The Flyers were blanked by the St. Louis Blues, 3-0, Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Here are five takeaways:
Scott Gordon will never be confused with Dave Hakstol. His answers to questions often offer more than what was asked, but as the explanations for breakdowns begin to mount, so does the repetitiveness of those answers.
So it was a little eerie to hear the interim coach praise another obscure goaltender’s effort, this time St. Louis’s Jordan Binnington, as he detailed the roots of another Flyers loss. ``We seem to get every goaltender’s best,’’ Gordon said. ``Now is that because the goalies for the other teams are playing that much better against us, or is it because we’re not doing enough things as far as creating traffic.’’
Neither, at least to me. The Flyers, almost to a man (we’ll get to the exception later), are so deep into their heads that the natural skill set each used to reach this level has been put on a two-second pause. Close-range shots miss the net by feet, not inches. Passes routinely made and caught instead go wide or over sticks. Doubt leads to tentativeness and a lack of aggression.
``I think we turned down some shots there,’’ Wayne Simmonds said afterward. ``And a goalie’s first start, you want to shoot and keep going — pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure on him. We didn’t do that.’’
Hart has already had the dreaded off night in the NHL that was supposed to carve at his confidence, the reason for the reluctance to push him into the league with minimal AHL exposure. He bounced right back from that start in Carolina, and has been the lone beacon of hope that the Flyers can at least return to a level of respectability in the final three months of this season.
``He’s tough mentally,’’ Simmonds said. ``You can tell that. He gives up a goal, he’s right back in there, makes the next big save for us. Gives us a chance every single night he’s played for us. We’ve got to take it upon us, guys playing in front of him, to be better for him.’’
``There’s no jam to our game,’’ Scott Laughton said. ``We’re one and done every time we get in the zone.’’
That wasn’t as true in their close losses as it was in Monday’s clunker, but if this streak has been marked by anything, it is that. There have been countless pucks kicked right out into the slot by these backup goalies, with no Flyer even in sight.
The Flyers earned only one power play against St. Louis, a team that ranks 19th in penalty minutes.
``We’ve had a minimum amount of power plays since I’ve been here,’’ Gordon said. ``We haven’t had a lot of opportunities. We had the one tonight, and it was only for 30 seconds. Usually if you’re outworking the team, there becomes some desperation. You put them in a situation where they feel they need to take a penalty, and we certainly didn’t do enough of that tonight.’’
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher was out of town for what is described as scouting issues, which gives you an idea where his efforts are being directed. No one has said it yet, but it seems clear that the playoffs he and those who hired him thought still to be obtainable are not.
Which should mean a steady stream of players stockpiled down at Lehigh Valley heading this way over the next three months, starting with Philippe Myers, who appeared poised to make this team until a late blip in camp.
Sam Morin is also expected to begin rehabbing soon. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Mikhail Vorobyev, Mark Friedman, Carson Twarynski, and Mike Vecchione all should be given looks, if for no other reason than to use them as ``assets’’ in future deals.
The Flyers lost their seventh straight game Monday, and only two have been losses in overtime. That means only two points, a descent toward the basement of the NHL, and talk of tanking once again to position for top prospect Jack Hughes.
That’s especially so given the torrid schedule before their Jan. 20 bye week. The Flyers have six games before then, and there are so many problems for Gordon to fix, beginning with confidence.