You're looking at a desperate hockey team. They can feel the pressure of missing the playoffs last season, and what that means to an organization that's missed the playoffs just 10 times in 45 years -- an organization with an aging owner who desperately wants another Stanley Cup parade in the near future.
We're three games into the 2013-14 season -- all losses thanks to tonight's 2-1 loss in Carolina -- and the Flyers are wilting under that pressure.
They're gripping their sticks too hard in the defensive end and giving the opponent the puck far too often. When they settle it and start to breakout, the transition game is suffering because they're forcing the puck into passing lanes that aren't there. In the off chance they get the puck with control and start moving through the neutral zone, they're flubbing their zone entries and failing to control the puck in the offensive end.
And very rarely once they get the puck in the offensive end of the ice, they're forcing bad shots and taking low-percentage scoring chances. Nothing is smooth. Everything is forced. Every single player is trying to do too much instead of keeping things simple and just playing friggin' hockey.
The defense is clearly the biggest problem. One of the benefits of having Mark Streit and Kimmo Timonen (and Erik Gustafsson, if he ever gets to play) in the lineup is that you can split them up and place one puck-moving, strong-in-transition-type defenseman on each pairing. These guys -- Streit in particular -- aren't necessarily great in their own end, but the idea is that they just aren't in their own end often because they're so good in transition and so good at slowing down the play at the blueline. That's not happening.
As we mentioned, they can't transition the puck with any kind of consistent success. They're giving it back to the opposition too often -- be it in the defensive zone, at the blue line or in the neutral zone -- they're getting pinned in their own zone, and from there, the fact that they're mostly a group of slow lumberjacks is only exasperated because they're tired as hell and can't get any relief.
Steve Mason did his best tonight to keep the Flyers in it, and he certainly deserves some credit. The first goal aside -- just a weak one that slipped through his pads -- he made any number of big stops, and this game could've been lopsided early without his play.
The Flyers problem isn't necessarily the number or caliber of offensive weapons on the roster, even though the three goals in three games thing makes it feel that way. It's mostly that they're struggling so hard on the back end that they can't even get the puck up to what should be a potent offensive attack, and when they do, those skilled forwards are pressing so hard that they can't even begin to get a good scoring chance.
The worst part? With every passing second that the Flyers squeeze their sticks and fail to score goals, they're just going to keep squeezing harder. The way to get out of a slump like this -- one that feels like it dates back to last season if not two seasons ago -- is to just simplify things and get back to basics.
That doesn't look like it's going to happen with this bunch any time soon, and we all know what happens if this keeps up for a few more games. People lose their jobs.
Questions with Answers
1. Will the defense tighten up? Not really. See above.
2. Now that we're not in Montreal any more, can the Flyers stay out of the box? Eh, better. Not great.
3. Will the Flyers look sharper and more consistent at even strength? No, not at all. They look okay once they get in the offensive zone (kinda), but getting into the offensive zone is a serious chore.
4. A power play goal maybe for the love of God? haha no
Comment of the Night
Whole roster combined = ppg player?