Flyers

Why the Flyers are struggling to score

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Why the Flyers are struggling to score

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Ivan Provorov has been playing hockey since the age of six, and he can't ever remember a time when his team went two straight games without scoring a goal.

"Not really, no. All the teams I've played on were very high-scoring teams," Provorov said. "Stuff like this happens. They're good teams and playing the same team two games in a row, the goalie was hot."

Perhaps Provorov's rookie season at times was a blur because the Flyers went through a similar type of drought last season. During a 19-game stretch from Dec. 22 to Feb. 6, the Flyers were also shut out on five different occasions, including back-to-back games, and the offense was so dismal that they scored just four goals over a five-game stretch.

"Yeah, but we didn't play good," Jakub Voracek vividly recalls. "We weren't good enough to win the games. We may have outshot them, but we didn't play good enough last year after that 10-game winning streak to deserve to win more games. You can't compare it to this year. I don't know how it looks from up top in the press box, but I think we're playing better hockey, to be honest."

Last season's goalless streak lasted 134 minutes and 56 seconds. When the Flyers take the ice in Winnipeg tonight, the skid will pick up at 156 minutes and nine seconds.

"I think we're doing a better job of getting more quality shots this year than we are last year, to be honest with you, and quality chances," Voracek said. "We're moving a little better than we did last year. That's why we're creating more [and better] scoring chances."

In their 1-0 loss to the Wild Saturday, the Flyers outshot Minnesota, 32-27, but according to the website NaturalStatTrick.com that tracks shot location, the highest concentration of shots (5-on-5) came from the right point. The Flyers were also able to manufacture some shots from the top of the left circle as well, but not nearly as much in the danger zone between the circles.

The end result made Devan Dubnyk's 32-save shutout at the Wells Fargo Center not too terribly difficult, which is why Dave Hakstol and his players made a more conscious effort to get more traffic, look for more rebounds and second effort chances. Here's the shot map from Tuesday's game at the Xcel Energy Center where the Flyers were able to generate more action in front of the crease with a high volume from the right defense position. 

"I think we did a better job than we did on Saturday," Voracek said. "In the end, it doesn't really matter. Sometimes shots don't tell the whole story. We had so many games last year that we outshot them by 20 shots."

The Flyers generated some excellent chances. Scott Laughton had a couple looks from in tight, while Dale Weise was stuffed on a breakaway.

However, you'll notice one distinct difference between the Flyers' shot chart and that of the Minnesota Wild. The Wild aren't relying as much on shots inside their blue line as they were able to maintain a strong cycle game from their four lines and generate more offense down low, where the Flyers at times are forced to settle on working the puck around the perimeter and up top to their defense.

Credit Dave Hakstol for switching up the lines and inserting Jordan Weal at center where the line of Weise, Weal and Wayne Simmonds generated more possession time and more quality scoring chances. Prior to Tuesday's game, the Flyers' second and third lines with Valtteri Filppula and Jori Lehtera in the middle simply weren't generating a cycle game to create shots in and around the net.

When those two lines are on the ice, there's more emphasis on swinging the puck to the defensemen while hopefully getting a rebound or a deflected goal.

"It's hard to get a rebound if the D has to shoot it through five guys, you know what I mean," Voracek said. "If they box you out, the goalie sees it, if they don't they do a good job of putting three guys in the lane and it's hard for the defense to get some kind of lane." 

Voracek and I both agreed that's what's plagued the Flyers for much of last season, and more recently when they've had trouble scoring this season. While the Flyers would love to activate their defense in the offensive zone, that doesn't necessarily include just sending pucks on net from inside the blue line. 

Lately, it's been the No. 1 line and the fourth line of Taylor Leier, Laughton and Michael Raffl that has created the offensive pressure. The Flyers need more than that or these scoring droughts will continue to linger.

This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

Three weeks ago, this would not have happened. In fact, we have hard evidence to back this up. The Flyers were gut-punched by the Islanders on Oct. 27 at the Wells Fargo Center and laid down. The end result was a barbarous 6-1 defeat that created social media angst among fans.

On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers’ will was tested again. But this time, the outcome showed us just how far they’ve come since that depressing October Saturday three weeks ago. If there’s such a thing as a character loss, the Flyers’ 6-5 overtime defeat to the Lightning is the face of it (see observations).

This had the making of a story we’ve written before, one in which the Flyers face adversity on home ice and crumble. The Flyers were behind 5-1 in the third period after Tampa capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play for two goals in 51 seconds. Three weeks ago, that’s game, set, match.

Instead, the Flyers rung off four goals in 6:04 to force OT. It’s the ninth time in league history that a team erased a four-goal deficit in a game’s final 10 minutes.

