Through a good part of November it appeared that the Flyers had finally turned the corner for the season and were back on the winning track. They were red hot through most of the month of November. The offense was clicking and the defense and goaltending continued to be solid. Obviously the hot streak the Flyers were experiencing could not last forever, but it was hard to ignore how much better the entire team looked; they were playing with poise and confidence night in and night out.
Well that didn’t last too long…
Over the last week and a half the Flyers look like a team lost on the ice. They look only slightly better compared to the Flyers we saw during the early stages of the season. In their last 5 games they have gone 2-3, which doesn’t seem like a bad record considering that 4 of the 5 games were on the road. It’s not the record in those 5 games that is concerning to me, it’s how the team played during that stretch. Those games were not pretty and the Flyers could have easily dropped every one of those games and gone 0-5.
In both of their wins, coming against Winnipeg and Nashville, both games could have been marked up as losses. Against Winnipeg they were working with a razor thin margin of error and attempting to sustain a 1 goal lead for almost the entire game, something that doesn’t work very well in the NHL. The Winnipeg victory was a 2-1 decision, while the Nashville game required a shootout to pullout the win. What is most disturbing about all of this is Nashville had key injuries on defense and was running many young, inexperienced players on defense, something that the Flyers failed to exploit. If it hadn’t been for Steve Mason, who has been excellent this entire season, the Flyers would have been laughed out the building in Nashville. They were outworked and outplayed almost the entire game.
In the last 5 games they have failed to put up more than 2 goals, not counting the shootout awarded goal against Nashville. They were also blanked in Minnesota, partly because Harding played very well and because they just didn’t generate the sustained pressure and shots on net that we saw in November.
They just haven’t put enough shots on goal and when they do get a shot attempt it will miss the net completely. They are a scary team when they are hitting the target and putting the pressure on. The argument has been made that the only reason the Flyers had the success that they did in the month of November was because the scheduled they had during that period was very favorable. I do agree that they were playing teams that may not have been at the top of the NHL, but they were dominating those teams which indicates to me that they were playing at a high level. They weren’t winning those games simply because they were the better of two already bad teams.
This leads us to the stretch of games that the Flyers will be playing through the month of December. They will be playing quality competition in a lot of the games and I think this will show us the true character of this team and where they stand realistically in terms of overall skill.
Giroux seems to think that, like the early season efforts of the team, it is a matter of confidence that has caused the offense to become completely dead in the water. If this is the case and it truly is a mental issue for this team, one big win could snap the offense right back.
It really is a matter of waiting and seeing how things play out for the team. It will be interesting to see if they can stop the mini skid that they are in right now before it turns into the beginning of the season all over again. When I say mini skid I’m not referring specifically to their record, but their overall production as a team. Some may argue that it’s all about winning games and racking up the points. While this is important, I think it is more important that, at this point, they play hard fought games; games were they demonstrate they can hang with any team in the league. Even if they continue to squeak out wins here or there and continue to only get by, it will only be a matter of time before they implode again and we see another big losing streak. The offense has to generate more scoring chances and pressure if they want to continue to win and solidify their position in the division later in the season. There is no way around that fact.
As for the time being all we can do is wait it out. I think we will have a much better picture of what this team is made of by the end of the month.