The Flyers are not finishing their numerous scoring chances, and more than anything else, that has caused them to slip in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Since moving atop the Metro with a 1-0 shootout win in Montreal on Feb. 26, they have lost six of their last seven games and have fallen into third place with 12 games left. The Flyers are just two points ahead of Columbus — the surging team they will host Thursday — and are in danger of dropping into a wild-card spot. Or worse.
In their latest loss, the Flyers had a territorial advantage and outshot speedy Vegas, 40-29, but some defensive breakdowns — and the fact they got outworked along the walls — led to a late goal and a painful 3-2 loss Monday.
“As hard as it is to walk away with no points, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and flush it out and move forward,” coach Dave Hakstol said.
The Flyers are outshooting most of their opponents. The chances are there.
The finishers aren’t.
The Flyers did erupt offensively in a 7-6 shootout loss in Tampa on March 3, but they have scored a total of 10 goals in their other seven games since Feb. 26. That’s an average of 1.4 goals in those seven games.
When a team is in a scoring slump, you hear the same refrain from players and coaches: “We have to get to the dirty areas. We need some greasy goals.” Etcetera.
But it seems even when the Flyers do get to the dirty areas, either they miss the net or the goalie makes an outstanding save. In Monday’s loss, for instance, Oskar Lindblom seemed to be at the right place at the right time late in the second period. Marc-Andre Fleury had just stopped Nolan Patrick’s point-blank shot, and Lindblom quickly pounced on the rebound — only to be robbed by the veteran goaltender.
“I’m getting chances. I just have to keep going here,” said the snake-bitten Lindblom, a second-line left winger who is still searching for his first NHL point after 11 games. “Not trying to be too negative.”
Several Flyers are in long droughts:
- Lindblom hasn’t collected a point since being recalled from the Phantoms, though he has played a responsible two-way game and has gotten lots of scoring opportunities.
- Third-line center Val Filppula, whose failed clear led to Vegas’ winning goal with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left Monday, has no goals in the last 24 games.
- Shayne Gostisbehere has no goals in the last 19 games.
- Michael Raffl has no goals in the last 15 games.
- Jordan Weal, a healthy scratch the last three games, has no goals in his last 13 games.
- Sean Couturier, who has been stuck on 29 goals since Feb. 16, hasn’t turned on the red light in 12 games.
- Scott Laughton has no goals in the last 11 games.
Claude Giroux, who has 10 goals in his last 17 games, has carried the Flyers lately. In fact, if the Flyers rally and win the Metro title, he would be a strong MVP candidate. But the 30-year-old captain needs some help.
During the 10-0-2 run that put them in first place, the Flyers received balanced scoring. In their last five games, however, they have had just one even-strength goal from a player not on the top line.
As a result, the Flyers have fallen four points behind first-place Washington and three points behind second-place Pittsburgh. Only two teams in NHL history have won a division title during a season in which they had at least a 10-game winless streak (as the Flyers had in November and December) — the 1976-77 St. Louis Blues and the 1989-90 New York Rangers — according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
In nine games with the Flyers, Petr Mrazek is 4-4-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage. After starting 3-0 with his new team, Mrazek has won just one of his last six starts. … Giroux has a seven-game points streak. … The Flyers loaned goalie Anthony Stolarz from the AHL’s Phantoms to their ECHL affiliate in Reading. Stolarz had both knees surgically repaired in the offseason and is close to getting into a minor-league game. … Phantoms coach Scott Gordon was given a contract extension. … The Flyers signed 6-foot, 179-pound forward Maksim Sushko, a fourth-round selection in the 2017 draft, to an entry-level contract. A native of Belarus, he has 30 goals in the Ontario Hockey League this season.