After the waves had settled on the Flyers tumultuous first week, it has become apparent that this season cannot be corrected by the quick fix implementation of a coaching change. While the Flyers played better this week, their weaknesses remain a glaring problem in their attempt to turn their season around.
In sports, there is no such thing as a moral victory, but the Flyers have to be encouraged with how their second week ended, especially after how it began. In what has become an all too typical trend, the Flyers looked bored, disinterested, and over-matched in large stretches of Friday’s 2-1 loss to Phoenix at the Wells Fargo Center. Their offensive woes continued as their only goal came on a Zac Rinaldo shot that was ticketed to miss the net, but hit the skate of Max Talbot in front and was redirected into the goal.
The news only got worse as both Scott Hartnell (upper body injury) and Vincent Lecavalier (lower body injury) left the game and did not return. Neither injury will require surgery, but Hartnell is expected to miss 2-4 weeks and Lecavalier is out for at least one week. The open roster spots were quickly filled by Tye McGinn and Michael Raffl, who were recalled from the Adirondack Phantoms.
The Flyers picked up their game in Detroit on Saturday night as McGinn immediately payed dividends, picking up his first goal of the season. In the end, too many bad penalties (seven on the night that resulted in three Detroit goals) and a less than stellar performance by backup goaltender, Ray Emery (25 saves of 29 shots, but let in a few soft goals), resulted in a 5-2 loss. The score was not indicative of the Flyers improving play, but the result was still another check mark in the right column.
On Tuesday, the Flyers played their best game to date, but a bad bounce and another meltdown in the third period resulted in their sixth loss of the young season. McGinn added two goals, and in two games has now taken over the goal scoring lead on the team. He has also accounted for a little more than 1/3 (three of ten team goals) of the Flyers total offense on the season. By the third period the Flyers looked spent against the pressure-the-puck style of the John Tortorella coached Canucks. It was obvious that it was only a matter of time before Vancouver took over the game. One bright spot was that the Flyers played much more disciplined as they took only one minor penalty during the game.
Craig Berube’s first full week as head coach of the Flyers was highlighted by two themes. The first is an emphasis on making his team faster with up tempo practices. Berube believes that it’s not a matter of the Flyers being out of shape, it’s a matter of conditioning the body to play hard for 60 minutes of hockey. The second theme focused on the baffling play of All-Star forward Claude Giroux. The Flyers captain finally collected his first point on Saturday night, an assist on Tye McGinn’s rebound goal, but his play continues to baffle both the team and it’s fan base. Berube was quoted as saying that He thinks G is trying a little too hard. “He gives everything he has out there and sometimes it’s too much. You try too hard, you can’t accomplish the things you want to accomplish.” It’s a phrase that can be applied to many of the Flyers forwards. They’ve yet to score more than two goals in any of their seven games so far this season.
The offense will come, as will the conditioning that will bring more productive third periods. This team has too much talent to continue to struggle around the net. There will be a sense of urgency however, as the rival Penguins are set to play in Philadelphia for the first time this season on Thursday night. The Penguins, and their all world antagonist, Sydney Crosby, are one of the few Eastern Conference teams playing really well right now. This may be a good match up for the Flyers. A rivalry game where the records usually do not enter into the outcome of the game. Following the Penguins game on Thursday, the Flyers will have six days off to work on Berube’s new system as well as some of that much needed conditioning.
On The Fly:
- The Flyers lead the NHL with 47 penalties. They have also been shorthanded a league high 28 times through seven games
- Including Saturday’s 5-2 loss, the Flyers have just one win in their last 19 games at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit
- The Flyers 1-6 record is their worst start (in terms of points) in franchise history
- The Flyers power play is 2-29 (6.8 percent) on the season and is 0 for their last 17
- The Flyers head Coach, General Manager, and top physical forward are 4-6 respectively on the Flyers list of all time leaders in penalty minutes per game. Where was this stat when Ed Snider was asked if there was a problem with the Flyers “culture”
- On Tuesday, the Flyers announced that Chris Pronger’s career is officially over.