The Flyers have been on a nice roll lately - they are on an 8-2-1 run - but that has masked the fact that they have struggled offensively.
Part of that is because they have emphasized a defense-first mentality in the last few weeks, building a wall in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
The defense and Bryzgalov have been superb, allowing just 14 goals in the last 10 games.
Still, there is cause for concern down the other end. Consider the numbers:
* The Flyers have scored one goal or fewer in six of their last 14 games, and they have slipped to third in the NHL (3.14 goals per game) _ after leading the league for most of the season.)
* During the last 46 games, the Flyers have had just two leads in the first 10 minutes. In those 46 games, they have trailed 19 times in the opening 10 minutes.
* Opponents have scored first in 14 of the last 19 games.
* The Flyers’ power play is 2 for its last 19.
The slow starts have the team baffled.
“I don’t know why it’s happening. Obviously it’s an issue that we’ve talked about now for months and have tried to fix the problem,” said center Danny Briere after Wednesday’s practice in Voorhees. “I wish I had a better answer. We’re all trying to figure out exactly why it’s happening. We’ve talked about preparation. We’ve talked about focus, and for some reason it keeps happening over and over again.”
In each of the last three games, the Flyers have faced 2-0 deficits.
“The part that scares me a little bit is that we know we’re not going to come back from a two or three-goal deficit too often in the playoffs," said Briere, who has one goal, an empty-netter, in his last 28 games. "We might get away with it once, but it’s not going to happen very often.”
When Peter Laviolette was asked if he considered doing something off-the-wall to correct the slow starts, the Flyers coach smirked.
"I don't necessarily think hokey things work," he said. "You can't bring in a live chicken and cut its head off for a better start. There's an accountability in what you do and the way you play the game."
When the playoffs roll around, Briere said, the Flyers cannot wait for opponents to set the tempo and "react to that."
Like Briere, winger Wayne Simmonds has been contributing in non-scoring ways, but has struggled to find the net recently. Simmonds, who has a career-high 22 goals but is goal-less in his last 14 games, said the Flyers' starts are a recipe for disaster.
"We're going to have to fix that," he said. "It's not something you want to be doing too often. We're kind of playing with fire the majority of the year, and to win in the playoffs, you kind of got to get up (or) teams will get up on you and then they're going to shut it right down and just try to trap it and win the game. It becomes more difficult to win games in the playoffs coming from behind. We're a resilient bunch; we just have to figure it out. Start playing better in the first and we'll be fine."
"I don't know if it's a focus thing or (not) being ready," said center Brayden Schenn who has one goal in his last 17 games, "but we always seem to be down one or two goals and it seems like a wake-up call."
In the final nine regular-season games and into the playoffs, it's a call they hope is not needed.
Breakaways. Bryzgalov was given Wednesday off, and he is expected to make his 17th start in the last 18 games Thursday against visiting Washington. . ..Andrej Meszaros had back surgery Wednesday and will start his rehab in a week, GM Paul Holmgren said. Meszaros will miss six to eight weeks, meaning the earliest he could return is the second round of the playoffs _ if the Flyers get that far. . ...Lately, Laviolette has used the new unit of Max Talbot, Sean Couturier and Zac Rinaldo as a shutdown line on opponents' top scorers. "I accept all roles with open arms, so I'm up for anything," Rinaldo said.