Over the past three games, the Philadelphia Flyers have a 2-0-1 record, capturing five out of a possible six points. In return, they are just three points out of a playoff spot, something that seemed unlikely even a week ago.
In the past week, the Flyers dismantled the Colorado Avalanche, the worst team record-wise in quite a while, but earned the other win over a quality team in the Florida Panthers. The single point and overtime loss came against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
In the extra-time loss, the Flyers played a strong game against the best team in the League and managed to earn that crucial point through the play of Steve Mason. The 28-year-old actually had his strongest week of the season.
It started with a shutout over the Avs by Mason, then a 39-save effort against the Panthers. He made 24 against the Caps including one with his head.
mason save in ot pic.twitter.com/xMsRoFxTI4
— steph (@myregularface) March 5, 2017
The goaltending has finally reached the highs of last season. The downside is that the scoring still isn’t there.
Flyers’ Offensive Struggles
Over the past 10 games, the Flyers have scored 19 regulation goals. Their 4-5-1 record over that span reflects how little the offense is contributing. But even when you narrow the results to just the past three games, it isn’t pretty.
In those contests, Philly has scored six regulation goals (not counting the shootout marker over the Panthers). That’s slightly higher than the 10-game average, but four of those goals were scored against the Avalanche.
In the last six periods and two overtimes of hockey, the Flyers have scored just two goals courtesy of new acquisition Valtteri Filppula and Sean Couturier. The three points they earned in the standings in those two contests seem more like a fluke than anything.
The power play had 10 combined chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net and key players like Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek haven’t ended their scoring inconsistencies over the last couple of months.
But to be fair, the Capitals proved why they were the best team in the league, stifling the Flyers for most of the game. Two nights before, Roberto Luongo and James Reimer made 48 combined saves to get the Panthers into overtime and a shootout.
Much like the games before the hot streak, the Flyers are getting the chances, but finishing them has been the team’s biggest undoing.
Making Sure There’s No Fluke
Fluke is, unfortunately, a term that is prevalent for the Flyers right now. Did Mason, Michal Neuvirth and Shayne Gostisbehere have fluke seasons last year? Was this year’s 10-game win streak a fluke? Is this small stretch a fluke?
Fortunately for the Flyers there’s still time to end those questions and make the playoffs. If Mason can continue his play over the last 18 games with some help from Neuvirth, the team will just need the offense to pick up.
There were flashes of it at the beginning of the year and in November and December, but the team needs offense now more than ever. It’s still possible that happens.
First off, rookie Travis Konecny is back. He’s being misplayed on the fourth line right now, but he still brings some skill that was lacking.
Speaking of skill, Filppula’s acquisition automatically makes Philadelphia’s depth and talent down the middle the best it’s been in quite some time. He scored a goal in his Flyers debut, but building chemistry with new linemates may take some time.
If it does, the Flyers have found some luck in Jordan Weal’s recall. The 24-year-old was leading the Phantoms in scoring and has showed some offensive flair in Philadelphia. He scored his first NHL goal against the Avalanche and has played on the second power play unit.
Fixing the Power Play?
The power play, though, is still where the Flyers’ biggest offensive contributions are missing. For better or worse, the team scores better on the man-advantage than it does at even-strength. When the power play isn’t clicking, neither is most of the offense.
That’s just what’s happening to Giroux and Voracek. The Capitals executed perfectly on the penalty kill by attacking Giroux, though it left other options open:
I think we’ve done a good job especially on their power play taking that Grioux shot away off the half wall,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby said. “It beat us a few times in the past and to take that way, they basically only have the top and the down-low stuff. They have some guys that are really good in front of the net, so it plays to their advantage, but I thought we hung in there and cleared them out for the most part.
– from Dave Isaac, Courier-Post
So while Giroux’s shot is taken away, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn should be open in front. It’s hard not to force things in a slump, but moving the puck around and finding the open man is crucial.
Of course, that can be said about any power play. While the Flyers’ has been in a rut of late, at points this year and all of last year it was among the best in the League.
They shouldn’t get discouraged by the Capitals, or other teams, figuring out a way to slow it down. Every team has a power play system and a technique used on the man advantage that can be studied and contained. The best bet for the Flyers is to not change anything.
That’s the easiest solution for a team that’s still getting chances, but maybe not the right solution. Either way, the goaltending in Philadelphia has turned around. It’s time for the offense to also, whether it’s easy or not.