We are five games into the 2013-14 National Hockey League season. We are not supposed to be reaching the point in my recaps where we're running out of words (not happy words) to describe the team's play. But man, are we getting close to that territory.
It's not like the Flyers had circles skated around them all night tonight by the Coyotes, who gave them their fourth loss in five games (each of which has consisted of one goal scored for the orange and black). It's that the Flyers are pretty much just skating in circles by themselves around the ice, displaying zero sense of coordination and looking completely lackadaisical with the puck on their sticks.
The breakout issues that the team was having all of last year and through the season's first week were, by and large, still present. The power play, supposed to be one of the only sure things coming into the season, has looked horrendous. And the discipline issues, which we knew would be bad, have reared their ugly heads at the worst times.
I keep saying that this team isn't going to score 1.2 goals per game (their current pace) for the rest of the season, and that's true no matter how crappy they look right now. With the amount of offensive talent on this team, goals will come eventually. And it feels weird to say all of this after a game in which the Flyers put a season-high 37 shots on goal. But watching this team right now there just doesn't look like there's any sense of organization.
Solid scoring chances here and there and occasional signs of chemistry between players are rare interruptions between stretches of guys in orange sweaters looking lost and confused with the puck before dumping it in to the offensive zone and maybe every once in a while getting it back. Even though I honestly did think that the defensive zone coverage was pretty solid tonight -- hopefully, a sign of things to come under Craig Berube -- if you keep wasting opportunities and looking like crap with the puck, the other team's going to get its chances and it will convert. That's tonight's game in a nutshell.
You can see that it's getting to them, too. The composure's not there. Zac Rinaldo, who I truly and legimately believe has made an effort over the past year or so to become a calmer, more effective hockey player, committed three penalties tonight, all of which were incredibly stupid and one of which led to the game-winning power play goal against. Andrej Meszaros ended the game for all intents and purposes with 1:48 left with a holding penalty, and then for good measure took an unsportsmanlike and misconduct for screaming at the ref.
Berube was reportedly very short with the media tonight, and the team's two biggest leaders -- Claude Giroux and Kimmo Timonen, both of whom are slumping pretty badly to start this season out -- refused to even speak after the game at first (though Giroux apparently had a change of heart and came out a bit late to speak). I really try not to read much into that kind of thing. But this team is just not where it needs to be right now in so many ways, and if they don't turn it around quick, who the hell knows what's going to happen.
Stats and stuff:Boxscore | Event summary
Ice time: Flyers | Coyotes
Detailed game report | Shot Report | Faceoffs | Game discussion thread
And here's the saddest part: Steve Mason, the guy who was almost unquestionably the biggest point of concern for the Flyers coming into the season? The Flyers have managed to reward a truly outstanding start to the season from him (a .935 save percentage!) with a 1-3 record in his starts. That save percentage isn't going to hold forever, so whenever the Flyers would like to start putting some pucks in the net, that'd be great.
Oh, and the guy who has (in my opinion) been the most impressive forward for the team so far, Vincent Lecavalier, is out for at least a week with an upper-body injury. As is Scott Hartnell. So if you thought Jay Rosehill getting ice time with seven minutes left in a one-goal game like he did tonight was a one-time thing, think again. Chances are we'll also see a call-up from Adirondack in the meantime.
Now, after that rainbow full of happiness, a few things that I DID like tonight:
* As mentioned above, thought that the defensive coverage at 5-on-5 looked good. The one goal against at evens was a weird deflection that took an awkward bounce on Mason, and it didn't seem like the Coyotes had a ton of high-quality chances offensively.
* The penalty kill is good. Even with the one goal they gave up, it was quite effective for the most part. In fact, some of the Flyers' best chances of the night came with the Coyotes having a power play, including Adam Hall getting a penalty shot for his efforts on a short-handed breakaway in the first period. (He missed.)
* I thought the two most impressive forwards on the ice for the Flyers tonight were Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn. Schenn had a few nice chances in the slot that he just couldn't cash in on and I think he and Vinny can work well together (making the timing on the latter's injury all the more lovely). Couturier played very well in both ends of the ice, as per usual, and had some good chances of his own. Youth movement, and all that. Woo. With the injuries, there's a chance they end up on the same line tomorrow night.
* Steve Mason was, as mentioned, good. I bet he'd probably like another chance at both goals tonight, which were both quite awkward-looking, but he turned away a good number of chances throughout the game. And he did that despite once again getting flattened at some point in the game, this time by Paul Bissonnette (courtesy of Zac Rinaldo) in the third period. I think Ray Emery should start tomorrow because I generally hate playing goalies on both ends of back-to-backs, but I wouldn't be surprised if they gave Mason the nod again.
* Scott Laughton scored two points tonight in a win for Oshawa. He has 12 points in five games since the Flyers sent him back there. Bet he's feeling relieved that he doesn't have to be a part of this mess.
Questions with Answers
- How do the Flyers start the game, at home against a team that traveled after playing on the road the night before? Things actually started out pretty well, with all three lines getting a decent shift or scoring chance in the opening minutes, but the Coyotes scoring quickly kind of negated that. All pretty much downhill from there.
- Is the goaltending good again? Mason was good, again. Both goals were super awkward-looking and I bet he'd like another shot at the second one in particular, but he played well and certainly wasn't to blame for the loss.
- Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Scott Hartnell enter tonight with as many combined points this year as me. Which one of them gets off the schneid tonight? Four players, zero points, one upper-body injury. Great question, idiot.
- Now that he's had a few days as head coach, do we notice any sort of systemic change for the team in Craig Berube's second game behind the bench? As mentioned, I did think that the defensive zone coverage was a bit better tonight. So that's a plus. Offensive coordination is still a nightmare.
- The Flyers have been beaten up on possession the last few games. Tonight? Flyers had a slight edge overall (49-47 in Corsi) at even strength. Seemed like it was roughly even for most of the game. Like I said, I don't think the Flyers were dominated or anything tonight, I just don't think they looked very good.
Comment of the Night:
What? You expect him to be spanked?
Detroit tomorrow night. Bet that goes well. Five for Howling for the Phoenix recap. Go Flyers.