Flyers' carelessness is 'embarrassing' and 'getting out of hand'

Flyers' carelessness is 'embarrassing' and 'getting out of hand'


COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the catchy commercial jingle goes, “Nationwide is on your side.”

It definitely wasn’t on the Flyers' side Thursday night, although it could have been.

The Columbus Blue Jackets not only came into this game without their best defenseman Seth Jones, but Sergei Bobrovsky was torched for eight goals just five days prior in an 8-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Against the Flyers, Bobrovsky was good, but not great.

Right now, the Flyers need one of Nationwide’s healthy insurance policies, one that comes in handy in the event of a catastrophe. They are a disaster waiting to happen or at least felt like it Thursday in a 6-3 loss to the Blue Jackets (see observations).

On any given night through the first two weeks, the goaltender has been susceptible to soft goals, or the defensemen in front of him commits a turnover that finds its way into the back of the net, or the Flyers get caught in a bad line change, or they get outworked or outhustled along the walls, or they give up an odd-man rush that leads to an easy goal.

If you had to administer a multiple choice test on how you would describe the team’s defensive flaws, the answer would be “D — all of the above,” to pretty much every question.

Thursday night, one particular play seemed to light Dave Hakstol’s fuse.

With the Flyers leading 2-1 and the top line at the end of a shift in the Blue Jackets' zone, Claude Giroux backhanded a pass that Artemi Panarin jumped all over. From there, Panarin cruised into the Flyers' zone and threaded a cross-ice, tape-to-tape pass to Cam Atkinson, who buried it for the goal (see highlights).

If Giroux doesn’t make the pass, if Jakub Voracek races back to break up the pass, then the goal could have been avoided.

“You have to finish your shifts, you have to do things the right way and the hard way,” Hakstol said. “Until we get that into our game where it’s consistent in terms of finishing our shifts, and finishing those types of plays, we’re going to give up those opportunities against our goaltenders.”

Even the Flyers' best defender Sean Couturier, who was on the ice for that goal and Columbus’ final goal, has finally seen enough.

“Pretty embarrassing. It’s got to stop,” Couturier said. “Those high-risk plays — almost summer hockey. It’s getting out of hand here.”

It’s the type of boneheaded hockey that Couturier sees all the time during June, July and August when guys play pick-up hockey, but it’s inexcusable once October rolls around.

Through seven games, the Flyers have allowed an average of 4.43 goals per game. It’s a small sample size but only the Detroit Red Wings have been worse and they’re expected to be terrible. While the Flyers have the firepower to score, they can’t afford to play run-and-gun hockey.

“Our biggest thing so far is that we need more consistent execution,” general manager Ron Hextall said pregame. “More consistent execution makes you a better team. At times, we get a little bit complacent. You can’t be complacent.”

Complacency in the NHL has its place, and it’s usually somewhere close to last place if it continues.

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Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

The Flyers saw both ends of the spectrum with their first-round picks from the 2018 draft.

While Joel Farabee shined at Boston University this season (see story), Jay O'Brien struggled to find his game at Providence College.

After a freshman season comprised of injuries and five points (two goals, three assists) in 25 games, it appears O'Brien's time with the Friars is over.

According to a report Tuesday by Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal, O'Brien has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will play for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL during the 2019-20 season.

O'Brien, a playmaking center, will have three years of college eligibility remaining.

Now, before anyone starts debating O'Brien's future, let's remember the importance of perspective with teenage prospects. 

O'Brien was perceived as a bit of project when the Flyers' previous regime of Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor selected him 19th overall last summer. Taking O'Brien at No. 19 was viewed by many as a reach, but the Flyers' scouting staff was high on the Thayer Academy product and trusted its evaluation. The Flyers took O'Brien over other centers Joseph Veleno, Rasmus Kupari and Isac Lundestrom.

This season, Veleno put up 104 points in the QMJHL, Kupari had 33 points over 43 games in Liiga (Finnish pro league) and Lundestrom appeared in 15 games with the Ducks.

O'Brien, because of his smaller stature (5-foot-11, 174 pounds) and being drafted out of prep school, had an adjustment period playing Division I hockey (see story). Multiple injuries also didn't help his cause with the transition.

But patience with O'Brien was always going to be imperative. The Flyers drafted him on a lot of upside after taking more of a guarantee in the quick-rising Farabee five picks earlier. The 19-year-old O'Brien isn't lacking in ability or work ethic. Providence head coach Nate Leaman, who led the Friars to a national title in 2015, called O'Brien's skill set "elite."

"It takes time to learn to play at the speed, to play with the lack of space," Leaman said in January during a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story).

"These guys that come right from high school, it takes time and I know Philly has told us that they understand that also."

O'Brien paid little attention to pre-draft rankings last summer.

"I don't even know where I was," he said at development camp. "It doesn't mean much to me. It's not really where you get drafted, it's what you do after you get drafted."

He'll have a new path in 2019-20, another chance to prove himself. There's still plenty to like, with plenty of time.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Game 7s are here for Maple Leafs-Bruins, Golden Knights-Sharks series

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Game 7s are here for Maple Leafs-Bruins, Golden Knights-Sharks series

The two best words in sports: Game Seven.

Well, we get two times the fun Tuesday night as Game 7 matchups are here for the Maple Leafs-Bruins and Golden Knights-Sharks first-round playoff series.

Below is the full schedule for Day 14 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Western Conference first round
10 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here