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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