All good things have to come to an end.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, that statement held true when the team’s 10-game winning streak came to an end on Saturday, Dec. 17. The run gained the team little ground on clubs ahead of them in the standings, but put them so far ahead of Atlantic Division foes that it appeared the team just needed to play above-average hockey for the rest of the season to clinch a playoff spot.
Despite the good coming to an end, the Flyers stayed positive, mainly from Jake Voracek who said things like “we can’t hang our heads” and “we’ll get another winning streak going.” The team played again Monday and the hope was there that it would get back to its winning ways.
But the Flyers lost to the Nashville Predators, 2-1, and have only won once since the streak was snapped, a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals. Those three goals are tied for the most Philadelphia has scored in a single game over the last seven contests.
It’s obvious that the Flyers’ offense has dried up over the latest stretch, and not incidentally, the team doesn’t have as much playoff space as it once thought. The Carolina Hurricanes are six points behind Philly with three games in hand.
Flyers’ Scoring Culprits
In seven games, the Flyers have 11 combined goals. With that little scoring over a long stretch, it’s not just one or two players that are having issues finding the back of the net.
Some of the bigger ones include Brayden Schenn, Travis Konecny and Dale Weise.
Schenn hasn’t contributed much all season, and has drawn criticism often since the start of the 2016-17 season. However, he does have two goals and an assist over the Flyers’ past three games. The two tallies, though, came on the power play, the only area in which Schenn is exceeding.
Coach Dave Hakstol made one of his most controversial decisions last week, sitting Konecny after the rookie had two assists in the previous game, but hadn’t scored in 22, Thursday night:
A Konecny thought: Hakstol has rolled the dice on this kind of move before (Ghost) & managed to avoid a negative result. But…1/2 #Flyers
— Anthony Mingioni (@AnthonyMingioni) December 30, 2016
Konecny should embrace the opportunity he's given by Hakstol. Now he can see from the pressbox how INCREDIBLY bad 47 & 76 are but still play
— Johan Gärtner (@JohanGartner) December 31, 2016
Nineteen-year-olds go through rough patches and while Konecny wasn’t playing badly, something needed to happen to get the 2015 first-rounder going. He responded in the next game, scoring the Flyers’ first goal against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
While Konecny gets the excuse of being a rookie, more is expected from the veteran Weise. The former Canadien has just two goals and two assists in the first year of a four-year deal with the orange and black.
Weise has looked better on the forecheck and cycling around the net recently, but he’s still getting second power play minutes on which he hasn’t been able to capitalize.
The winger’s lack of scoring on the power play isn’t just an individual issue, though; it’s a team one. In the Flyers’ last six losses, they’ve cashed in only twice on 17 attempts, or 11.7 percent. No team is going to find much success not converting on extra strength opportunities.
If the power play hasn’t been successful it follows suit that the star players haven’t been either, which is true for Philly. Claude Giroux has just a single goal and Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere have none over the past seven games.
The future schedule doesn’t look bright either. The Flyers play the third-place in Metropolitan New York Rangers Wednesday, then the always-dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning, before the best team in the league, record-wise, Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.
Ways to Create Scoring
There’s one bit of good news for the Flyers and that’s that they haven’t always been out of the games they lost. They mustered 54 shots against the Ducks in their last game, but couldn’t find a way to beat John Gibson to earn the win.
They gained a point in that game, but loser points won’t be enough if the Flyers want to stay ahead of the Hurricanes and in a playoff spot.
One potential solution is slotting Schenn back to wing. He’s played center lately, even after Sean Couturier returned from injury, but he’s better on the wing. Despite that, GM Ron Hextall likes him more in the middle, as he told Elliotte Friedman:
I’m excited about our middle with Claude Giroux, Schenn, Sean Couturier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
– Ron Hextall, Elliote Friedman’s 30 Thoughts
Couturier was playing on the third line with Weise and Nick Cousins, but Matt Read returned against the Ducks and offers some offensive instinct that was missing in the bottom six. Michael Raffl also returned from a short injury, giving the team its first-line winger back, and defenseman Mark Streit should be returning soon to help quarterback the second power play unit.
The first unit has been one of the better groups in the past calendar year and it’s hard to imagine Hakstol changing anything. If he were, though, Raffl may be an option for Schenn or Ivan Provorov replacing Gostisbehere.
Returning players will obviously have a positive effect, but one thing the Flyers learned during their winning streak was that a team can win games it’s not supposed to. Lately, they’ve been on the wrong side of that line, but like good things, bad things have to come to an end as well.