The Philadelphia Flyers could be in much worse shape 45 games into their 2019-20 campaign. If the season ended today, the Flyers would make the playoffs as the number eight seed in the Eastern Conference and take on the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not exactly the ideal scenario, but it’s better than not making the postseason at all, right?
That being said, the Flyers will be in much better shape if they manage to solve one major issue before the regular season’s end — their road struggles.
Despite the Flyers being one of the best teams on home ice this season — they have a 14-2-4 record at home and lead the NHL with a 0.800 home point percentage — they are mightily struggling to win games away from Wells Fargo Center. As Kevin Hayes so eloquently declared after Wednesday night’s home victory over the Capitals, the Flyers have been “garbage” on the road this season, and it’s not exactly clear what is causing the disparity between their success at home versus on the road.
“I wish I had a true answer,” said Hayes. “We’ve been great at home and we’ve been garbage on the road. There’s only one way to play and it’s the right way, and we need to figure out our stuff on the road. Our crowds have been great, our team has been great at home. We have some home games coming up so hopefully we can keep it up.”
The Flyers don’t play another road game until January 15 when they head to St. Louis to take on the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blues. Perhaps that game will be the start of a new trend. But based on what we’ve seen from the Flyers away from home this season, it wouldn’t be all that wise to bet on it.
For instance, the Flyers’ power play has an eighth-ranked conversion rate of 23.6 percent on home ice this season. But on the road, the Flyers convert on just 14.7 percent of their power plays, which is the ninth-worst. The penalty kill has been one of the driving forces behind Philadelphia’s success this season, but even that suffers on the road. At home, they’re killing off 87.1 percent of enemy power plays. On the road? Just 77.1 percent.
And that’s only part of the issue.
Kurt already wrote an excellent piece about how subpar goaltending is exacerbating the Flyers’ road struggles. And, since the publishing of his article, it should come as no surprise that Carter Hart followed up an objectively bad Western road trip with a very good 26-save performance at home against the best team in the NHL.
Of course, while goaltending has been a contributing factor to Philadelphia’s shortcomings on the road, there’s more to it than that. Really, the issue has been just about everything.
Flyers Home vs. Away
|Statistic (all 5-on-5)||Home||Road|
|Statistic (all 5-on-5)||Home||Road|
Only two teams — the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche — average more goals per game on home ice this season than the Flyers (3.75). On the road, though, the Flyers score an average of just 2.54 goals per game, which ranks 22nd in the NHL.
Goals against? Similar story. No team in the NHL allows fewer goals against on home ice than the Flyers. But in arenas not located in South Philly, the Flyers allow 3.83 goals against per game — the third-most in the NHL. Only the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators are allowing more goals than the Flyers do on the road, which, of course, is horrendous.
It’s an extraordinary phenomenon. For whatever reason, the Flyers just can’t seem to play on the road like they do at home, and it’s becoming a legitimate concern as the playoff race begins to intensify.
So, what’s really causing this drastic imbalance of performance between home and away? Is it coaching? Is it luck? Is it fatigue? Is it a mixture of all three? Perhaps it is. But in all likelihood, it may just be a bizarre mental quirk that’s plaguing the Flyers extra hard this season.
But road struggles — especially in late December and early January — are nothing new for the Flyers. This has been an ongoing problem for years. Why?
Disney on Ice, baby!
Thanks to the come-to-life cartoons that invade Wells Fargo Center every year in late December, the Flyers are always forced to the road immediately following the Christmas break. And since the lockout-shortended 2012-13 season, the Flyers have an overall record of 7-18-4 (seven, eighteen and four!) in their 29 road contests immediately following the Christmas break.
Hitting the road right after the holidays is never easy, and the Flyers have to go through it every season. This year was no different, and the results were suboptimal yet again. Of course, this still does not explain the Flyers’ season-long struggles on the road, but it at least illustrates why the Flyers’ most recent road trip was such a disaster (and perhaps why previous post-Christmas road trips have given the Flyers fits).
If there’s one thing the Flyers can take solace in, it’s the fact that they won’t have to embark on another multi-game road trip for close to a month. Seven of Philadelphia’s next eleven games will be on home ice before the team sets off on a three-game road trip beginning on February 11 against the New York Islanders. Until then, the Flyers will have plenty of time to regroup and modify their approach to playing in enemy territory.
It’s crunch time now, and Philadelphia cannot continue to let their road woes drag down what has, for the most part, been a promising 2019-20 campaign.
All statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.