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Flyers Takeaways: Offense Missing as Canadiens Hold on for Win

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Flyers captain Sean Couturier was a perfect 5-for-5 on faceoffs against Montreal. (Photo: AP)

Put the Philadelphia Flyers on the back of a milk carton; the offense went missing in a snooze fest 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday night.

But, it wasn’t just the offense that went missing.

For the first 45 minutes of the game, the Flyers’ effort was missing, too, and it made for both one of the worst and most boring games of the season.

Flyers play from behind once again

The Flyers have made it a habit to force themselves to play from behind lately. Whether it be squandering leads or never having one to begin with, this is not conducive to success for a team that cannot score at will.

Nick Suzuki beat Ronnie Attard to the far post on the power play to open the scoring, giving the Canadiens’ captain his first 30-goal season in the NHL. Just under four minutes later, Jesse Ylonen, sandwiched between Egor Zamula and Erik Johnson, poked home a rebound after parking himself right in Sam Ersson’s grille.

Montreal scored two goals on five shots at that point, and Ersson couldn’t do anything about either of them; the defensive coverage hung him out to dry once again.

Those were the only two non-empty net goals Montreal scored on Thursday night.

Flyers’ power play fails again

At this point, the Flyers’ power play failures are almost unexplainable – 0-for-4 against a 27th-place Montreal team that has a minus-46 goal differential.

And, it’s not just that the Flyers couldn’t score. They couldn’t enter the zone cleanly at any point, and the opportunities they did generate were limited to the perimeter.

That can’t be the case when guys are afraid to take one-timers. Cayden Primeau never had to worry about back-door passes or one-timers because the Flyers don’t do those.

As a result, defensemen can always commit to blocking shots, and the goalie can cheat on the shooter instead of the pass. That’s how Montreal led in blocked shots, 22-13, and how Primeau stopped 29 of the 30 shots that came his way.

Simply put, it was far too easy to defend the Flyers at both even strength and on the power play.

Flyers should consider lineup changes

The line of Joel Farabee, Scott Laughton, and Bobby Brink did not produce a single shot attempt at 5-on-5 on Thursday night, per Natural Stat Trick. However, Laughton, Tyson Foerster, and Travis Konecny out-attempted the Habs 12-5 at 5-on-5.

Foerster, of course, has also played well next to Ryan Poehling and Garnet Hathaway as a checking forward.

As much as Flyers head coach John Tortorella might like to put Foerster on every line, he cannot. Noah Cates (personal reasons) missed Thursday night’s game, so the Flyers needed a foil-type player who excelled in possession to step up.

Instead, captain Sean Couturier was given just 10:26 of ice time – the second-lowest on the entire team, ahead of only Olle Lycksell’s 8:26. The irony is that Couturier was a perfect 5-for-5 on faceoffs, winning both a defensive zone faceoff and an offensive zone faceoff that Tortorella spotted him to take late in the game.

Couturier also had only one shot on goal, and despite that, managed to lead the Flyers in expected goals (xG) with 0.39, per Moneypuck.

Hathaway and Brink were the only Flyers forwards to have an xG of more than 0.23, and Brink played 3:21 on the power play. None of the three forwards played more than 12:05, which is a shame.

Whatever the Flyers are trying to do right now, it isn’t exactly working.

Joel Armia and Jake Evans’ empty-net goals were separated by Owen Tippett’s 27th goal of the year, which broke Primeau’s shutout with 1:01 left in the third period.

The hapless Flyers lost 4-1, despite out-shooting Montreal 16-5 in the final frame. They’ll be back in action on Saturday, March 30, when they host the lowly Chicago Blackhawks at 7 p.m.

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