Alright, I’m gonna need you to step away from the ledge of the Walt Whitman, gang.
Yes, the Flyers have now lost three-straight after a listless effort in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers on Wednesday night (and it wasn’t that close), and it comes after the promising win over the Blackhawks in Prague and a dominant showing in a 4-0 win over the Devils (who are an actual disaster, by the way), but it’s just too early to push the panic button with this hockey team.
Wednesday’s debacle at Rogers’ Place was really the capping on what has been a whirlwind few weeks for the Flyers.
In the offseason, there were a slew of changes to the coaching staff who then implemented radically different systems all over the ice. There is a fresh set of new faces playing key roles (especially on defense), and then there’s this whole travel thing that certainly hasn’t done the Flyers any favors over the last few weeks. Throw in a sluggish start for some of the established stars (Jakub Voracek didn’t have a point until Wednesday, James van Riemsdyk still doesn’t have one, ditto Shayne Gostisbehere) and it’s a perfect storm of issues out of the gate for a team seemingly hellbent on making us lose our minds night-in and night-out.
But given all that’s gone on for this club since the end of preseason —or even before that, with mind-numbing loss to a Swiss team in Lausanne (like wtf)— there’s plenty in the part of the glass that’s half-full as things stand.
For one we can’t ignore the travel and chalk it up to nothing, because it’s a big something. Taryn Hatcher and Jim Jackson argued whether it was something like 14,000 or 14,500 miles ahead of the Vancouver game. That’s insane, and given the first two opponents (Blackhawks are bad and Devils are, well, more bad), it’s reasonable to see how the Flyers could have survived those games on some sort of bizarre mix of early season hype and Swiss chocolate hangovers.
But somewhere between Carter Hart’s first NHL shutout last Wednesday and Saturday’s shootout loss in Vancouver, the Flyers hit the proverbial wall. Some of that wall was Jacob Markstrom and his super human effort, but most of it was the jet lag settling in. The Flyers deserved a better fate in that game, outplaying the Canucks for large parts of the game (56% Corsi-For), but they were running near empty and the tanks ran dry in Calgary against the Flames.
Unlike the Canucks game, the Flyers didn’t deserve a better fate in that one and got run around all night to the tune of a Corsi-For of 38% in a 3-1 loss. It would have been worse, but Brian Elliott summoned his 2011-12 self and kept things far closer than they should have been. It was the first time all season the Flyers didn’t win the possession battle in terms of shots generated, the scoring chances battle, or even Expected Goals.
All of those were areas the Flyers topped the Oilers in, too, but hockey is a funny game and sometimes you get unlucky where a goalie (with a career .905 save percentage) makes 49 saves and his team scores on 28% of their shots. Eat Arby’s.
So despite playing well in four of five games the Flyers’ record stands a mere 2-2-1, which surely looks bad if you look only through the lens of the last two games, and not at the body of their work since dropping the puck in Prague two weeks ago. A lot has happened since then, but it hasn’t been all bad no matter how frustrating things got against the Flames or Oilers.
Some things the Flyers can’t control —like the travel schedule to start this season— but the thing they have been able to control has been their play on ice, which has included some strong showings in these first five games. Now they haven’t all directly translated to wins but controlling possession over the course of a season will lead to wins more often than not.
Now back off the ledge, because A) they’re really not playing all that bad, they’re doing things right in order to win games B) they’re 2-2-1 not 0-4-1 and C) we’re only 15 periods into the season.
So let’s take a deep breath Flyers fans, because both us —and the team— could use one right now.