With five games in seven nights, this past week was going to be a tough one for the Flyers no matter who was on the schedule.
With the red-hot Montreal Canadiens and the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on the slate, it got that much tougher.
But the truth of it is the Flyers did themselves no favors with as poorly as they played while dropping three of the five games, with one of the victories coming thanks to a furious comeback and Sabres miscues. The Flyers earned just four of a possible 10 points.
Let’s take a look back at a week the Flyers would like to forget.
• It’s tough to pick where to begin with the Flyers’ lackluster play over the last week. There’s just so much to go through. So let’s start at the beginning, literally. It was another week chock-full of slow starts. The Flyers fell behind 1-0 in Montreal, 3-0 against Buffalo and 2-0 against Arizona. The Flyers went seven straight games playing from behind before Jakub Voracek opened the scoring Saturday night against Pittsburgh, a game in which the Flyers held a 2-0 advantage but wound up down 3-2 at the end of the first period, so they were still playing from behind. The crazy thing is the Flyers came back to tie all of those games. The 1-0 lead the Flyers had at the end of the first period in Carolina on Sunday was the first lead they had at a first intermission all season long. The comebacks are fun and all, but playing from behind constantly is no way to play. It’s obvious, but the Flyers have to come out of the gate much better. It takes so much energy to come back when down multiple goals, and it’s frustrating when you do see them come back because you wonder where the heck that was in the first period. You see how well they’re capable of playing when everything is clicking. They continually play with fire when they fall behind, and they got burnt three times this week.
• The week actually got started on a solid note because the Flyers played a really good road game in Montreal against the scorching-hot Habs, even though the final result didn’t go the way they wanted. You can thank Carey Price for that. The Canadiens’ netminder was superb in that game and the late save he made on a Shayne Gostisbehere shot to preserve the Habs’ win was incredible, yet he made it look so easy. He’s clearly the best goalie in the league when healthy. Steve Mason was great in that game, too, with 31 stops, many of the difficult variety. If the Flyers can play the way they did in Montreal consistently, they’ll win plenty of games. The consistency is clearly the issue.
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• Part of the reason the Flyers struggled this week was that the goaltending was marginal at best outside of Mason’s performance in Montreal. Michal Neuvirth was pulled against Buffalo after giving up three goals on 17 shots, including a really weak one by Matt Moulson when Neuvirth didn’t hug the post. Mason wasn’t great against Arizona and gave up five goals on 25 shots, including one from a bad angle to Ryan White that wound up as the game-winner. And then things fell apart for Mason in the span of 55 seconds Saturday against the Penguins. Neuvirth was OK against Carolina, but there were a couple in that game he could have had. Mason has a 3.46 goals-against average and a .878 save percentage this season. Neuvirth has a 3.84 goals-against average and a .861 save percentage. With the Flyers’ defense in flux thanks to suspensions, injuries and youth, the goalies need do their part. They didn’t do enough this week.
• As of Monday morning, the Flyers are 29th in the league with 3.80 goals allowed per game and dead last in the league with 38 total goals allowed. Ouch. Constant defensive breakdowns and less-than-stellar goaltending will do that to a team.
• Claude Giroux is on a tear right now. He’s on a nine-game point streak, which ties for the longest of his career, and, as of Monday morning, is tied with Edmonton phenom Connor McDavid for most points in the league with 12. So the Flyers’ captain is doing just fine, thanks for asking. And now that he’s got goals in consecutive games, look out.
• How in the world does the NHL’s Department of Player Safety not even look into Dimitry Kulikov’s violent hit on Voracek in Tuesday’s game against the Sabres? He launched into Voracek, his feet left the ice and it sure looked there was head contact. Just because Voracek wasn’t injured on the play, it’s OK to just slide it under the rug? Right, that makes total sense. The league is absolutely kidding itself if it thinks it will get rid of head shots and dirty plays if it keeps handing out punishment only whenever it feels like it. In fact, you can make a legitimate argument that the ridiculous gray area the league has created with this stuff only enables players to push the line even more because they know there’s a good chance they can get away with it.
• Good for Travis Konecny getting his first NHL goal under his belt Tuesday against the Sabres. And even better for him that he could really celebrate it afterward since it came in a win. Now that his first goal is out of the way, he can play even looser and not feel the pressure or frustration of being off the scoresheet with all the expectations. That’s a good thing for both Konecny and the Flyers. Kid’s a keeper.
• Gostisbehere has been in the league full-time just under a year now, but he already owns the Hurricanes. After his power-play tally in Sunday’s win, he now has four goals and three assists in six games vs. Carolina.
• Did you guys see the Voracek penalty shot move on Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday night? My goodness, he darn near broke Fleury in half. Has anyone found Fleury’s jock in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center yet?
Coming up this week: Wednesday vs. Detroit (8 p.m./NBCSN), Thursday at New York Islanders (7 p.m./CSN), Saturday at Montreal (7 p.m./TCN).