An NHL season brings a myriad of ups and downs. Some teams come out of the gate already on the good foot while others stumble trying to gain their footing. In the case of the Philadelphia Flyers, the team has yet to find a solid hold in its current climb towards the Cup. Plagued by self-inflicted “wounds” on top of actual injuries to key players, Philadelphia’s early-season performance isn’t one to write home about.
Coming out Cold
Through nine games, one of the Flyers’ biggest downfalls has been their inability to start games aggressively. In a recent post from Sam Carchidi, he states that the Flyers have “allowed the first goal in eight of nine games and have been outscored in the opening period, 12-7.” (from ‘Passive starts are killing the Flyers early in season: “We need to fix it.”‘ Philly.com, 10/23/18.) In the last two games alone, the Flyers have given up the opening goal early in the first period and on the penalty kill as well.
The slow starts are now becoming all too real for the team as players, coaches, and even management have expressed their frustrations. NBC Sports Philadelphia quoted goaltender Brian Elliott as saying, “That’s not how we want to come out. It seems to be happening right now. We have to get that turned around.” All that in regards to Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche after the team went down 1-0 just about three and a half minutes into the game.
Head coach Dave Hakstol also expressed his thoughts on the team’s early-game woes in his postgame press conference following Monday’s defeat.
“We weren’t sharp in the first period and that hurt us,” said Hakstol. “We had a good morning skate this morning, an opportunity to get sharp and crisp, and that didn’t carry over to our start and that’s not acceptable.” When asked what could be done about the current state of the team, Hakstol said, “Address it, direct it, and keep pushing on it.” His full press conference can be found here.
Obviously, it’s very well known throughout the organization that Philadelphia needs to start packing a way bigger punch once the puck drops.
Hurting in Different Ways
Another problem stymieing the Flyers’ success has been their penalty kill. A recurring issue over the past few years has become a constant disappointment as of late. As stated earlier, Philadelphia’s penalty-kill unit has given up the first goal to the opposition extremely early in the last two games. With a struggling group of killers, the blame is being placed on team penalty-kill coach Ian Laperriere. Brought on as a special team’s coach in the 2013-14 season, the fan-favorite player turned coach hasn’t exactly gotten his players’ performance where it needs to be. As per Broad Street Hockey, Laperriere’s tenure as the penalty kill coach has seen the team ranked 27, 20, 21, and 29 in PK% during the regular season. Currently, Philadelphia’s 68.8 percent penalty kill ranks at No. 30 in the NHL, just above Florida’s 66.7 percent. With present and past struggles behind the bench translating to the same effect on the ice, is it time to start looking for a change?
Ghosts of Injuries Past and Present
In addition to a hurting penalty kill, the Flyers’ have physically been hurting as well. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere went down and stayed down for a hot minute in Monday’s game after a collision in the defensive zone. Luckily, “Ghost” was able to gingerly skate off the ice and proved to be hockey tough as he played the rest of the match after missing just a couple minutes of play. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on the side of forward Michael Raffl. It was announced on Tuesday that the Austrian forward will miss four to six weeks with a lower-body injury. Raffl left Monday night’s game in the second period after going awkwardly into the end boards after being hit. With key foward James van Riemsdyk already sidelined, Raffl’s injury adds to Philadelphia’s ever-growing next-man-up mentality.
As the season keeps moving along, the Flyers need to steer themselves back in the right direction. More aggressive starts, a better penalty kill, and overall teamwork are keys to success for doing just that. On the other hand, if constant problems aren’t solved, Philadelphia may find itself on the outside looking in way too soon. Players, coaches, and management are all frustrated about how things have started, but as the old adage goes “It’s not about how you start, but how you finish.”