Flyers’ West Coast Trip Could Be Crucial

It’s been a tumultuous ride for the Philadelphia Flyers as of late. Unsolved problems from past seasons, the emergence of new flaws, and poor team play in general have haunted the team recently. After a dismal 6-1 loss at the hands of the Islanders just one day after head coach Dave Hakstol told his troops to “sack up”, things seemed at their lowest. Now, Philadelphia has gone West to test their might in a four-game road trip.

Dave Hakstol
Head coach Dave Hakstol could be on the hot seat if the Flyers don’t succeed out west (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With minimal success at home in the Wells Fargo Center on top of continued disappointment all around, a trip out West could be just what the Flyers need to get things back on track.

Step in the Right Direction

Tuesday night proved to be a spark in an otherwise dark chapter of the season. Philadelphia halted their three-game losing streak by defeating the Anaheim Ducks. A big part of the victory is credited to a very solid defensive effort, mainly from Ivan Provorov.

The young Russian tallied his first goal of the season, logging almost 27 minutes of ice time in the process. His play, along with the Flyers’ defense as a whole, finally seemed to pull together for a strong 60-minute effort. According to the Flyers’ website, the team blocked 25 shots that night, with defenseman Christian Folin leading the way with seven blocks and Provorov right behind him with five.

Ivan Provorov Flyers
Provorov tracks the puck during a game Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers, Feb. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Special Teams Teeter-Totter

Special teams have been a poor facet of the Flyers’ play lately, but there was life against Anaheim. Hakstol unleashed his new-look power play units on Tuesday night, providing a mix of results. Philadelphia’s second unit started things off poorly, yet the top line was able to break through courtesy of Sean Couturier. The goal ended an 0-for-12 drought on the power play and was the second time in 12 games that the team scored the game’s first goal.

On the other hand, the team’s penalty kill once again proved to be almost fatal to a Flyers win. With just over two minutes left, Anaheim’s Pontus Aberg found the weak link in the Flyers’ penalty kill chain and tied Tuesday’s game. The Flyers’ PK remains second worst in the league, at 67.4 percent, just above the Carolina Hurricanes’ 66.7 percent. Once again, the inability to stave off opponents’ power play units cost the Flyers. Luckily, they were able to overcome.

Claude Giroux
Things haven’t been all smiles for the Flyers lately Claude Giroux (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Westward Bound

As Philadelphia pushes onward through the West, they’ll face some tough opponents.

Royal Pains?

First up, the Los Angeles Kings, who’ve also had problems of their own recently. After a six game losing streak, L.A. finally got back in the win column beating the Rangers on Sunday. More bad news plagued the team, though, as it was announced on Tuesday that star goalie Johnathan Quick is out indefinitely after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. With a hunger to keep winning, Philadelphia can pounce on an already wounded team.

Another Shark Attack?

Philadelphia has already been bitten badly this season by their Saturday opponent, the San Jose Sharks. On Oct. 9, the Flyers were feasted on by the Sharks, 8-2, in their home opener. Now, knowing what they’re up against and with the possibility of revenge, the Flyers can split the season series with their Western foes.

Duel in the Desert

Rounding things out for the Flyers’ western ways is a desert duel with the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. The teams split their season series last year with each game taking extra time to determine. Since then, both teams have been on different paths and the meeting could prove to be important for each club.

Make or Break

These next games can be crucial to the success of the Flyers in more ways than one. The team already has its problem areas and making them worse will only dig the team deeper into an unwanted hole. If Philadelphia does poorly on the remaining stretch then player and coaching jobs will be at stake more than they already should be. On the other hand, if things stay positive for the rest of the trip then the Flyers will hopefully be able to build and improve going forward.