Alain Vigneault started his postgame media availability with an interesting quote following the Flyers’ 7-1 loss to the Lightning on Sunday night. It was the team’s eighth-straight loss and they’re starting loss No. 9 in the face with the Avalanche on the docket tonight.
“That’s a good question,” AV said when asked what happened after the Flyers’ strong star. “I really liked our energy and we talked about setting a fast-paced game against a team who played last night, which we did initially,” he continued.
“I still think we kept going at them hard after their first goal,” Vigneault said. “Their second goal, for whatever reason, hurt us.”
Hmm. The Lightning scored their first goal at the 8:24 mark of the first period. Give the Flyers credit, they controlled play for the first several minutes of the game, but there was no fight after the first goal. In fact, Vigneault threw his trusted fourth line onto the ice — against Tampa’s fourth line as well — for the shift after the goal.
Here’s the Flyers losing a puck battle leading to more offensive-zone time for the Lightning and Tampa Bay’s second goal.
And here is the entire shift for full transparency.
If this is the Flyers going after a team hard, I don’t want to know what them going after a team soft looks like.
I get it, clichés are used quite a bit by players and coaches, so saying a team “kept going at them hard” is understandable. But it also shows exactly what’s wrong with the Flyers right now.
After controlling play for the first portion of the game, a failed keep at the blue line and poor defensive coverage led to the Flyers falling behind 1-0. At that point, it’s a bit deflating, but it’s still a winnable game against Brian Elliott and the Lightning on the second half of a back-to-back set.
Then the Lightning followed it up with the second goal exactly one minute later. The Flyers never controlled the puck in the offensive zone between the goals and at that point, a lot of air came out of the already semi-deflated balloon.
We saw this a lot last season with the Flyers giving up consecutive goals and things snowballing. In the midst of a seven-game losing streak and in the start of a back-to-back against two Cup contenders, the already-demoralized Flyers dug the hole even deeper.
The Flyers can’t be happy with any sort of moral victory, not that there was one on Sunday night. A good start to the game showed potential signs of coming out of their month-long slump, but we were reminded of what this team is right now in that sixty-second span early in the first period.
The Flyers are not a good hockey team right now and there is plenty of blame to go around.
Chuck Fletcher’s patience is coming back to bite him, as one of the top coaching candidates on the board (Bruce Boudreau) is set to become the Canucks coach. It also hasn’t helped that the offseason moves haven’t panned out, although injuries have dampened any potential impact they’d have on the team. But injuries aren’t an excuse, and they can’t be right now for the Flyers.
Fletcher also didn’t go out and make the huge splash that he could have this offseason. Ryan Ellis was a big acquisition, but Cam Atkinson and Rasmus Ristolainen are middle-six and bottom-four guys. Derick Brassard and Keith Yandle are declining depth pieces. The Flyers needed another top-six (or ideally top-line) talent to put this offense into gear. They didn’t get it and it’s showing with 2.32 goals per game and just 1.63 goals per game since October 16th.
Moving down from Fletcher is the coaching staff. Alain Vigneault could very well get fired this week, and that may be a week or two too late.
Vigneault at least stepped up and took responsibility for the Flyers’ struggles.
“We all have a job to do and need to get to work and do our part. The guy that is the leader of this group who has both his hands on the steering wheel is me and I have to find a way to get this group to play better,” he said. “We are in a bad skid right now and we need to end this. We have an opportunity tomorrow night and hopefully we will play better.”
But it doesn’t absolve AV from anything.
On top of that, the assistant coaches have been here for far too long now. Firing an assistant coach like Michel Therrien, who handles the putrid power play, would at the very least send a message that the organization is trying to do something. Instead, everyone is waiting for something to happen.
The players are feeling the heat as well. Claude Giroux is the only Flyers player that has shown any sort of consistency this season with 19 points in 22 games. Since October 30th, Atkinson has six points, Sean Couturier has five, Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny have four, and James van Riemsdyk has three. All of that is in 16 games, with Farabee at 15 due to the injury. The forwards that the Flyers are relying on to score goals are simply not getting the job done.
Things only get worse as you look to the defensemen. Ellis’ injury destablized things with the Flyers trotting out several different pairs on the blue line. Ivan Provorov usually mirrors the talent of his partner and that’s been evident with Justin Braun and Rasmus Ristolainen filling in. Travis Sanheim is inconsistent and playing below his talent level. Keith Yandle has had more than his fair share of giveaways and mistakes in the defensive zone. Nick Seeler was put into a tough spot and –– although he hasn’t been all that bad –– should be no more than a team’s seventh defenseman.
The Flyers have issues up-and-down the lineup and organization. Something has to give soon if they want to have any hope of making the playoffs in Claude Giroux’s contract year.