The Flyers went to the shootout two more times this week and stomached an 0-1-2 stretch punctuated by Saturday night's brutal collapse against the Islanders.
Twenty games into the 2019-20 season and the Flyers (10-6-4) are a complex group. Despite improvements under a new coaching staff with some new personnel, they are still the tough-to-predict Flyers.
Let's get into that and more with our weekly observations:
• When head coach Alain Vigneault's system is at its apex, all four lines are making an impact. Setting up shop in the offensive zone requires constant effort. The hard-on-the-attack, get-after-it premise can be taxing, so balance through the lineup is vital.
The Flyers haven't had that and their record reflects it. So, too, does their failure to close games. It's very possible they're running out of gas in the final 20 minutes.
The sharing of ice time can also lead to a style not conducive for high-volume individual point production. When everyone is going, the minutes and scoring can spread out.
Through 20 games, the production is down for Claude Giroux (13 points), Jakub Voracek (13), James van Riemsdyk (nine) and Kevin Hayes (seven). The Flyers don't need career years from those four; that probably wasn't going to happen. But the Flyers do need them for better balance or this team will have a difficult time finding consistency in Vigneault's system.
• On top of the way the Flyers want to play, their schedule hasn't been favorable — all of which could be having a negative effect on delivering knockout punches.
After playing in four different countries from Sept. 30 through October, the Flyers are in the midst of playing 16 games during November. They've already played five back-to-back sets out of 17 this season. In the second game of such situations, the Flyers are 1-2-2 and giving up 3.8 goals per game.
The Flyers have gone to the shootout seven times compared to just four times all of last season. Suddenly the start of games isn't an issue but instead finishing them has caused concerns.
Over the Flyers' last six games, they've been outscored 7-1 in the third period. Five of those six games have gone past regulation and at least three didn't have to.
“Not knowing exactly what we had to work with, I believe that we’re a work in progress and I really believe that we have steps forward to make," Vigneault said before Saturday night's game. "We’re not where I want this team to be, we’re not where I know our team wants to be. But we’re in a good place. We’re right there with a lot of good teams battling.”
• It's obvious by his faceoff work that Sean Couturier is still dealing with a shoulder strain.
The 26-year-old is one of the NHL's best in the dot but lost 12 of 13 faceoffs taken over three games this week. Last season, Couturier had 21 games in which he won at least 12 faceoffs.
He's clearly not the same guy in the circle. However, the injury hasn't stopped him from recording 10 points (four goals, six assists) and a plus-6 mark in his last 10 games.
“I feel better and better every day," he said Tuesday. "It’s more of don’t want to get it worse, want to heal it properly, don’t want it to last all year.”
The left-handed Couturier has limited his number of faceoffs and has even tried taking them right-handed.
“It’s something he’s worked on and it’s something that is pain-free for him," Vigneault said. "He does try it now or then. If the centerman gets kicked out, he’ll go in and try to win them on the side that doesn’t hurt. I hope he’s getting close because we need him to take draws.”
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