This summer, Russ and I had Flyers GM Ron Hextall on the Snow The Goalie podcast and asked him about the team’s identity.

Hextall admitted they didn’t have one yet and that they would be looking to find that identity this season.

Well, after seven games, they better hope the identity they have to start the season is not the identity they keep for the entire season because this identity is one of a bad, bad defensive team.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I did not see the 6-3 loss to Columbus last night live. I had a conflict and instead scheduled myself to watch it at the crack of dawn this morning. I made it through a period and a half and then just fast forwarded to the goals.

I mean, to be honest, with the exception of the game against Vegas last Saturday, what I’m seeing is quite repetitive.

This team’s defense is dreadful right now.

And it’s not just the defensemen, although they are part of it. It’s the forwards not helping out by not getting back into the zone or by turning the puck over and allowing for an odd man rush the other way, or not winning 50/50 puck battles that lead to goals.

It’s also goaltending, too. Yes, Brian Elliott’s numbers looked terrible to start the season, but he was pretty darn good in those first couple games. But then he started to get mediocre and eventually had to get pulled in the 6-5 shootout win over Florida Tuesday. Meanwhile Calvin Pickard, who was brought in because the Flyers apparently have no confidence in Anthony Stolarz at the NHL level, has had one OK start, one OK relief performance, and last night’s poor outing in which he let up six goals on 28 shots, only one of which he had no chance of stopping.

Let’s remember this guy was a fourth string goalie in Toronto before being waived.

Nevertheless, the mistakes are mounting. The Flyers have allowed 31 goals in just seven games for a 4.43 goals against average. Somehow that’s only the second-worst mark in the NHL as Detroit has allowed 33 goals in seven games (4.71 GAA) but the difference is the Red Wings also are the worst team in hockey right now at 0-5-2.

Frankly, only in that Vegas game – a 1-0 loss by the way – was there a collectively well-played defensive game. Every other game, including all three victories for the Flyers, was below the bar or much worse.

On defense it’s been collectively bad. Ivan Provorov had another bad game – although he did get his first point of the season on a nice play when he got the primary assist on a Sean Couturier goal – he’s looked nothing like the talented, top-end defenseman he’s been in his first two pro seasons thus far this season.

It’s only seven games, and guys sometimes go through these funks – especially young defensemen – so it’s not time to push the panic button yet, but it’s definitely a big part of the defensive problem in the current moment.

Shayne Gostisbehere was OK yesterday, and frankly, even though he’s been a bit inconsistent, he’s probably been the Flyers’ best overall defenseman through seven games, and that’s not a title he should be boasting proudly.

Robert Hagg had been mostly good defensively, but last night was not a good game for the young Swede. He got turned around a couple times on Blue Jackets goals.

Christian Folin – are you kidding me:

Everyone in the press corps went goo-goo for ga-ga over Folin being a plus four against Florida. Yeah, the guy had a decent game, but come on people. He’s a No. 7 defenseman for a reason. He was a minus-3 last night and his Corsi For percentage was a dreadful 33.33.

Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas were decent last night, but they’ve been inconsistent as well.

And like I said, the forwards didn’t help.

After all the adulation they were getting heading into last night, the line of Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton and Wayne Simmonds had an absolute clunker.

They were a combined minus-7 on the game (Simmons was a minus-4) and their Corsi For percentages were the worst in the game:

  • Raffl – 33.33
  • Laughton – 26.32
  • Simmonds – 19.05

That means that more than two-thirds of the time they were on the ice together, they were chasing the play rather than driving it. Not good.

Claude Giroux had two points to add to his team-leading total, but he didn’t have a great game either, and Jake Voracek was missing in action – especially when the Flyers didn’t have the puck.

Really, the only line that was solid for the Flyers was the Oskar Lindblom, Jordan Weal, Travis Konecny combination. It’s no surprise that they accounted for two of the three goals scored for the Flyers.


Where TK shows how relieved he is to finally get one in the goal column.

And here:

This goal cut it to 4-3 in the third period and was created by great pressure from this line.

I’d like to see them stay together if Nolan Patrick plays Saturday. Play Patrick with Laughton on the left and Simmonds on the right and see what happens. I think this young trio deserves some more time together because they’re gelling.

Other than that, Corban Knight played his first NHL game in place of Mikhail Vorobyev (as I indicated was coming in my story from Tuesday).

Knight didn’t do anything of note, positive or negative, but he was only given 7:06 of ice time on 11 even strength shifts, so there wasn’t anything to really discuss.

He’s likely the guy coming out of the lineup if Patrick returns Saturday and I’m also betting Vorobyev doesn’t go right back in. In fact, if Patrick plays Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vorobyev is sent back to the Phantoms to continue to get game action.

All told however, we can sit here and talk about depth forwards all we want, the issue at hand is team defense. As it was last season. And the season before. And the season before.

And sooner or later, Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol have to come up with a way to rectify it, right? Right???