Flyers

Lack of communication a major reason Flyers struggling defensively

Lack of communication a major reason Flyers struggling defensively

VOORHEES, N.J. — Down-low coverage between the Flyers' defense and forwards has been a huge issue.
 
It’s partly why the Flyers' goaltenders were lit like pumpkins in October and why their goals against is 29th in the NHL.
 
Coach Dave Hakstol says it’s the most “prevalent” problem on the club right now. So what has to change as November begins?
 
For starters, the two defensemen and forward down low have to talk to each other and the goaltenders.
 
“We have to communicate more,” defenseman Radko Gudas said. “Lot of teams play the puck down low and go side to side. We have to communicate with the low forward and make sure we know who we have.”
 
It sounds fairly simple, but in real time under today’s NHL, which moves at lightning quick speed, things happen in a millisecond. That’s when the puck is already in the net.
 
“We have to pick up a guy and stay with him,” said Sean Couturier, the most defensive-conscious forward on the club. “What’s going on around us?
 
“Maybe a little too much puck-watching right now. We’re letting guys get open too easily. Obviously, it’s a problem.”
 
He also feels players need to focus more on their own situation.
 
“It’s communication, but it’s also being self-aware and knowing what is going on around you,” Couturier said. “You can’t just look at the puck. Even if it’s a 2-on-2 battle, you've got to find that other guy open in the slot somewhere.”
 
It’s one reason why Steve Mason faced eight open shots without coverage over four games in the past week. Things have to button down and as Hakstol said on Tuesday, “We have to do it quickly.”

Defenseman Brandon Manning, who has been the best two-way blueliner this season, said there has to be quicker decision-making.
 
“Between the defenseman and either the centerman or low forward, we need to sort it out quicker when two D end up in the corner or one guy,” Manning said. “A little more communication and it should become easier on everyone.”
 
The Flyers just came off three sets of back-to-backs in October and begin November’s schedule on Wednesday against Detroit in the front end of their fourth back-to-back.
 
They’ll face the Islanders on Thursday in Brooklyn. Michal Neuvirth will start against the Red Wings.
 
“We've definitely got to be tougher in front of our net,” Neuvirth said. “We’re getting scored on a lot with second opportunities and stuff around the net. We have to make it tougher on the other team.”
 
Mason, who had a very extended practice session on Tuesday, added, “We’ve created our own problems ... and it’s bit us in the butt and caused a goal to happen.”
 
Part of the issue here, in terms of corrections, has been the lack of practice time to work on making adjustments on the ice. There’s only so much video a team can watch. On-ice practice is a must when things aren’t going right.
 
Because the Flyers played 10 games over 16 days in October, adding in the back-to-backs and mandatory rest, they’ve had little or no real practice days.
 
On Tuesday, they got in a longer practice session which allowed Hakstol’s staff to work on some details of their game from the standpoint of execution.
 
“It’s been a very busy month with games and travel,” Hakstol said. “We’ve got an opportunity here over the next 10 days to have at least two or three quality practices, just like the one we had today.”
 
Practice doesn’t always make perfect, yet in the Flyers’ case, it might make a difference in goals against.

Full breakdown of Flyers' 2018-19 schedule

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USA Today Images

Full breakdown of Flyers' 2018-19 schedule

The NHL released the 2018-19 82-game regular-season schedule for all 31 teams Thursday night as the Flyers will open up in Las Vegas Oct. 4 before continuing on to Colorado Oct. 6 and then hosting the San Jose Sharks Oct. 9.

The Flyers' entire schedule can be found here.

Month-by-month breakdown

• October —12 (six home, six away, one back-to-back)
• November — 12 (seven home, five away, one back-to-back)
• December — 14 (four home, 10 away, three back-to-backs)
• January —13 (seven home, six away, two back-to-backs)
• February —13 (nine home, four away, two back-to-backs)
• March — 15 (seven home, eight away, three back-to-backs)
• April — 3 (one home, two away, no back-to-backs)

The Flyers have just 12 games on back-to-back nights, which is typically on the low end of a team’s schedule — they’ve had at least 15 back-to-backs in each of the past three seasons. Last season, the Edmonton Oilers had the fewest back-to-backs with just nine. 

Home-and-homes

The Flyers have a pair of home-and-home dates on their schedule — Nov. 5-8 against the Arizona Coyotes and a true home-and-home with the Detroit Red Wings Feb. 16-17.

December road tripping

The Flyers have two separate five-game road trips within the month of December. Last season, the Flyers' longest road trip was four games to begin their 82-game schedule. From Dec. 8-15, the Flyers will hit all four time zones starting in Buffalo before wrapping up the trip in Vancouver.  

Much less travel over second half

The midway point of the Flyers' season comes after Jan. 5 at home against the Calgary Flames. Over their final 41 games, they will leave the Eastern time zone just three times in a span of four games (Feb. 12 at Minnesota, March 21 at Chicago, April 2-4 at Dallas and St. Louis).

Waiting for the champs

Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals come to South Broad for the first time on March 6 and again eight days later on March 14 in their only two games at the Wells Fargo Center.

The rival Pittsburgh Penguins don’t come to Philadelphia until Feb. 11 and the Flyers will host them one final time just 12 days later when they face off at Lincoln Financial Field as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

November is easiest

The Flyers' easiest month comes in November with just 12 games over 30 days, including a five-game homestand from Nov. 8-17. Of their 12 opponents, only five made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

A kind finish?

The Flyers close out the regular season with eight non-playoff contenders over their final 10 games, including their last five games.  

Other games of interest

• Friday after Thanksgiving — vs. New York Rangers at 1 p.m. 

• New Year's Day — at Nashville Predators at 8:30 p.m. 

Flyers' full 2018-19 schedule released

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers' full 2018-19 schedule released

The Flyers’ full 2018-19 schedule is finally here.

We already knew the orange and the black would open their season in Vegas on Thursday, Oct. 4, with the home opener coming vs. the Sharks on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

But there are some juicy new tidbits here, including the previously announced Stadium Series game vs. the Penguins at the Linc on Saturday, Feb. 23. Some dates to circle: 

• The Flyers' annual holiday road trip is from Dec. 23-Jan. 1. It features five games coming against the Rangers, Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes and Predators.

• As we've seen with the Flyers, the final few games of the regular season tend to have massive importance. This year, the team has a pair of Western Conference road games against the Stars and Blues before the regular-season finale at home against the Hurricanes (see full breakdown).

• You always want to know when you can first get a taste of the Flyers-Penguins rivalry. The team's first game against Pittsburgh comes on the road Dec. 1. Flyers fans will have to wait until Feb. 11 for the Penguins to visit the Wells Fargo Center.

• The Flyers don't see the defending champions until Jan. 8 when they visit the Capitals. Washington doesn't come to the Wells Fargo Center until March 6.

• Looking for a lengthy stretch of home games? The Flyers' longest homestand is five games — there are two of them from Nov. 8-17 and Feb. 2-11.

Check out the full schedule here.