The Philadelphia Flyers ended their 4-game losing streak on Tuesday night with a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. The win was the Flyers’ 41st of the season and ended Edmonton’s 3-game winning streak. The Flyers now sit at 41-19-6 and have a two point lead over the Pittsburg Penguins in the Atlantic and a four point lead over Boston for first overall in the East. The Flyers have been struggling as of late and the game on Tuesday night was no different. The Flyers dominated the Oilers in the first period by putting up two goals in the first, out shooting the Oilers 17-1, and not allowing an Edmonton shot until the 18.40 mark. The Flyers followed that up with two periods of sloppy hockey where the Oilers out shot them 11-5 in the second and 13-5 in the third. The Flyers held on to win but the way they finished the game raised red flags and concern all over the Philadelphia area.
Tuesday night’s game had many of the same problems the Flyers have been struggling with for the past few weeks. They over passed, passed without purpose and had poor shot selection. The biggest problem that Philadelphia fans have at this moment is the ineffective power play. In their last 10 games, the Flyers are 3-36 (.083) on the extra man advantage. Considering that the orange and black have 10 players with double-digit goals and 7 guys with 40+ points the Flyer’s faithful feel that they should be getting more productivity from the power play.
With these power play woes in mind, I decided to keep track of where the Flyers power play shots were coming from on Tuesday night. The Flyers had four power plays against the Oilers, one of which was a 5-minute boarding penalty against Ladislav Smid. The Flyers attempted 8 power play shots last night, 6 of which were registered shots, 2 of which were blocked, and one which found the back of the net. Only 2 of the registered 6 shots were from inside of the slot, one shot came inside the left face-off circle and the other 5 were attempted around the perimeter, 4 of which came from the point. All 6 of the registered shots came in the first period, 5 of which were on the 5-minute major.
The Flyers poor choice in passing has added to their struggles on the power play. During the 5-minute major, the Flyers spent the majority of the opportunity trying to set-up their offensive structure. At the beginning of the advantage they had a difficult time breaking through the neutral zone. Once they gained access to the Offensive zone, they passed the puck around the perimeter and made futile attempts to get the puck to the inside. After passing for a considerable amount of time (estimated 30 seconds or so) the play would be broken up and the Flyers would start all over again. Jeff Carter scored their only power play goal last night and that came with .17 seconds left on the 5-minute opportunity. Considering that the Oilers are ranked as the second worst penalty kill unit in the league (only successful 77.02% of the time), you would hope to have multiple chances and score one or two goals on a 5-minute power play. Unfortunately the Flyers are like an individual who suffers from OCD in that they need to adhere to rituals in order to feel comfortable. Those rituals include indecisive puck movement, a lack of foresight in play formation and a need to set-up the most perfect offensive structures.
The Flyers need to let loose. They look so tight on the power play and that leads to their ineffectiveness. Their puck movements look scripted and forced. The players on Philadelphia are good enough that they should just let the plays develop instead of forcing them to form the way they want it. Last season, Jeff Carter went through a serious goal drought. During that drought, Carter looked like he wanted to score nothing but pretty goals. Instead of driving the net and pounding in loose pucks or picking up a rebound, Carter would stay on the outside and try and snipe as many goals as he could. Eventually he loosened up and began attacking the inside and scoring goals that didn’t look pretty, but still counted. I want to see the Flyers less focused on pretty passes and more focused on pounding the net. They are a gritty physical team with lots of skill. I would like to see the Flyers use their physical grit to open up opportunities for their skill.
I’m not opposed to passing, on the contrary, I’m actually a huge fan of teams that are capable of strong passing. But in the Flyers case the passing is beginning to hurt them. Claude Giroux is looking to pass first and shoot second. Hecurrently leads the team with 40 assists, but I’m starting to get frustrated by watching him attain great shooting lanes only to pass the puck to the slot and have it broken up and sent down ice. The passing is becoming predictable and stale. The puck is continually trying to be moved to the slot and the opposing teams are reading this, clogging up the slot, and sending the puck back down ice. The Flyers need to throw the puck at the net if for no other reason than to show that they are capable of some versatility in their offensive attack.
Philadelphia will play two more times this week, including tomorrow night in Toronto. The Flyers lost to the Maple Leafs last week 3-2 and will be looking to exact some revenge.
The Flyers and Leafs will drop the puck on Thursday night in Toronto at 7 PM
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