BOSTON — It’s not that the Flyers are playing embarrassing, error-filled, perennial bottom-feeder hockey, but Thursday’s 3-0 shutout to the Boston Bruins typified what we’ve been watching over the first month of what already feels like a long NHL season (see observations).
They allowed the first goal for the ninth time. A lethargic power play is now 1 for 17 over its last six games, and the penalty kill continues to hemorrhage goals. Comeback attempts don’t appear to be coming back anytime soon.
Different game, more of the same. That’s just how it feels right now as the Flyers dropped to 4-6-0 to start the season.
A year ago, they were 8-11-7 following a loss to this same Bruins team, 9-10-3 the year before that, 7-10-5 in 2015-16 and 9-13-5 in Dave Hakstol’s first season. Mediocrity in the first few months is the easiest way to disengage a fan base.
“We have to push it in the right direction a little bit harder. That takes mental toughness right now,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, we’re going through a tough stretch and this is a tough loss tonight.”
Clearly, the Bruins possess the mental toughness the Flyers are patiently searching for. Boston was returning home from a four-game trek across Canada and the natural tendency is to have a letdown in that first game home. Couple that with the loss of key defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug, leaving the Bruins to call up 21-year-old rookie Jeremy Lauzon, who was making his NHL debut.
The windows of opportunity couldn’t have been cracked open any wider, and yet the Flyers failed to take advantage.
“Yeah, it’s definitely frustrating,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “It feels like we’re not getting a lot of chances. We can blame it on bounces or whatever, but personally, I don’t think we’re getting a lot of chances. We’re a perimeter team right now.”
Perimeter teams that can’t create quality scoring chances usually resort to low-percentage shots or shots that create rebound opportunities. It’s a cross-your-fingers formula that doesn’t seem to be working right now. Even when the Flyers had a few quality chances, Jaroslav Halak had an answer every time.
“We’ve got to stick together no matter what. It’s a long season and it’s just the start," Sean Couturier said. "Yeah, we need to turn the switch on, but it’s not time to panic here.”
It’s not as if Boston is a city all that giddy about its hockey team either right now.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia doesn’t have the luxury of flipping over to a baseball team two wins away from a World Series championship.
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