How does one explain the Flyers' current five-game winless streak? Here are four ways to evaluate the current 0-4-1 stretch:
No one said this would be easy
Starting with last week's road trip to Florida, the degree of difficulty in the Flyers' schedule went from a springboard cannonball to a reverse three-and-a-half somersault in the pike position. Right now, they're having a tough time nailing the landing.
The opponents during this current stretch (Lightning, Panthers, Penguins, Bruins, Golden Knights and Jets) have an average of 87.8 points and a winning percentage of .660. Compare that to the teams the Flyers beat during their six-game winning streak (Blue Jackets twice, Canadiens twice, Rangers and Senators): 64.5 points and a .480 winning percentage.
5-on-5 needs to come alive
In the first half of the season, the Flyers were significantly better at even strength than their opponents. Even during the 10-game winless streak, the goal differential during 5-on-5 play was a minus-seven. During this current five-game winless streak, the Flyers are an eye-popping minus-nine at even strength.
If even-strength play isn't carrying its weight, then you had better hope the power play provides the pick-me-up. Unfortunately for the Flyers, that unit is 2 for 19 during this current slump and 4 for 34 over the last 11 games. It's a bad time for both to be struggling.
Is Couturier OK?
I don't see anything physically wrong with the Flyers' No. 1 center, but I can't help but wonder if Sean Couturier has hit a wall, at least in offensive production. Not only has his ice time spiked this season - from 18:27 a year ago to 21:35 this season - but Couturier plays a hard game that includes significant penalty-kill time.
At the forward position, only L.A. Kings captain Anze Kopitar has more ice time than Couturier. He's already logged more minutes this season than he has in the two previous injury-plagued seasons, and Couturier has actually seen his ice time increase significantly in March. Couturier's averaging 23:52 in the five games he's played this month after a 28-plus minute effort in Tampa.
"We don't want to be at that level consistently over a long stretch, but he's handled them very well up 'til now," head coach Dave Hakstol said.
The Flyers' leading goal scorer has now gone 10 games without scoring. Previously, his longest stretch was just six games.
Maybe they're just streaky
There was the 10-game winless streak in November, followed immediately by a six-game winning streak. When the calendar turned to 2018, the Flyers had two separate four-game winning streaks in January. That was followed by another four-game skid, then last month's six-game winning streak that has now evolved into their current five-game winless streak. Perplexing, to say the least, but for the better part of the past four months, the Flyers are a team that snowballs in one direction or the other.
However, the last game of the aforementioned 10-game winless skid was a loss to the Bruins, and the Flyers then snapped off a winning streak against a pair of Western Conference opponents.
With a 3-2 loss to the Bruins on Thursday, the Flyers can reverse course against a pair of Western Conference opponents: the Jets on Saturday and the Golden Knights on Monday.