In what started off as a very hot start for the Flyers quickly went out like a candle in the wind. I still believe Alain Vigneault has some blame. While the Flyers were blown out last season, this isn’t all on him. This is more of a two sided attack, an offensive issue and a power play issue. Michel Therrien has had plenty of chances to fix this issue but it seems to be falling on deaf ears or being ignored due to pure incompetence. The issues are a little deeper than we may think.
Now I get injuries have played a significant role this season, losing Kevin Hayes, Ryan Ellis and Wade Allison for an extended period of time and not many players have stepped up in their absence. Nick Seeler has been really bad of late and the defense has been suspect with all three pairings being some of the worst pairings in the league per 75 minutes. I will not throw this on the defense. When they’re getting caught in their own zone and are hemmed in for long periods of time, that all starts with your forwards being able to move the puck effectively and efficiently.
The power play has also been very decrepit and stale. It looked okay through the first four or five games but quickly turned into something that we as Flyers fans are used too. The ineffectiveness of the power play has really leaked over into the 5-on-5 play and it is getting worse. The Flyers are back to a 15.1% power play percentage. After failing to get any cohesion on the power play again last night, they dropped .4% down, but that doesn’t matter because they are staying at this 15%. This is an atrocious and mediocre number due to the fact that the league average power play is 19.9%.
The Flyers started out hot scoring goals, though. They had everything clicking even without Hayes. Ryan Ellis got hurt and the defensive production went down. But losing Ryan Ellis shouldn’t effect the goal scoring, however it does affect the Flyers puck moving ability of their own zone. Now Justin Braun has been very good in Ellis’ absence but still not having their number one defenseman takes a toll.
In the first five games of the season, the Flyers scored 23 goals while their opposition only scored 16. Since then, in 12 games and including last night, the Flyers have scored 20 goals and have been shut out three times while their opponents have scored 32 goals. That is a GAA of 2.67 and a GF average of 1.67. They are clearly getting out played in no fault to the goalies who have had their hands full. The offense just has not shown up and you can’t win hockey games when you are scoring two goals a night, sometimes three if you’re lucky.
If you want to blame the goalies, good luck. The Flyers SV% as a collective is a solid 92.1%. Carter Hart has played 12 games this season. He is 5-4-3 this season with a 2.39 GAA and a of 92.8 SV%. While standing on his head and giving the team a chance to win hockey games, the team has absolutely not has his back in a lot of games. Martin Jones has played five games this season. He is 3-2-0 and has a GAA of 2.82 and a 92 SV%.
Jones has also been very good. His last start tells you everything you need to know about this Flyers team. Jones faced 20 SOG in the 1st period of the Bruins game on Saturday. 20 SOG is no slouch and that shows just how much help Jones wasn’t getting.
Michel Therrien is the assistant coach running the offense and powerplay. Therrien has a pedigree as a head coach for both the Penguins and Canadiens. In 814 games coached, Therrien has a 406-303-75 along with 30 ties. That equals out to a 49.9% win percentage. While his winning percentage and overall team wins were impressive year by year, they never got the job done.
He went to the finals one time in his career with the Penguins in 2007-2008. He has had two 1st round exits, two 2nd round exits and one 3rd round exit. Therrien’s overall teams just never had that extra jump and it seems like what happened with his previous teams is happening here. It doesn’t help that AV has had the same problems with his teams of the past and their offensive struggles.
The Flyers went out in the off season to get players to not only help this team and their scoring but rebuild the defense as well. Chuck Fletcher brought in players to help bolster the areas and skill sets that were lacking by the team last year, but it seems that the snake is just continuing to bite this team.
If this trend continues for this team, then it cannot be put on the players anymore. It has to be on the coaching staff. Last year, it was both the power play and penalty kill. Mike Yeo has made adjustments and the goalies have been solid as well as the unit as a whole. Last season, the PK was sitting at a 73.1% kill rate while the power play was .6% below average at 19.16%. The Flyers last season also had a GAA of 3.52 and GFA of 2.86. This current Flyers team has a GFA of 2.53 and a GAA of 2.71. The Flyers are ninth in goals against but 28th in goals for. This is not okay.
There are some very simple solutions that Therrien could implement in order to fix these goal scoring issues. The first is less dump and chase and more carry and sustain pressure. The dump and chase is cool and all but the Flyers forecheck isn’t at its best each and every night. If you want to win games this way, it needs to be this way.
Another solution and this one goes out to AV, is keep the lines consistent. Injuries haven’t helped but you had somewhat of a blueprint from last season. Now with Derick Brassard going down and Morgan Frost being called up, you need consistency more than ever.
The last and big key has to do with the power play. Put five forwards out on the top unit because none of your current defenseman are playing well at that quarterback slot. Play an umbrella and have Claude Giroux at the point, Travis Konecny and Cam Atkinson on the wings with Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk in front. Your second unit will consist of Ivan Provorov, Keith Yandle, Oskar Lindblom, Joel Farabee and Scott Laughton.
I would even go out there and potentially play Zack MacEwen out there over Laughton because of what he has brought. Laughton is also used alot already to penalty kill and help defend in the zone more than a lot of other forwards.
Therrien needs to help simplify the offense and run this power play and things will get better. Put emphasis on shooting the puck as well and get back to that aggressive offensive mindset that this team had early on. We are 17 games in and this team has started to regress and not get better.
At some point, push will come to shove and AV will not be the first one off the bench. Yeo has been doing a good job with the defense for not having their true number one defenseman out on the ice. Teams have injuries and face adversity and right now, you’re showing that this team bows out when it comes to them.