There isn’t much to say in regard to the month of March that hasn’t been said already. It’s been terrible, there’s no two-ways around it. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t been watching the games, plain and simple. What’s gone wrong? How can the Flyers be this bad after the first few months saw them obtain an 11-4-3 record? Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia tried getting the answer from Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault Saturday night after their 6-1 loss at the hands of the New York Islanders. Vigneault had this to say at the 1:46 mark of this video:
A coach that can’t put his finger on what’s going wrong. One that admits that it’s his job to figure it out, “obviously.” Admittedly, it is difficult to put your finger on just one thing that’s going wrong with this team. There are a few things many of us could point out as being wrong about the Flyers right now. Yes, AV has been a head coach in the NHL for 18 years. He knows what he is doing. That doesn’t mean that some of the blame shouldn’t fall on his shoulders. However, there’s enough of that to go around.
Beating the Dead Horse
You already know what this section is about. The Flyers defense has been dreadful. No matter the night, no matter the pairings, they just can’t seem to figure things out. This past week is the perfect example. The Flyers gave up nine goals to the New York Rangers. Nine times, a Flyers goaltender was beat in just one game. Seven of them came in the second period. It’s completely unacceptable. This week alone, the Flyers have given up 22 goals in four games. That’s an average of five and a half per game, which would rank dead-last in the NHL.
The Travis Sanheim-Phil Myers pairing that showed some serious promise last season has yet to follow up with it this year. They look completely lost at times. The pair was a combined minus-16 this week with Myers playing in one less game than Sanheim. Put as much stock into that stat as you’d like, it’s still not good.
Overall this season, the Flyers have the sixth-worst goals against mark of any team in the NHL. Even more sobering is the fact that they’ve played in at least three less games than the top-five. They’re only seven goals away from Vancouver for second-worst, and the Canucks have played in four more games than the Flyers. Ottawa sits dead last with 26 more goals than the Flyers. Likely the most damning stat of all, the Flyers are second-worst in the league in goals against per game.
Lastly, the whole Nate Prosser experiment has run its course. Whether it was to prove a point by keeping him in the lineup over Shayne Gostisbehere or not, point proven. Either bring Gostisbehere back and deal with his defensive deficiencies, or allow Samuel Morin to play the position he belongs at in the NHL. It’s as simple as that.
Coming Up Empty
While the defense has been putrid, the offense hasn’t been much better in the month of March. The Flyers have 32 goals in the 11 games this month, an average of 2.91 per game. While it’s not terrible, it isn’t nearly making up for the defense being the way it is. That number would put them at 17th in the league. Their first 18 games saw them scoring an average of 3.39 goals per game, a mark good enough for third in the NHL right now.
The Flyers are averaging around two more shots per game in the month of March. That isn’t saying much considering they averaged under 26 shots per night in their first 18 games. They still sit at fifth worst in the league when it comes to shots for per game. More shots on net creates more scoring opportunities. It’s science. The whole narrative about shot selection falls on deaf ears here. The lack of shots is the most concerning. Scoring will come with more shots but until then, the Flyers will still sit among the bottom-dwellers in that category as well.
The Product, or the Problem?
It’s the “chicken or the egg” argument, but with the Flyers defense and goaltending. Are the goalies bad because the defense is bad, or is the defense bad because the goalies have been bad? That’s neither here nor there at the moment. What is apparent is the large statistical dip the goalies have seen not just this month, but this year as well.
This month has been brutal for the Flyers, but this past week has been that much worse for the goalies. Carter Hart got three of the starts while Elliott started the other. Hart made an appearance in all four games, relieving Elliott after the brutal 9-0 loss to the Rangers. On the week, Hart has saved 76 of 93 shots he’s faced for a .817 save percentage. His goals against average on the week stands at 4.72. Both marks are well below his season averages of .875/3.83. Elliott’s eight saves on 13 shots put him at a .615 save percentage and ridiculous 10.91 goals against average on the week. Those numbers aren’t even worth discussing at this point.
Carter Hart’s struggles have been well-documented. While Elliott’s temporary emergence put some of our minds at ease with the team as a whole, the mask is being pulled off and the result is uglier than expected.
The Flyers called in the excavation team when they dug the hole that they’re in currently. This wasn’t done with shovels, it was done with heavy machinery. Pair their performance with general manager Chuck Fletcher’s silence, and the storm that’s been brewing has reached epic proportions. Heads are being called for, fandom has reached a low many thought wasn’t possible. It’s reached a critical point, and fans want results.
Is it time to throw in the towel? Are the Flyers so far gone that this season isn’t worth saving? Many seem to think that’s the case, but nobody knows since Fletcher hasn’t addressed the media concerning the Flyers play of late. The one constant is the fact that the Flyers have been vastly underperforming. Blame the coaching, blame the core, there’s enough of it to go around. At the end of the day, fans just want a competitive product. The Flyers need to find that compete or else things could get even uglier in Philadelphia.
Photo Credit – Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire