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Bruins 3, Flyers 0: It’s not good, folks

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Can we fire the coach yet?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers lost to the Boston Bruins last night 3-0 and barely anything happened, let’s talk about what we learned from another early loss.

All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick

1. Changes need to be made

Yeah, getting right into the nitty gritty (GET IT) to open this up. The Flyers have been in mediocrity for what feels like a lifetime at this point, and this loss piles onto that feeling. This was the ninth out of the Flyers first 10 games where the opposition scored first, as Boston took the 1-0 lead in the second period. This may not be as big of a deal if it wasn’t already such a common theme in Dave Hakstol’s tenure as Flyers head coach, is. Giving up the first goal doesn’t always mean everything to a hockey game, but when a team does it as consistently as the Flyers, it has to be draining. This team is seemingly always playing from behind, and given this system has the offensive creativity of a sloth, that seems like a bad combination.

The worst part about all of this may not even be that the team is losing (okay it is), it’s the fact that they bore fans to death in the process. Watching that game last night felt like a chore, an obligation, it wasn’t fun. This team has so much talent on it that I refuse to believe this is just a bad hockey team. We saw Gerard Gallant take a rag-tag, no-name, Vegas Golden Knights team all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last year not because of player talent, but because of coaching. His aggressive, stomp-on-the-throat-of-your-competitor system was the main reason that team made it as far as they did. This system is broken, and things need to change, starting with the coaching staff.

2. They actually did a solid job limiting quality chances

Alright, rant over for now. In this dumpster fire of a hockey game, the Flyers did actually keep Boston to the outside for the most part. The lone 5-on-5 goal was a point shot by Zdeno Chara that looked to have deflected off of Andrew MacDonald’s stick, who fittingly enough turned the puck over to start this possession for Boston. Taking a look at the heat map below, the Flyers kept Boston at the point for most of the game, and even generated a lot of their own chances from the low slot.

Most times, this kind of performance defensively and offensively will result in a win, but overall the Flyers simply didn’t finish these chances, or in all reality, generate enough of them. Jaroslav Halak was also pretty darn good in net, flashing back to those 2010 playoffs vs. Pittsburgh and Washington.

3. A-Mac definitely made an impact there Hak...

Just not the impact you were thinking, Dave. Andrew MacDonald returned to the lineup against Boston, and it went just about as well as one would imagine. He wasn’t even having that awful of a game before the first goal, but then the wheels fell off. Mac struggled to control the puck behind the goal line, turned it over, puck goes to Chara at the point, goal. And to top it all off, as mentioned previously, it looks like the puck deflected off Mac’s stick as he tried to get back defensively. Sure, it’s a little bit of bad luck that the first big mistake of the night from him ends up in the back of the net, but he needs to be better on that play.

The second goal however, there’s no bad luck, just bad defense and a poor PK system. The Bruins are on the power play and Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci are playing the cycle game in the corner, as DeBrusk rolls out he positions himself directly in front of Brian Elliott, between Robert Hagg and MacDonald. Hagg isn’t aggressive enough on Krejci, who feeds DeBrusk who should be covered by MacDo...oh. It’s in the back of the net. The problem with this play is the fact the coaching staff will probably point to Hagg being primarily in the wrong on this play, despite Mac leaving DeBrusk all alone in front.

Technically yes, Mac is guarding the seam pass which is what the system wants him to do, but at some point there has to be an awareness to take the man in front. Especially when Claude Giroux had the seam pass fairly tightly marked. This play was more so on Ian Laperriere not being an ideal penalty kill coach, but Mac needs to be better than that.

4. Ice time once again becoming an issue

Despite the fact Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas have arguably been the top two defensemen on this hockey team, the pairing received the lowest amount of ice time at 5-on-5 last night. The best part? They weren’t even bad, they were actually pretty good yet again. Sanheim posted the best raw CF% last night on the team, and third best CF% when adjusting for score and venue. His 5-on-5 ice time? A whopping 12:46, behind every other defenseman other than Gudas, who really got the raw end at just 10:58 of ice time. Sanheim and Gudas have been steady, and productive for this team throughout the first 10 games, so the fact they are still not getting more minutes is ridiculous.

