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Philadelphia Flyers

Carchidi: Flyers Are in Trouble

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Sean Couturier speaks, Philadelphia Flyers
Sean Couturier is one of the many Flyers who are struggling to score. The Flyers are in a brutal seven-game stretch that started on Thursday.

The Philadelphia Flyers are in trouble. That starts with a “t,” which rhymes with “p,” which stands for playoffs.

Cue Robert Preston in The Music Man. Click here if I’m showing my age.

Trouble. … trouble. … trouble.

On Thursday, the Flyers started a potentially fatal part of their season by getting trounced by the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-2.

It was the beginning of the Scary Seven, a stretch in which the Flyers play seven games against teams in the NHL’s top 10. Those games are against Toronto (twice), Boston (twice), the Rangers, Carolina and Florida. Those teams have a combined winning percentage of (gulp) .671.

Trouble. … trouble. … trouble.

“I think at this time of the season, you have to be ready to play. You can’t just go out there and put your stick on the ice and hope for the best,” Scott Laughton said after the Flyers’ one-sided loss to the Maple Leafs. The Flyers have lost two of their last three games by a combined score of 13-2, sandwiched around an inartistic 3-2 escape against lowly San Jose.

“The last three games haven’t been good enough … especially in the stretch we’re in, and everyone’s got to look in the mirror here and figure out what we need to do collectively as a group to get better,” Laughton added. “Especially on home ice. Just not good enough (Thursday), not hard enough.”

Will these seven games sabotage all the good work the overachieving Flyers have done in the last five months?

If the Flyers (34-25-8) can get, say, five points out of these seven games, they should be in a great position to nail down their first playoff spot in four seasons. Their schedule, you see, loosens considerably over the season’s last nine games.

What is needed

To get through this stretch, Philly needs more consistency from rookie goaltender Sam Ersson. Overall, he has been very good in his first full season, but has been up and down lately — witness his .879 save percentage over the last six games.

Carter Hart’s absence is starting to take its toll on the Philadelphia Flyers. Ersson has started 14 of the last 17 games and is showing signs of fatigue.

The Flyers have other problems. Their power play, which is in a 2 for 18 funk and has been awful for most of the season, needs to get much better. Ditto their stagnant offense. Too many players are going through scoring droughts at the same time. Cam Atkinson, who has been a healthy scratch lately, has no goals in his last 15 games. Sean Couturier has no goals in his last 14 games. Those two have company. Noah Cates (one goal in last 16 games), Ryan Poehling (one goal in last 14 games), Morgan Frost (one goal in last 13 games), and Joel Farabee (two goals in last 20 games) are also struggling.

Those slumps, coupled with injuries to three of their better defensemen (Jamie Drysdale, Nick Seeler, and Rasmus Ristolainen) have contributed to eight losses in their last 13 games. In effect, the Flyers are missing two-thirds of their defense because of injuries and the Sean Walker trade.

Invaluable experience

This is a rebuilding year, of course, and not many people expected the Flyers to be in a playoff spot for virtually the entire season.  Playing meaningful games in March is a plus and a credit to this team’s development.

Making the playoffs would be invaluable. It would give the young players a reward for their strong seasons and also give them some big-game experience that could speed up the rebuild.

The good news Thursday was that the Islanders, the team that is four points behind the third-place Flyers in the Metro, dropped a 4-0 decision in Buffalo, and that the skidding Red Wings lost to Arizona, 4-1. Detroit is also four points behind the Flyers, who could battle the Red Wings or Capitals for a wild-card spot if the Isles finish third in the division.

It’s been a terrific year for the Philadelphia Flyers. They have re-established themselves, have generally outworked most of their opponents, and already have one more point than all of last season — and still have 15 games left.

That said, it would be a shame for them — and their energized fan base — if all the hard work was ruined by this difficult stretch of games and they didn’t get to taste the playoffs.

Stay tuned.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called “Bullies.” Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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