Let’s not mince words here – the Flyers are off to a terrible start. Even with Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, the highs are far and few between, while the list of lows seems endless through the first month of the season.
At 5-7 heading into the first week of November, it’s hardly time to panic. However, the Flyers need to turn their season around quickly before it does become too late – and their performance against the Ducks was a good step in the right direction.
Let’s highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly from the opening four weeks of the season. And spoiler alert, there’s not a lot of good.
Dale Weiss, Jori Lehtera, and Radko Gudas
Yes, seriously. The two fourth-line veterans, along with Michael Raffle – who is out for a month with an injury – as well as the at-times undisciplined defenseman have provided the team with consistently strong performances. Weiss and Lehtera have created chances on offense [combined one goal and three assists], added a physical element, and have not hurt the team at the defensive end [combined plus-1]. Meanwhile, Gudas leads the team in plus-minus at plus-4 and is third on the team in assists.
The Flyers lead the league in face-off percentage at 57.1 percent. By winning the majority of their draws, it has helped them generate more chances on offense and clear the puck out of the zone on defense.
Although the trio of Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, and Michal Neuvirth has combined to post a league-worst save percentage and leads the league in goals allowed, they don’t deserve all of the blame. At least half, and possibly more, falls on the five guys in front of them, who have either allowed odd-man rushes, breakaways, and prime real estate to shoot the puck. The goalies are guilty of yielding too many soft goals and coming up with that big save, or two, each game that can swing momentum.
It’s more the quality of players that are on injured reserve than the quantity of them. James van Riemsdyk, who signed as a free agent in July to a five-year, $35 million contract, was expected to boost the offense, balance out the power play unit and add scoring depth. However, he suffered a lower-body in the second game of the year and is not slated to return until the middle of November. Neuvirth missed the first nine games of the year, which forced the Flyers to use Pickard, who was mostly dreadful.
Heard this one before? This issue has been well chronicled in this space and by virtually every other media outlet and fan. The team has surrendered the first goal in 10 of its first 12 games, looked lethargic, uninterested, and has been out-played through the first 20 minutes.
The penalty kill, which finished last season 30th out of 31 teams, is ranked 30th again. The power play is 24th in the NHL and has scored in just twice of their last 24 opportunities.
Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, and Giroux, who are the top players on the team, are all minus players and are a combined minus-35.