With a record of 9-11-3 through the first 22 games of the season, the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves in an all too familiar position. The club is once again turning inconsistent performances and falling behind early in games. In fact, Philadelphia has lost two in a row and three of its past four games in regulation. There a lot of reasons why that is so we’ll take a look at the Flyers’ inconsistencies here through the beginning of the season.
Defense, defense, defense…..
First and foremost, the Flyers need to clean up the small details in their game, especially in the defensive end. Good teams efficiently manage the puck and keep coverage mistakes to a minimal. Far too often this year, Philadelphia has been prone to making the big gaffe in their own zone and in some cases, they are giving up pucks without being forced. This is what’s hurting this team. Coach Hakstol needs to find a way to get the players to commit to fixing these errors because despite still being a makeshift unit in a rebuilding mode, the Flyers can still look better than this.
One thing that I think gets misinterpreted when defensive zone coverage gets brought up is the fact that it’s ONLY the responsibility of the defense to play defense. That’s so far from the truth. The game of hockey relies on a five-man unit to play both ends of the rink. This sport is not like football or baseball where it’s two different units. The best defense is a good offense and vice versa in the sport of hockey.
Defensive zone responsibility falls on everyone, including the Flyers’ forwards. They too are turning over their fair share of pucks and are generally making poor decisions when they finally get it. The Flyers goaltending, through all of this, gets dragged down with poor play in front of it, although the goalies haven’t been great at times this season either. Lately, Steve Mason has steadied his play, but you wouldn’t see that if you glance at just the box score and see his goals against average and save percentage.
The Flyers need more from their top players, but their top players can only do so much
When the team is in the middle of a stretch where they aren’t playing well, fans will typically turn to the Flyers’ best players, namely Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux. Both can play better no doubt, and many believe Giroux is already in a state of decline, but this is still a team that lacks depth and frankly, talent. They have been improving at even strength play, but still are far from a juggernaut in that regard. Adding Travis Konecny to the mix definitely helps the top six forward group, but he is only 19 years-old and is still developing.
When the Flyers hosted the Rangers on Friday, it was so evident that the Flyers need a player that could effectively drive play on the top line. Brayden Schenn, while a nice player that can get hot for stretches, has not been that guy. Michael Raffl, on the other hand, has looked good every time the coaching staff has put him with the top line duo, both by the eye test and in terms of puck possession. That may not be a long term option, but it could help this club’s best players’ get themselves on the scoring sheet again. Something to keep in mind as the season trudges along.
Back away from the ledge
It’s frustrating to watch the team lose, but it’s still important to keep in mind that it is very early in the season. Every team in the league will experience peaks and valleys for the NHL season is a marathon. No one gets beats by an arch rival at home and likes the taste of it so we’ll see how this team progresses once they get all their facilities in order and start playing more consistently. It’s only a matter of time before they do. Coverage mistakes shouldn’t happen and are frustrating, but they are correctable.