The darkness is now over (temporarily) for the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans. With a plethora of talent highlighted by names like Giroux, Voracek, Gostisbehere, Provorov, and Simmonds, one has to ask: How did this team lose 10 straight games?
Simply put, the Flyers were inconsistent, nonchalant, unlucky, and unable to hold a lead, all at the same time. Quite a recipe for disaster. However, there were many other reasons for the horrible play in that stretch.
Secondary Scoring Issues
For the first month and a half of the season, it was no secret that the trio of Giroux, Couturier, and Voracek was one of the best in the NHL behind Stamkos-Namestnikov-Kucherov and Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko. So far this season, the three have accumulated a total of 92 points, which includes 32 goals. Those 32 goals represent 40.5% of the teams total.
Now, when the first line is off the ice, who is relied upon to put the puck in the net?
The answer? Nobody.
What most people don’t realize is that the Flyers have a superabundance of “pass first” type players. Valtteri Filppula is the perfect example. Travis Konecny, while very fast and skilled, isn’t always the best at making decisions and is often too fast for his own good. Nolan Patrick, who missed the two first games during the 10-game streak, hasn’t been a huge factor (mainly due to the minutes he’s played) but also hasn’t shot the puck very much when given the opportunity.
Other components of the remaining cast consist of Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera, who are simply unable to keep up with the high pace. One major player is Wayne Simmonds, who is more of a power play specialist/power forward as opposed to a highly skilled puck carrier. After that, we’re looking at other speedsters, Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier. Those players can serve a purpose on a team, but they are not expected to bury the biscuit every shift.
The Flyers, like many other teams in the NHL, are missing that one elite sniper. A Tarasenko, Kucherov or Ovechkin type that never hesitates to shoot the puck.
Young Defensive Corps
The Flyers currently have one of the youngest defenses in the NHL. It is composed of two rookies, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim; one sophomore who plays like a 10-year veteran, Ivan Provorov; Shayne Gostisbehere, who has less than 200 games of NHL experience; Radko Gudas, who can be a solid fourth defenseman, and complimentary players who are better suited in a third-pairing role in Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.
Obviously, the wheels start to fall off at one point due to the lack of poise. The Flyers, who have been praised for their solid drafting and prospect stocking, are going to need to be patient with these guys. Bad stretches like the ones we saw are going to happen sometimes – it’s a learning process for most of these guys.
The goaltending has been relatively good for the most part.
Inability to Maintain Leads
No, the Flyers were not as bad as they appeared to be during their losing streak. Other than a handful of games (against Boston and San Jose), the Flyers came to work every single night but took one break too many during the shift.
They put 30 or more shots on net in every single game other than the ones singled out above. They put pucks and bodies to the net, but the bounces just didn’t seem to go their way. When that happened, often the opposing team would skate down the ice and bury one, completely changing the momentum.
The Flyers also dropped half of those games in overtime/shootout situations, usually after blowing a two-goal lead. Sometimes, when it doesn’t go your way, it really doesn’t go your way. This was the case. They ran into some hot goalies (Devan Dubnyk turning away 62 shots in two games to earn his third consecutive shutout) and some hot teams which included the Jets, the Islanders, and the Canucks.
Playing in an extremely competitive Metropolitan Division has probably ruined the Flyers’ playoff chances early on this year, but crazier things have happened in this sport. The Flyers need to learn from this awful experience and try to build on being a more consistent club.
Coach Dave Hakstol recently separated the top line in order to balance out the scoring and the Flyers now find themselves on a two-game winning streak.