By Jon Smith:
For the past three weeks, as the Flyers play has leveled off from good to average, the main talk of the town has been about the goaltending. Bob or Boosh, Boosh or Bob, call up Leighton, maybe pull Hexy out of retirement? It’s all anybody could or can talk about. Well the goaltending may be the least of the Flyers problems right now.
In two of the last three games, the Flyers have scored 1 goal.
They managed to steal a point on Thursday against the Penguins despite only scoring that one goal. They played a good offensive game on Saturday against the Islanders, but the Islanders are not the type of quality opponent the Flyers will play in the playoffs. They reverted back to one goal against the Bruins Sunday night. Part of that is credit due to Tim Thomas for some great saves but part of that is due to the Flyers not working as hard as the Bruins for puck control.
Expanding the scope of analysis for their offensive issues shows that they have averaged 2.6 goals per game in March. This is slightly better, however, than their paltry 2.33 goals per game in February. Both of those numbers are way down from their average of 3.9 goals per game in January.
The power play is a major culprit in the offensive issues. Currently at 16.7% for the year and ranked 20th in the league, the power play has been a major factor in the lack of scoring for the Flyers. If they are unable to correct this glaring weakness, it will surely be cause for problems in the playoffs where every goal, every shift, every penalty, and every save is magnified. There are no signs of improvement when you consider that they have one goal in their last 15 opportunities.
How can this be? How can a team with ten double-digit goal scores and six 20+ goal scorers be so anemic on offense? Is it just a slump for multiple players or are they worn down by their run in first place for a majority of the season?
Danny Briere had 6 points in 12 games in February, and is bouncing back with 10 points in 13 games in March. Ville Leino also had 6 points in all of February and hasn’t done much better in March with 7 points in 13 games. Last year’s stud line of Leino/Briere/Harntell doesn’t seem to have the same effectiveness coming down the stretch. So many times we see them trying fancy passes at the blue line entering the zone instead of just dumping the puck in and going after it. This line, as well as most of the offense, seems stuck in a phase of being too fancy instead of just making the simple play.
The captain has been one of the biggest culprits for the power outage. 2 goals in his last 14 games is not the type of production you want from your captain who happens to be signed to a decade long contract. Richards has 10 points in that span, showing that he is still facilitating, but the numbers still need to come up.
One of the few players not tailing off is Claude Giroux. After having 11 points in 12 February games, Giroux followed up with 12 points in 13 March games. However, Giroux has also fallen into the trap many of the other Flyers are in with being too fancy. We see too many center ice and offensive blue line giveaways and not enough dump and chase plays helping to establish a forecheck.
It is entirely possible that the team is just bored with the regular season and is waiting for the playoffs to begin. You would have thought, however, that they would have been snapped out of their malaise once the Penguins and Capitals started nipping at their heels in the standings. Maybe they just need to be down 3-0 in their opening round series before they kick into gear. We all know how much the Flyers love adversity. The point is, if they don’t snap out of their offensive funk it won’t really matter who the goaltender is.
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