The Philadelphia Flyers enter the final week of their season having struggled of late. They are 0-2-2 in their last four games and are currently in the midst of their third four-game losing streak of the season. They went through goalless streak of 165:01 over the course of four games of the losing streak. From top to bottom, the Flyers have been struggling.
Philadelphia needs just six points to guarantee a spot in the playoffs after they missed the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
There are a number of things that need to be corrected if the Flyers plan to be serious contenders for a Stanley Cup.
3. Sloppy Power Plays
How bad has the Flyers power play been? They have just three power play goals over their last seven games going 3-for-23 (13.0%) after operating as the league’s 10th-ranked power play at 19.2% over the course of the season.
The numbers say they are struggling but the eye test might say they are even worse.
The Flyers went on the power play three times in the first period Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets and mustered just two shots. That isn’t just a one-time deal either – it’s become commonplace.
Philadelphia power plays have featured a lot of passing but a lack of crisp passes. There have been a lot of shots but not many on goal. Overall, there seems to be a lack of urgency on the man-advantage. The terms ‘sloppy’ and ‘lifeless’ have been tossed around more often than they should when talking about the Flyers’ power plays.
2. Traffic In Front
This has been a development recently that became even more apparent during the Flyers’ goal drought.
A staple for the Flyers over the last three seasons, especially on the power play, has been their ability to set up the high-low screen in front of opposing goaltenders. It has been abundantly clear over the last three games that the Flyers are not taking away the sightlines of the opposing goaltenders.
Sergei Bobrovsky’s 37-save performance on Thursday night had a lot to do with his ability to see most of the shots. Flyers captain Claude Giroux was asked about the lack of traffic in front of Bobrovsky following the game and, sounding like he knew the Flyers didn’t do enough, evaded the question a bit.
“He challenged the puck a lot,” Giroux explained. “He comes out of his net and takes the angles off. He’s so quick that it’s tough to beat him.”
The Flyers are going to be challenged by all goaltenders they face in the playoffs so they need to figure out how to create traffic in front in a hurry.
1. Claude Giroux
It was just two weeks ago the 26-year-old captain had worked his way into the Hart Trophy conversation.
The Flyers’ struggles over the last four games have coincided with Giroux’s own struggles. He was held off the scoresheet for three consecutive games for the first time all season before registering an assist on Wayne Simmonds’ power play goal on Saturday.
The success of Flyers depends on the play of Giroux and it has all season. Look no further than the Flyers’ 3-9-0 start to the season as Giroux posted just six assists and no goals over that span. Philadelphia is 19-2-1 this season when Giroux lights the lamp and 31-14-3 when he registers at least one point.
He just hasn’t been the impact player the Flyers need over the last week.
Giroux has not only been held off the score-sheet but he has not looked comfortable on the ice. He has struggled controlling the puck while make sloppy passes on top of that. The intense, yet controlled, Giroux has even allowed his emotions to get the best of him last in games as he has taken a slashing penalty inside of five minutes in each of the last two games.
The Flyers need Giroux to reel it in and get back to doing the things that make him one of the most feared players in the NHL.
While all of this is well-and-good, fixing these things do not make the Flyers an invincible team, it just helps make them a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Their next chance to turn things around is tonight against the lowly Buffalo Sabres.