Things Have to Change: Thoughts on the Flyers’ Seven-Game Losing Streak

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers lost again Wednesday night, 4-1 to the New York Rangers. You may have watched it. You may have chosen to tune into something else instead.

The Sixers losing again as well? MLB Network to watch the demise of baseball as the lockout loomed? Or, like this person:

Speaking of misreads, how about my take heading into the game? Yeesh.

The thing is, it wasn’t as bad as you think. Nobody wants to hear that, especially when it’s the seventh-straight loss, but there were stretches in this game where the Flyers were dominating the Rangers and did everything but score.

Hell, scoring is a real issue that we are going to dive into shortly, and this is not meant as an excuse, because you need to find a way, especially when you are a desperate hockey team like the Flyers are right now, but Igor Shesterkin flat out robbed the Flyers in the second period, especially on a five-minute power play.

He even made a save with a defenseman’s stick and not his own at one point:

The much-maligned Flyers power play looked infinitely better against New York – except it didn’t score.

However, there were vast improvements on zone entries, shot selection, getting traffic to the net and the volume of shots fired.

Still, they didn’t score.

Sometimes you need those baby steps first before you are walking and running without falling over yourself, but the Flyers needed those moments last week, not last night. Because it’s not going to get any easier with Tampa Bay Sunday and Colorado Monday.

By that point, 14 of the Flyers’ first 23 games will have come against the 10 best teams in the NHL based on points percentage. And while that will eventually even out, and not many teams would have a significantly better record than the Flyers’ 8-9-4 mark at this point against such stiff competition (which is why the coach isn’t being fired today), that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerning problems with the Flyers right now that either have to right themselves or will snowball into a greater disaster for a team that had much higher expectations coming into the season.

The fact that they haven’t scored more than three goals in a game since Edmonton in the final week of October is remarkable. They’ve only scored three goals three times in the last 16 games. The power play is now on a 5-for-57 skid.

I can sit here and make arguments about the schedule and belabor the fact that they’ve only had the 18 skaters they wanted in the lineup on opening night for one of the 21 games so far – and that’s going to stretch even longer with Ryan Ellis out for another month and Joel Farabee leaving last night’s game with what appeared to be a substantial shoulder injury – but those excuses ring hollow when you have guys in the lineup who are supposed to be scoring, but just aren’t.

Consider:

  • The Flyers have averaged 1.69 goals in their last 16 games.
  • Claude Giroux has been their leading scorer and best offensive player this season, and yet, he only has two goals in the last month and they came in the same game against Tampa Bay. He does have 10 assists (somehow) in those 16 games, so he has 12 points. Still, not good enough.
  • Sean Couturier, who should be the best player on the team at this point in his career, got off to a hot start but has now gone without a goal in 11 straight games and only has two assists in that same span. Couturier doesn’t look right. He looks slow. Or tired. Or both. He had some chances against the Rangers, but couldn’t finish them. He also misfired on a few passes to open teammates that could have led to a good look as well.
  • Travis Konecny, who coach Alain Vigneault called the third-best forward on the team at one point last season, has just five goals this season, and if you take his production back into last season, he only has seven goals in his last 36 games. He’s supposed to be one of their best goal scorers. That’s not going to cut it.
  • James van Riemsdyk is turning into the $7million albatross on this roster. He’s purely untouchable at this point, and not in a good way. There was a notion that the Flyers should have tried to move him last season when he was among the NHL’s scoring leaders through a quarter of the season. Instead, he slowed down considerably and is now simply an enigma who doesn’t fit on this roster a little bit. He only has two goals so far this season and just six over his last 52 games.
  • Scott Laughton, who the Flyers almost traded at the deadline last season before signing him to a new contract and keeping him in the fold, has just four goals playing mostly on the third line.
  • Cam Atkinson scored six goals in the first five games this season looking every bit of the 40-goal scorer the Flyers were hoping to acquire when they traded for him. In the 16 games since, he’s scored once.
  • Oskar Lindblom, who was signed to a 3-year, $9 million contract after beating Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, has not scored a goal yet this season and looks nothing like the player he was prior to his diagnosis in December 2019.
  • The six defensemen in the lineup, plus Ellis for four games, have combined for a grand total of five goals in 21 games.

We can sit here and call for the firing of coaches, or the firing of general managers, or screaming for trades that don’t happen at this time of year all we want. The reality is that it’s on these players to be more productive. They’re all capable of being more than they’ve been so far. There are no troops waiting in the wings to bail them out – at least not yet.

Kevin Hayes returned to the lineup last night, but he’s going to need some time after missing 18 games already this season while recovering from not one, but two core muscle surgeries.

Derick Brassard is dealing with a hip injury, and he’s had some decent offensive moments this year, but not enough to be a true offensive difference maker.

Morgan Frost had his best game as a Flyer since being recalled, and it was still wildly inconsistent. He scored the lone Flyers goal, had a lot of jump in his skates, nearly scored another on the power play, nearly set up his teammates for a couple goals and looked determined in the offensive end:

But he also took two high sticking penalties, one that led to a New York goal. He had a brutal turnover that Carter Hart bailed him out on with a big save, he lost coverage in his own zone, again bailed out by a Hart save, and doesn’t seem to push the X button to skate harder without the puck in his own end.

You can see the skill and talent that makes him the Flyers’ top offensive prospect, but he’s still very green and has a lot to learn, and doing so at the NHL level in the middle of a brutal losing streak might not be the best time for that.

Wade Allison was finally cleared to get back to practice after suffering a high ankle sprain in training camp, but that’s going to start with the Phantoms, so he’s likely at least a week away, if not longer, before he can return.

And then there’s Ellis, who will solidify the blue line and hopefully get Ivan Provorov back on track, because right now the Flyers alternate captain looks nothing like a top pair defenseman on the ice.

Of course, the earliest Ellis will be back is around Christmas, so the Flyers have to weather the storm for another few weeks.

Now, they’re likely going to lose Farabee for a bit, so who’s next in line? Max Willman? With all the Phantoms injuries, the pickings are slim.

It’s been a combination of goaltender regression to the norm after a blistering start, real bad luck, and a bad time to start playing sloppily in their own end while being woefully inept on offense.

Teams go through this and survive. But, it can’t go much longer. The Flyers need to pull at least one upset against Tampa or Colorado (or both) and then go into the next six games against weaker opponents and get on a roll before closing out the pre-Christmas schedule with a pair of games against Washington and Pittsburgh.

Go 6-3-1 in those 10 games, and all the animus will subside for a little while. Any worse? Well, then change might have to happen as part of the organization’s New Year’s resolution.

For more Flyers coverage, follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy provide pregame and intermission coverage of every Flyers home game from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts   

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