Right off the bat, a disclaimer is needed: in a week that saw the Philadelphia Flyers extend their current losing streak to seven games, there’s not much that’s “hot”. Against the New Jersey Devils—in what was perhaps their best chance to right the ship—the Flyers fell 5-2. Then, they experienced a similar beatdown at the hands of the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Overall, this week saw little consistency from any Flyers players. Most of the team’s limited success came from flashes of contribution rather than sustained production. Consequently, we’ll be bouncing around a bit in this edition of Flyers Hot and Cold Streaks, breaking down the few things that have been going right for the team, as well as some general takeaways as to what has been contributing to the losses.
Be sure to check out last week’s streaks as well.
Flyers Hot and Cold Streaks, Losing Streak Edition
Hot Streak: Penalty Kill and Goaltending
Typically, when the Flyers special teams are being talked about, it’s in regard to the floundering power play. Yet as awful as the man advantage has been, the penalty kill was actually one of the Flyers’ few strong points this week. The team took six penalties through two games but only allowed a single goal, resulting in a 83.33% penalty killing percentage. For reference, the league average is around 80%, and the Flyers are 12th in the league in penalty killing percentage. Thus, while the team may be lagging in other areas, the penalty kill is doing just fine.
Cold Streak: Power Play
It’s an eternal complaint with the Flyers – the power play is outrageously ineffective. They scored just one power play goal during the losing streak, though they went on the man advantage 20 times. That’s a 5% success rate, and significantly lower than the league average of around 20%. Even though the Flyers’ man advantage has been far from good for a while, their power play percentage through the last seven games has been an entire six percent less than the season total. In this stretch, a good power play has the potential t0 provide the Flyers with some much-needed scoring and also give a momentum boost. But the man advantage has done neither, and that’s a huge problem when the offence is struggling at even strength.
Hot Streak: Shorthanded Goals
On the penalty kill, the Flyers not only negated scoring for the opposition, but also generated chances of their own. Last week, Joel Farabee scored a shorthanded goal on Carolina’s Antti Raanta. This week, it was Scott Laughton’s turn, as he flipped a backhand shot over the pad of Mackenzie Blackwood. Is this rate of shorthanded scoring sustainable? Definitely not. Shorthanded tallies are rare at best. But still, with the Flyers averaging 1.71 goals per game during the losing streak, it’s certainly more exciting if a few of those goals come on the penalty kill.
Cold Streak: Injuries
Injuries have been a common refrain among Flyers management as this streak drags on. Of course, the team’s current predicament is an unfortunate one. Ryan Ellis has been out for the majority of the season. Patrick Brown and Derick Brassard have a thumb and lower body injury, respectively. And this week, Nate Thompson sustained a shoulder injury against the Devils, and Joel Farabee also went out with an upper body injury.
The Flyers’ options at centre have taken an enormous hit in the absences of Thompson and Brassard. Losing Joel Farabee, one of the few players who had been scoring lately, is another roadblock the already-depleted offence doesn’t need. And it seems that without Ellis’ veteran presence to stabilize the first pairing, Ivan Provorov has spiraled along with the rest of the team. Regardless of whether or not the health of the team justifies the Flyers’ lack of success, it’s undeniable that their rotten injury luck has played a big role in the current decline.
Hot Streak: Goaltending
Even during this rough stretch, the Flyers goaltenders are doing their best to give the team a chance. Among all NHL goaltenders who have played 14 or more games this season, Carter Hart ranks eighth in goals saved above expected (7.7, via MoneyPuck). Similarly, among goaltenders who have played the equivalent of his seven games or more, Martin Jones ranks 16th in goals saved above expected—above netminders like Robin Lehner, Alex Nedeljkovic, and Jordan Binnington. Yet this week, Hart and Jones recorded .889 and .882 save percentages, respectively.
What does this tell us? The Flyers goaltenders are stopping many more shots than they should, but the team is allowing so many dangerous chances that even goalies performing way above the expectation can’t save enough of them. Thus, even though they might appear to be struggling, Hart and Jones have been doing all they can. The problem rests more on the defence’s shoulders than theirs.
Cold Streak: Coaching
To conclude this edition of Flyers Hot and Cold Streaks, let’s examine coaching. Whenever a team goes on a losing streak like this, the coaches will inevitably face some criticism. In the case of the Flyers, it’s no different. Nearly all the players are cold. The power play isn’t functioning as it should. What’s the common thread? The coaching staff.
Since we have no way of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes, there’s no way to know what the coaching staff is or is not doing to try to snap this team out of its funk. But take this week’s loss against the Rangers as an example. The players looked sluggish and lost—even after general manager Chuck Fletcher promised that the coaches were “working on some systemic things to change how we play a bit”. They’re lacking in confidence, the systems aren’t clicking, and it shows. So while this losing streak might simply be a result of the fact that the Flyers just don’t have the right personnel, there’s certainly signs of disillusionment with coaching thrown into the mix. No, the coaches can’t make the players play better or force the special teams to be great. But they have the responsibility to adapt the systems and retain the players’ trust until they find something that works. So far, the Flyers coaches seemingly haven’t been able to do that.