The Philadelphia Flyers have fallen off of a cliff defensively in their last couple of games.
There’s no denying that the Philadelphia Flyers have been nothing short of atrocious in their own end as of late. They’ve allowed 16 goals in their last three games, which averages out to just over five goals per game. Not great! One could look at those numbers and think that Philadelphia’s problems lie more in-net as Carter Hart hasn’t looked the best in his recent starts and Brian Elliott’s come back to Earth a little bit following a spectacular beginning to the 2019-20 season. But, if you dig beyond the surface and have watched their previous two games, you likely know that the Flyers blue-line and team defense as a whole has left their netminders’ out on an island.
Looking at the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins shot charts against Philadelphia, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, the Flyers have basically let both teams camp out in front of their net whenever they’ve deemed fit. A goaltender can only make so many difficult saves and hoo boy, the Flyers have asked a lot out of Hart and Elliott with the way they’ve defended lately. The Penguins, Islanders, and even Columbus Blue Jackets to a lesser degree have made a mockery of the Philadelphian blue-line, but that hasn’t always been the case this year.
The Flyers were relatively solid at pushing shots out high-danger areas of the ice prior to the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at 5-on-5. They were able to shut down a skilled player in Mark Stone at even strength in their 6-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights and also did a decent job at keeping their talented offense at bay. Even in their 6-3 blowout loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia kept them out of the slot and crease for the most part, so what the heck has happened since then?
That I can’t answer because I genuinely have no idea. I’m not sure what’s changed in the past week and a half that’s caused this team to cover the defensive zone poorly, bleed chances in dangerous areas, and show little-to-no effort on the backcheck. I have zero clues as to why guys like Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Braun, and Robert Hagg have played especially bad as of late. I just don’t know why the Flyers have looked so different defensively in this last week of October.
What I do know is that they need to get it together and that there’s no excuse for these types of performances. Luckily, the Flyers are only 11 games into the season and have a good chunk of time to turn it back around. Alain Vigneault said that they’re going to hit the reset button, which is what they should’ve done after the game against the Islanders, but hopefully, this recent stretch lights a fire under the team, and they come out firing on all cylinders in November.