“We showed some good character,” James van Riemsdyk said. “Any time you can get a point when you’re down four goals in the third period, I’d say that’s a pretty good thing. … 

“You want to have good responses. We had some pretty good process-related stuff as far as carrying the play, but we’re paid here and we’re here to get results, so it’s not good enough.”

van Riemsdyk, in his second game back from a knee injury, was a major part of the Flyers’ comeback. He snapped the team’s 0-for-15 power-play drought in the second period with his first goal of the season and had assists on the goal that began the comeback and completed it.

There is a lot to unpack after Saturday. The loss capped off a five-game homestand that began promising but ended leaving much more to be desired — 2-2-1. The Flyers have now lost three straight, tying their season-high losing streak that came after the Islanders loss on Oct. 27. The penalty kill had another merciless effort, allowing three more power-play goals. The Flyers have now allowed an NHL-worst 22 power-play goals and the PK ranks 30th at 68.6 percent.

Claude Giroux became just the fourth player in franchise history to reach 700 points with a two-assist game, which put his total up to 701 (see story). He also moved into a tie with Brian Propp for second all-time in team history with 480 helpers. The Flyers dominated just about every play-driving metric and outshot the Lightning, 45-26. Their power play awoke with three goals.

“It’s hard. We want to take a lot of positives out of that,” said Travis Konecny, who had his fourth career two-goal game. “It shows what we have in the locker room. It’s just tough to look at it that way. (Head coach Dave Hakstol) comes in between the second and third and says we’re actually playing a good game, it’s just we got to get our bounces and stick together.”

Stuck together they did, and if we want to take anything away from Saturday’s OTL, it’s that. That didn’t happen three weeks ago.

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Lightning 6, Flyers 5 (OT): Furious comeback ends in heartbreak

Lightning 6, Flyers 5 (OT): Furious comeback ends in heartbreak

BOX SCORE

What began as a promising five-game homestand ended in heartbreak Saturday afternoon.

The Flyers (9-9-2) dropped their season-high third straight game with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center to finish the homestand 2-2-1.

Anthony Cirelli scored the game-winner at 1:41 in overtime.

Tampa temporarily moves atop the NHL standings. The Eastern Conference-leading Bolts are 14-5-1 with 29 points. The Predators (27 points) host the Kings tonight.

• The big difference between this Flyers team and the one that left Philly on Oct. 27 after a 6-1 clunker to the Islanders is its fight. Tampa went up 5-1 and things were getting ugly. But the Flyers fought back with four straight goals and forced overtime. The Flyers rung off four goals on eight shots in a span of 6:04. Travis Konecny had two and both Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds had one.

They lost and it was an unsuccessful homestand, but they didn't lay down like they did three weeks ago. This was really an effort in which you're happy with a point.

• This is a story about an unstoppable force meeting a very movable object, and well, you know the result. It was not pretty.

The Flyers' 30th-ranked penalty kill surrendered three power-play goals. The Flyers now have allowed an NHL-worst 22 power-play goals. They have allowed three power-play goals two times and multiple power-play goals five times. They have gone just five games without allowing a PPG. The Flyers played with the NHL's fifth-best power play and were electrocuted. Tampa was 3 for 4 on the power play.

You cannot win in the NHL with a penalty kill this ineffective.

• Finally, the Flyers' power play struck twine Saturday. In fact, it recorded a hat trick. James van Riemsdyk ended an 0-for-15 drought in the second period and Konecny and Couturier added two in the third period.

The Flyers' PP is now 6 for its last 48 opportunities since Oct. 13 and has just six goals at home. Really, special teams have been the Flyers' biggest wart, and it hurt them again Saturday. As bad as the PK has been, the PP has been equally feeble.

But Saturday's development was a huge positive.

• Claude Giroux, after two pointless games, picked up an assist on JVR's PPG for his 700th career point as a Flyer (see story).

With another helper in the third period, Giroux became tied with Brian Propp for second on the franchise's all-time assists list (480) and is 149 points from passing Propp for third on the team's all-time scoring list.

Giroux now has 24 points in 20 games this season and is on pace for 98.4 points. He is an all-time Flyer and somehow, he's still underappreciated by a good portion of the fan base.

• Calvin Pickard's stat line Saturday doesn't read well: six goals on 26 shots. But it's hard to fault him. He wasn't bad. Tampa's second goal was a bit leaky but its others don't fall on Pickard. With Brian Elliott out two weeks, the Flyers will need Pickard to raise his level of play. He mostly did that Saturday.

• The Flyers came out ready to play with a strong first period, outshooting the Lightning, 18-7, and had 21 shot attempts at 5-on-5. The biggest takeaway was how the Flyers were attacking Tampa. The forwards went to high-danger areas and the defense had just six shot attempts at 5-on-5. That's usually a successful formula for scoring, but goalie Louis Domingue was the Lightning's best player despite some shaky moments.

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