The Philadelphia Flyers are in a rut. On Thursday night, they lost to the Washington Capitals 5-3. It was their second loss this week to the Capitals. Despite coming back from a 4-1 deficit to make it a 4-3 game in the third period, it was too little, too late. The Flyers are beating themselves recently and it’s turning into a bad trend.
They have more losses in their last 11 games than they had in their first 13 games. That’s a problem.
The Flyers are just 5-5-1 since their COVID outbreak. The first two losses were understandable. They had half of a team in a shootout loss against the Rangers and in the Lake Tahoe game against the Bruins.
After that, once the Flyers got Claude Giroux and Co. back from the COVID list, it appeared that they were turning things around. They held off the Rangers with a 4-3 win and took what was then a season-high 39 shots on goal. They followed that up with a pair of 3-0 shutout wins in Buffalo, outshooting the Sabres 77-50 in the two games.
But then the real test began.
The Flyers are just 2-4-0 on their last six games. This stretch in early March is a crux in the schedule and the Flyers are not responding well. Even in the two wins, they had to overcome a 3-0 deficit in Pittsburgh and a 3-1 deficit against the lowly Sabres. The Flyers aren’t playing to their potential and they know it.
It’s evident that the Flyers are in a funk right now and the team needs to be able to bounce back out of it. It looked like last Thursday’s comeback win in Pittsburgh may have been the turning point they needed. However, since then they are 1-3-0 with the lone win coming against the Sabres in the shootout.
The Flyers are in the midst of a 12-games-in-21-days stretch, mostly against teams they’re going to need to beat out for a playoff spot. They already went 1-2-0 against the Penguins and are 0-2-0 against the Capitals. They play the Capitals once more on Saturday to close out the four-game homestand. If they win that game, they can go 2-2-0 on the week from Sunday to Saturday. It’s not great, but it’s what they have to hope for right now.
After this homestand, they’re heading to New York for two against the Rangers and two against the Islanders. The Rangers could be getting Artemi Panarin back soon and the Islanders are on a seven-game winning streak. The Flyers will need to get at least four points out of those four games.
The end of March brings a bit of a break for the Flyers. They have another four-game homestand with one against the Islanders and Devils, and two against the Rangers before heading up north to Buffalo to close out the month.
But they need to focus on Saturday’s game first. You can only win one game at a time.
The frustrating thing is that the Flyers have stretches where they show how good they can be. Take Thursday night’s third period, for example. Sure, the Capitals may have been playing with a three-goal lead, but the Flyers quickly made it a two-goal game and it wasn’t long before it was a one-goal game again.
Both of the goals in the third period were also off of good plays on the rush. On Ivan Provorov‘s goal, Sean Couturier entered the zone and cut back while the defensemen cut into the zone. Scott Laughton’s goal was also the result of a good passing play by his line.
The Flyers also aren’t playing significantly worse than they were early in the season. In fact, by the underlying numbers, it’s the exact opposite of that. Early in the season, the Flyers were playing poorly – by both the eye test and advanced stats – but were still winning games. They were due for some regression and bad-luck losses, and that’s hitting them now.
That’s not to say that the Flyers should be winning these games. They aren’t executing well enough and they’re making too many turnovers.
Looking at the season in five-game stretches, the Flyers are actually trending upwards in terms of shot attempts and expected goals at 5-on-5 play. However, the actual results of goals on the board have taken quite the dip recently.
The Flyers’ Corsi For Percentage (black) and Expected Goals For Percentage (orange) are improving, while their Goals For Percentage (red) is all over the place.
This is due to the Flyers’ PDO, which combines a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage. It’s essentially viewed as a measure of luck, although a team can obviously impact it with low-quality shots or if a goalie is playing poorly.
Early in the season, the Flyers’ PDO was clear above 1.00. However, it has fallen all the way down to 0.91 over the past five games after Thursday night’s loss.
The Flyers should turn things around soon, but hockey is a funny game sometimes and teams go into funks. Last week’s comeback win in Pittsburgh didn’t do the trick, so the Flyers need something else to get them going.
If they can’t get things going internally, the trade deadline is now just a month away. Perhaps a trade for Mattias Ekholm or another defenseman could spark something.
It may be a shortened 56-game schedule, but the saying “it’s a long season” still holds some weight. The Flyers are 24 games into the season. There are 32 games left to climb back into a playoff spot. But that turnaround needs to happen sooner than later.
Photo: Heather Barry Images
Stats via Natural Stat Trick