After losing a game by six goals, you definitely want to get back on the ice and try and right the ship so to speak as quick as possible. Thankfully, the Flyers can do that tonight in Ottawa after whatever they decided to do against the Sharks last night in Philadelphia —because it certainly wasn’t hockey.
Next up is a tilt north of the border with the Ottawa Senators, a club that has undergone major changes in the last calendar year to say the least. The Sens, now sans Erik Karlsson, are 1-1-1 through three games after a 6-3 drubbing from the Bruins last time out. The Flyers roll in off a 8-2 lashing from the Sharks in their home opener.
Last night marked the Flyers’ first contest without prized free agent acquisition James van Reimsdyk, who is out 5-6 weeks with a right knee injury suffered in the 5-2 loss in Colorado over the weekend. Jordan Weal, a healthy scratch the first two games, drew into last nights game against San Jose as Dave Hakstol juggled his lines a bit with the first big injury of the season just one game in.
The presence of JVR was unlikely to help the Flyers withstand the Sharks’ first period blitz a night ago anyways, though it’s a big blow to the second power play unit going forward, which was expected to get a boost with his signing.
Ottawa’s offense is paced by defenseman Thomas Chabot, who has two goals and three assists through three games. Forwards Ryan Dzingel and Zack Smith both have four points apiece. Clearly in rebuild mode following a sell off that has included Karlsson and fellow veteran Derick Brassard, the Sens don’t figure to contend for a few years but still have some veteran pieces like Bobby Ryan, Mark Stone, and Matt Duchene to stay competitive.
The Flyers are licking their wounds after a forgettable home opener, but they’ll need to be ready to avoid an early three-game losing skid against the Sens.
1. Faster start, better start...whatever you want to call it
After giving up four first period goals in their home opener, the Flyers need to get off a better start in this one to say the least. On the second of a back-to-back on the road, it’ll be especially important against a logically superior team in the Sens. While the Flyers should be deeper offensively than they’ve been in recent years, they still can’t afford to dig deep holes early in games as they so often seem to do.
Given the opening night debacle, getting the bad taste out of their mouth will be important against Ottawa. Maybe try to not play from behind like they’ve done in all three games so far and see how things turn out. Heck, just don’t give up four goals in the first 20 minutes and you’re bound to have a better time.
2. Clean up things in the defensive zone
The Flyers were downright pathetic in their own zone against the Sharks, who were literally circling blood in the water on Tuesday night. That goes for nearly every player, forward, defense and even Brian Elliott, who was far from perfect in that first period a night ago.
Hakstol talked about it during the Sharks game that his club had to tighten things up in their own end and he’s actually right for once. Poor in-zone play has reared its ugly head in all three games for the Flyers so far and they’ve got to be better. That starts with battles for loose pucks, extends to coverage and forwards backchecking and to zone clears up ice. The early struggles are correctable, but the Flyers can’t get that deep offensive depth going without getting out of their own way in the defensive end first.
The poor play has also left Brian Elliott to dry in the crease the past two games as well, with Hakstol leaving his veteran netminder in for all eight Sharks goals despite little chance for Elliott to help his cause with the lackluster effort in front of him.
3. Big guns need to show up
Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and company need to show up in this one. The trio has combined for six points in three games, but needs to set the tone against a Sens team the Flyers should beat. With the young guns struggling to find their footing through the first few games, it’s up to the veteran core to prop them up in the meantime.
This also goes for Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, who haven’t looked sharp early on and need to be at their best as the Flyers’ top defensive pairing. They’ve looked anything but it through three games and the Flyers can ill-afford to have them not playing up to their potential given the struggles of the other two pairs to start the season.
Given that Hakstol declined to even attempt to slow the Sharks’ momentum last night with a timeout or goaltender change of any sort, it could be up to the veterans to step in and challenge themselves and their teammates to bounce back and quickly before things snowball in the early season.
Can’t believe I’m saying that, but Tuesday was just so bad it’s a hard result and performance to ignore.
Flyers’ Projected lineup
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
Lindblom - Patrick - Konecny
Weal - Vorobyev - Simmonds
Laughton - Lehtera - Raffl
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Sanheim - Gudas