Gudas was no slouch in this game either, coming in just behind Sanheim in adjusted CF%. The duo was strong yet again, but got so little ice time relative to their teammates on the blueline, that they couldn’t make as great of an impact. Hakstol needs to learn how to utilize his players better, but at this rate, don’t hold your breath.

5. Another slow start

Although the Flyers were not scored upon in the first period, the Bruins had the territorial advantage in an overall boring period of hockey. Boston lead the way 12-10 in CF, and dominating the scoring chances at seven to three. This was just an extremely arduous period of hockey to sit through. Both teams were essentially playing trap hockey, and a part of me feels as though this was Hak trying to save face a bit. Trying so desperately to not give up the first goal that he put the team in a shell to start instead of waiting, playing not to lose from the get-go. Sure, it could not be that and it’s just the way the opening period went, but emotions are high and this team is driving me to insanity. This passive style of play just doesn’t work anymore, and good teams will pick it apart.

6. Rough stuff dominated the third period

I hate using that term to describe what happened in the third, because it was generally pretty tame, but I guess we’ll count it. Only 11 minutes of the third ended up being played at 5-on-5, mostly due to the amount of roughing calls in the period. Scott Laughton got a misconduct and roughing call on DeBrusk, Simmonds got one on Steven Kampfer, who got into a “fight” with Laughton after laying a hit on the Flyers forward. It was nice to see in a way that the team was clearly ticked off a bit, but at that point any hope for old time hockey fun to occur had faded. Instead, we just got scrums after whistles and the occasional “oh crap is Robert Hagg about to rip someone’s face off?”

It’s archaic and probably stupid to even think this, but it kinda would have been nice to see the Flyers at least get into one fight that period. We all know they’re frustrated by what’s going on with this team, but a fight may have driven that point home. Who knows, can we just have fun hockey again?

7. Top line struggles again

This line just hasn’t been all that productive this season no matter who’s on it. And to be fair, the entire team was off tonight, but it’s games like these where if your top line can just take over for a shift or two and get a goal, maybe the entire complexion of the game changes. Alas, no goals, and an overall average performance by the top line. Giroux had the best night of the trio in regards to possession, coming in at an adjusted 56.73 CF%. Travis Konecny was not too far behind at 52.74, and Sean Couturier brought up the rear with a 48.81.

The top line has been a bit of an issue in the early going this year, but not one that should continue. Couturier and Giroux are way too good together to have this slump continue, and if Konecny can maintain his spot on that line, they have a lot of firepower working for them.

8. Corban Knight was pretty good?

Don’t get me wrong, the only play that I distinctly remember Corban Knight being a factor on was his pass to Sanheim, but still.

Knight posted an adjusted 58.93 CF% against Boston, in just 7:52 of 5-on-5 ice time, which was the lowest of any Flyer. And in regards to that pass to Sanheim, it was a pretty good one! Knight got the puck behind the net, and centered to his charging defenseman who leaned into a shot but Halak had the answer. This is still not a guy that I’d want becoming a staple in the Flyers lineup, but this was a solid game for the career AHL’er. As I’m sure you have all gathered by this point, I’m grasping for straws at positives from that nonsense of a hockey game.

9. Fire Hakstol.

And since I’m grasping for straws, let’s just repeat this for good measure. Dave Hakstol and the entire coaching staff should be held responsible for this. I do not believe this is a bad hockey team, but a poorly coached one to the point where the players look awful. There is a lot of young and exciting talent on this team, and yet they’re forced to play this extremely vanilla brand of hockey. It’s like the Flyers have all of these great toppings for players in sprinkles, hot fudge, whipped cream, candy pieces, you name it, and what kind of ice cream do you get for these toppings? Plain ol’ vanilla. That’s what Dave Hakstol is, and that’s what this coaching staff is. We’ve seen the same song and dance for three full seasons now, fix it.

10. Hexy, I’m begging you

Which brings us to Ron Hextall, if he does not admit his mistake and fire the coach, then I have a hard time defending why he should not be fired as well. Enough is enough.