Why the Philadelphia Flyers have struggled this year
After snapping their 10 game losing streak on Monday in Calgary, the Flyers are still in last place in the Metropolitan and are six points back of a playoff spot.
Coming into the season, the Flyers expected to compete for a wild card spot as a fringe playoff team. The season started off well. The team was playing much faster than a year ago and it seemed like they had more depth on their roster.
Before Monday, their last win came on Nov. 9 with a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. The team lost 10 straight games and it wasn’t pretty. They were shut out three times and blew leads late in games.
Coaching has also been a huge issue for this team. Head coach Dave Hakstol has made a habit of benching talented, young players in favor of less talented veteran players, citing that they need veteran leadership in the lineup and the young players can benefit from watching the game from afar.
During the 10-game skid, the Flyers were undisciplined beyond belief. They committed multiple delay of game penalties late in games by flipping pucks over the glass. They ended multiple power plays with bad penalties due to frustration. It’s not just young players making mistakes either, many of these penalties are coming from veteran players. These types of penalties are things that a coach needs to address.
The Flyers are 27th in the league on the penalty kill at 76.3 percent, which is coached by assistant coach Ian Laperriere. Under Laperriere, the penalty kill has been around the bottom third of the league over the last four seasons. The personnel on the penalty kill has changed since last year and the team still can’t keep opposing power plays off the scoreboard. Although the team’s lack of discipline doesn’t help the penalty kill, it is time for the Flyers to let Laperriere go as the penalty kill coach.
Another part of the team’s downfall is their depth. They have one of the best first lines in hockey with Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek, who have a combined 88 points, but have had just about no other scoring from their other lines.
Wayne Simmonds has been playing through injuries all season and hasn’t been the same player as he has been in the past. Second overall pick, Nolan Patrick, isn’t playing poorly, but hasn’t been surrounded by ideal line mates and has struggled to pick up points. Travis Konecny has been up and down, but even when playing well, he has struggled to put pucks into the net.
For much of the 10-game losing streak, the team played decently for about two periods and let down in the third. Towards the end of it, they were outmatched for all sixty minutes and looked like a team that had given up.
General manager Ron Hextall said that the team wasn’t playing poorly and gave Hakstol a vote of confidence. Hextall seems committed to Hakstol, so don’t expect any drastic changes to the coaching staff any time soon.
Brian Elliott has played lights out in goal and is the reason they got any points out of their losing streak.
There is still time left to make a push and gain ground, but with the Metropolitan full of outstanding teams, that is unlikely even if they start winning games.
What Flyers fans should look for the rest of the way is for the young defensive corps to keep improving and for the middle six to start producing more offensively. Realize what the team has in Ivan Provorov, who will be a number one defenseman for years to come.
The Flyers definitely have it in them to make a run towards the playoffs. However, nothing they have done has proven that they will be able to figure it out and make that playoff push.
Hakstol switched up the lines for the game in Calgary, splitting up the top line to have a deeper set of lines. It worked on Monday, but the team was still heavily outshot in that contest. If it wasn’t for Brian Elliott and a 71-second burst by the Flyers’ offense, the streak would probably be at 11 games right now. They kept the same lines on Wednesday in Edmonton and they came out with another win.
The team still has to play a more complete game. There are still moments, even in the last two wins, when they have mental lapses and don’t play as well. Down the stretch, that will cost them.
Undoubtedly, the Flyers will be better moving forward. They have too much talent to be buried in the basement of the standings. They will play better, but there is still a huge hill to climb if this team wants to make a run at the playoffs.
Josh Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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