For those who still cut their own grass, the Flyers have all the signs of that old, cold, cranky mower that never fires up the first time you try to get it going.
They don’t seem to start the second, third or fourth time either.
Here we are now five games into the home schedule and the Flyers have yet to establish a first-period lead at any point against any opponent. They fell behind by four goals to the Sharks in the home opener on Oct. 9 and they’ve been playing catchup ever since as they’ve been outscored 7-1 in the opening 20 minutes at the Wells Fargo Center.
They appear uninspired and unprepared, lacking the necessary urgency to put an opposing team on its heels.
If the Philly Flu was indeed an illness the opposition acquired during the days of the Spectrum, then apparently flu shots are administered from the moment teams arrive in the loading dock of the Wells Fargo Center.
“That’s not how we want to come out,” goaltender Brian Elliott said after the Flyers fell behind by three goals in an eventual 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche (see observations). “It just seems to happen right now. We have to get that turned around. We’re going to be talking about a few things in the coming days and try to get that turned around when we go on the road to Boston.”
Elliott didn’t elaborate on what needed to be said, but quick starts and playing better in Philadelphia have been hammered home more times than the Flyers care to remember. Surrendering that first goal has become its own epidemic.
The Flyers have trailed 1-0 in eight of the nine games they’ve played this season. Monday night against the Avalanche, it took just three minutes and 23 seconds to fall behind again, and zap the energy of the 19,326 fans in attendance.
They’ve followed the recipe for disaster step by step. On Monday, the Flyers committed a pointless tripping penalty two minutes into the game and gave the most lethal line combination a power-play opportunity against the 29th-ranked penalty kill.
You see where this is heading.
“We’re working our balls off out there and trying as hard as we can,” defenseman Robert Hagg said. “If it’s one guy’s breakdown, then it’s going to be in the back of the net.”
Among the most unlikely culprits was the Flyers’ top two-way forward Sean Couturier, who left the Avalanche with an extra attacker down low. Mikko Rantanen’s slam dunk rebound goal gave Colorado an early lead it would never relinquish.
“We made a mistake on the broken play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Instead of collapsing to the net, our top PKer (Couturier) stayed out five to eight feet too high. That’s the difference.”
The difference between the Flyers and Avalanche right now appears rather obvious. Colorado’s best players are carrying the team while the Flyers’ stars are the ones committing the mistakes. The Avalanche improved to 6-1-2 with one line doing almost all of the heavy lifting. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen have now scored 12 of Colorado’s last 14 goals.
For the Flyers, Couturier missed an assignment. Claude Giroux’s blocked shot led to a goal. Even leading goal scorer Wayne Simmonds said he’s not doing enough to help out.
It has to start somewhere and the opening drop of the puck is a good place to start.
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