As the halfway point of the National Hockey League season approaches, the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves in a tough spot. A tumultuous stretch of play led to big changes within the organization with desperate hopes of turning things around on the ice. Now, with those changes taking root, the Flyers are taking some steps forward yet still take too many back.
When Scott Gordon was named interim head coach earlier in the month, it brought a breath of fresh air to the locker room. The call-up of prized goalie prospect Carter Hart also added to the excitement of a fresh start for the team. Games against the Detroit Red Wings and a strong Nashville Predators squad yielded positive results for the Flyers as it looked like things were clicking correctly for once.
Flyers Find Themselves Back on Earth
Riding the high of consecutive wins for the first time in what felt like forever, the Flyers fell back to Earth after a close-but-no-cigar loss at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers were outscored 3-1 in the second period alone and then failed to complete a comeback, ending up in a 4-3 loss. Another defeat after signs of life showed just how far they had to go in order to climb back into the playoff hunt.
More positives came in the following days, but again, negatives haunted Philadelphia. A solid shootout win against the New York Rangers gave off positive vibes going into the holiday break only to be struck down by the juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning. Once again, the Flyers mounted a comeback similar to that of their earlier game against the Atlantic Division powerhouse, on Nov. 17 . Unfortunately, the same outcome repeated itself as the Lightning emerged victorious in overtime.
Special Teams Continue to Struggle
Another pitfall still plaguing Philadelphia is the constantly struggling special teams. Again, the inability to score on the power play and defend on the penalty kill cost the team in the most recent outing. Per Sam Carchidi of Philly.com, the team went zero-for-two on the man advantage while killing two of three Florida Panther power plays, one of which yielded the game-tying goal with just under seven minutes left to play. The article also points out how the Flyers’ power play is at just 12.8 percent on the season and is last in the NHL. (from ‘Flyers Try to Regroup From Crushing Loss; Power Play Still Struggling Mightily’ – Philly.com – 12/30/18)
Despite recent losses and continued struggles, there are some things that have given the Flyers life since their coaching change.
Philadelphia’s Silver Linings
As mentioned before, calling up Hart brought much-needed comfort to the team’s goaltending situation. So far, the young talent has showed that he indeed does have talent. Through four games, he owns a 2.28 goals against average accompanied by a .917 save percentage and a 2-2-0 record. Although the team in front of him still isn’t at its best, the 20-year-old has shown poise between the pipes.
Claude Giroux Keeps Rolling
On the offensive side, captain Claude Giroux has continued to be a force for his team. With 44 points through 37 games, he continues to show why he deserves better recognition as one of the NHL’s elite forwards. Last season’s renaissance performance catapulted the 12-year Flyer back into the conversation, yet he still flies under the radar. However, the captain briefly stole the spotlight with his spectacular goal against the Lightning on Thursday night:
Defensively, the team is also seeing signs of betterment. Shayne Gostisbehere registered a goal against the Panthers on Saturday night and also effectively jumped into rushes several times in the opening period. The goal was his first point in four games and his seventh point in 10 career games against the Panthers, according to Bill Meltzer of the Flyers’ website.
At this juncture, the Flyers still have lots of work to do if they’re to have a chance at making their way into the postseason. Coaching and player performance have brought positive signs to the team, yet continued struggles still weigh them down. From here on out, each and every game will prove to be just as important as the next.