.

Antoine Vermette notched his fourth career hat trick – for about an hour, anyway – with the first of his three (later changed to two) coming in the first period. The same first period in which the Flyers would outshoot the Coyotes 14-6. Yeah, it’s been that kind of year for Steve Mason. No goal support with sprinkles of tough luck for added flavoring.

It’s kind of hard to generate goal support, however, when a team follows up a 14-shot opening period with five shots in the second.

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From there, however, Craig Berube’s platoon went into pig pen mode. Sloppy turnovers by both teams produced an arms race in icings, while the Flyers failed to generate much of anything for nearly the rest of the game.

The Flyers registered a total of just five shots in the 28-minute span from late in the third period through the opening quarter of the third period. They were completely and utterly flummoxed by Arizona, not even registering a single shot in their first power play in the third period. — Frank Seravalli, Philly.com

Credit Dave Tippett’s team for bottling up Philadelphia’s top line, along with Devan Dubnyk’s sturdy play. Arizona was successful in frustrating Jakub Voracek all night, blanketing the league’s top scorer every time he touched the puck. The Coyotes’ strong checking kept the league’s top scoring line to just a combined five shots, with three of them coming off the stick of Claude Giroux.

R.J. Umberger scored the Flyers’ only set of goals, with Sean Couturier assisting both of them. But in another effort to imitate Patrick Roy, Berube yanked Mason from the net with nearly three minutes left in regulation. Perhaps it was the right decision, though, since it took the Flyers nearly a full minute to avoid Arizona’s bullets and set up for what pressure should look like with an extra attacker.

What else is there to say? It’s another loss on the road, dropping Philly’s road record to 6-11-3. And after that 3-0-0 start to the road trip, another clunker against a team that by all accounts, is not very good, has the Flyers limping into Denver for Wednesday’s tilt with the Avalanche. Back to reality.

The Cure-All Opponent

The Flyers have certainly become the team struggling teams look forward to seeing. If they’re not being posterized for a milestone goal, they’re flat out horrendous penalty kill is solving other teams’ power plays. As for the Coyotes, their ailment has just been finding ways to score goals in general. Fear not, they played the Flyers. All is well for them, at least for now.

With Monday’s four goals added in, Arizona’s 2.31 goals per game ranks 25th in the NHL. Their 83 goals on the season pales in comparison to Philadelphia’s 100, yet it was the Flyers who struggled to get pucks in deep, let alone score with the overwhelmingly better talent that they possess. But just like everyone else in the league plays them, the Yotes pressed the Flyers into a frenzy, outhitting the team that now lacks an identity by a margin of 52-50.

“We’re (nine) points out because of our consistency,” said Flyers GM Ron Hextall. “It’s been a big issue. It’ something that we as a group and as an organization, we have to get better at.”

How does that not fall on the coaching? Heading into Monday night’s game, let’s not forget that the Coyotes were the only team in the league that had yet to produce a 10-goal scorer. Well, you can’t say that anymore. Antoine Vermette accomplished that feat with his third period empty net goal.

Making matters worse, the Flyers have now become “that team” with funks of their own. Philly was goalless yet again on the power play, going 0-2 on the night, making them 0 for their last 16 on the power play, and 0-14 on the road trip.

The Flyers’ PK was burned again when Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored at 2:48 of the third for a 3-0 Arizona lead. They’re now allowed four goals in seven kill attempts over their last two games.

The Flyers didn’t score on two power plays – both in the third period – and now are 0-for-16 in their last six games, 0-for-14 five games into this eight-game roadtrip. — Randy Miller, NJ.com

Oh, and that penalty kill? Well, despite signs of improvement – killing off one of Arizona’s two power play chances – it’s still a dumpster fire. In fact, Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s tally on the man advantage now stands as the 32nd power play goal the Flyers have allowed on the season. In case you were wondering, no other team in the league has given up more. It wouldn’t be such a slap in the face if we were still in the era of the Original Six.

For a team that insists upon still being considered a “playoff team,” these Flyers sure do find ways to make other teams feel better about themselves.

Tidbits from the Desert

Steve Mason’s Broad Shoulders

What did Steve Mason ever do to his Flyers teammates? Monday’s loss not only dropped the poor guy’s record to 6-11-5, but was also the fifth time in his last six appearances that his team scored two goals or less. The nine goals he’s given up in his last three starts is really an indictment on the 26-year-old, though, since the defense has played so well of late. That last part is according to Craig Berube.

Jake Voracek Watch

For the first time in 268 days, Jake Voracek was held without a point in consecutive games. But despite Dallas’ 3-2 win over the New York Rangers, Stars forward Tyler Seguin was held scoreless as well, meaning Voracek still holds onto his three-point lead in the NHL scoring marathon. With teammate Claude Giroux held off the scoresheet, the 25-year-old winger stays ahead of his linemate by four points.

Doan’s Streak Snapped, Now It’s Not, Now It is!

Shane Doan appeared to have snapped his 14-game drought without a goal with his mighty blast from the blue line in the first period. Upon mumblings from above, however, the goal was later awarded to Antoine Vermette. But wait! There was more grumbling from the same undisclosed location that the goal might be given back to the longtime Coyotes captain. But it wasn’t.

But wait again! Approximately an hour after the game, the goal was handed back to Doan, ending that wicked drought once and for all. Man, that was a lot of effort.

I’m Talkin’ About a Little Place Called Assspen

Ok. Maybe not Aspen, but close enough. The Flyers will spend their New Year’s Eve with Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche. Yes, the same Patrick Roy that blew a gasket on Nov. 8th in Philly’s 4-3 win at the Wells Fargo Center. At 13-15-8, the Avs’ 34 points are no better or worse than the Flyers’ point total. Oh, that’s because they have 34 points as well.

That’s depressing. If the Flyers played in the Western Conference’s Central Division, it’s good to know they’d be in dead last. Oh well, it feels that way anyhow.