The Flyers Offense is Really Offensive – to Everyone who Watches it

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Hayes scored a power play goal Wednesday night for the Flyers. It was the fourth power play goal in the last three games for a team that had hit rock bottom and a last-place ranking in the NHL with the man advantage. It was assisted by Travis Konecny.

Head coach John Tortorella had pointed out recently the importance of the power play for this team, citing that with the struggle to score goals at even strength, the power play can be the difference in a game for the Flyers, especially if they are playing well defensively, as they have been for several games now.

But in the end, a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals that was sloppy and ugly both ways, and because of that, much closer than the final score would indicate, as Washington added two empty-net goals at the end of the contest, it was the only offense in the game for the Flyers, who now have scored two goals or less 18 times in 27 games (and actually, all 18 have occurred in the last 22 games, since they scored three or more in each of the first five games of the season).

That’s pathetic.

Even more bleak is the notion that the offense is truly coming from only two players – Hayes and Konecny. Hayes has 28 points (9G, 19A) in 27 games and Konecny has 23 points (10G, 13A) in 21 games. Of the 65 goals scored so far this season, Either Hayes, Konecny, or both have had a hand in 38 of them, which is 58.5%.

The Flyers are only averaging 2.41 goals per game as it is, which is worst in the NHL. Take away Hayes and Konecny and the Flyers have only scored 27 goals in 27 games – or one goal per game. That’s just not going to cut it.

It’s gotten to the point where the Flyers know what they are and their only hope for winning is either to get stellar goaltending and have that guy – mostly Carter Hart – steal a victory, or play ridiculously good team defense and hope you can somehow get one more goal than the opponent.

Even that doesn’t always work.

Torts said after the game that the Flyers allowed Washington just 11 scoring chances. Eleven! They were winning games early in the season when they were yielding 25 a game. But 11 is very good. And yet… they still lost. And what was Torts’ response?

“You have to be just that much better defensively,” he said.

Woah.

It’s hard to be better than 11 scoring chances in a 60-minute game in the NHL.

So I asked Torts if it’s fair to ask them to be even better. (The video starts when he talks about their chances… my follow-up question is a couple questions afterward) –

Look, Torts is a demanding coach. Everyone knows that. And the Flyers aren’t perfect in the defensive zone, hell, no team is. But when you limit a team to 11 scoring chances in a game? That’s good work, so, asking for more just because the offense can’t score, that’s putting undue pressure on the team in an area where they are actually excelling.

He goes on to answer Charlie O’Connor’s question after mine and tells him that we (referencing him and me) are “missing the point.”

“I think where you’re going is that we’re trying to be too defensive – not a chance,” he said. “We don’t hold them back offensively. We. Just. Don’t. Make. Enough. Plays. Plain and simple.

He’s not wrong there. The offense is moribund at this point – and that’s honestly the crux of this post. But the solution also can’t be to demand more from the team defensively when they’re already giving you about as good an effort there as can be expected.

I asked Kevin Hayes about that – if he feels like defensively they almost have to play a perfect game in order to win, and he gave a fantastic answer:

“Yeah. We don’t have a full-on superstar on this team who is going to score two or three points a night. For this team to win with the injuries we’ve had – we’re getting guys back now which is great – but with the injuries that we’ve had it’s tough to have mental lapses. That’s the big thing we’re harping on because it’s frustrating when you play two great periods and kill off a bunch of penalties and you’re still tied. Then you get down one and there’s empty netters and it looks worse than it was. I don’t want to say we HAVE to play a perfect game (defensively) because that would be downplaying my teammates… but we have to be better structurally than the other team in order to win.”

He went on to answer Charlie’s question about being tempted to cheat a little bit positionally to try and generate more offense and Hayes countered by saying that if you do that with Torts as the coach and it ends up in the back of your net, then you are going to be rooted to the bench, and everyone knows that – which is why they try to avoid doing it.

But one has to wonder if being a little bit flexible on defensive posture would allow for more offense? Loosen the reins a little and if there’s a counterattack, rely on your goalie to be your best defender.

Most coaches worth their salt will tell you no way, so Torts isn’t alone in the thinking that good offense comes from good defense and not the other way around.

It’s just that most coaches in the professional ranks don’t ever have to deal with this level of offensive impotency.

And yet, here the Flyers are, having lost 13-of-15 and heading on the road for a four-game trip to Vegas, Arizona, Colorado and New Jersey.

They are now 9-13-5 and with 23 points they are just five points from the basement in the Eastern Conference and six points ahead of Anaheim, who has the worst record in the league.

(But they’re “only” eight points out of the Wild Card for those of you infused with Chuck Fletcher optimism in your bloodstream.)

The goal differential keeps getting worse, too, as this offense continues to search aimlessly for answers like an alcohol-impaired Escape Room team. The Flyers are now minus-24, ahead of only Arizona, Chicago, Columbus and Anaheim.

Sounds like a potential draft lottery, no?

“We just struggle generating offense,” Tortorella said. “It’s a problem here.”

And until it’s resolved, the losses will keep piling up.

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