The Remainder of The Series Falls on The Flyers Veterans Shoulders
Following a 5-1 loss to the Penguins on Sunday afternoon, questions are being raised as to how the Flyers can win this series. It falls on the Flyers veterans. To be clear, there is major room for improvement in all aspects of the Flyers game plan. The defense has struggled in their own zone, failing to clear pucks and cover guys in the middle. The offense has averaged 23.67 shots per game in the first three games, whereas Pittsburgh has averaged 31.33 shots per game. Brian Elliott has been streaky at best, and the team cannot stay disciplined and out of the box. But the main reason for concern is the lack of fire from the Flyers veteran players.
Game 2 on Friday went as planned. That was the kind of hockey that we all know the Flyers are capable of playing. The core of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek combined for six points, Couturier with one goal and two assists. However, in games, one and three of the series, nothing but silence came from the Flyers veterans. In those two games, this group was -10, and acquired eight penalty minutes. If the Flyers want to even this series, and potentially win it, the Flyers veterans will need to step up and lead the way, and the secondary scoring will follow.
Where is the MVP candidate?
After coming off of the best season of his career, at age 30, Claude Giroux has somewhat disappeared. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Flyers veteran is playing bad hockey. He has limited mistakes and turnovers, for the most part. However, the fourth goal that the Penguins scored on Sunday, just 5 seconds after their third goal, was completely on Giroux. He lost the face-off, let Crosby skate by him and failed to backcheck giving Brian Dumoulin an easy shot past Brian Elliott. A goal like that, to change the lead from 3 goals to 4 and just five seconds later, is demoralizing. You could feel the sense of hope just leaving the building.
And then Dumoulin makes it 4-0 just five seconds later. pic.twitter.com/k5CLFFUpuH
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) April 15, 2018
Giroux had 10 points in the final 5 regular season games, ending the season as one of the hottest players in the league. When it comes to the post-season, however, Giroux has not been on the scoresheet nearly as often. He has one assist in this series so far, which came in game 2, and recorded only one point all series against the Capitals in 2015-2016. The Flyers need their captain to step up and lead by example. When Claude plays well, the team plays better.
— Flyers Nerd (@FlyersNerd) April 17, 2018
Other Flyers Veterans Gone Missing.
Couturier has had flashes of great offense, mainly in game two. But him, Simmonds, and Voracek have been relatively silent since the puck dropped in game one. Couturier seems to be missing linemate Travis Konecny, as he clearly does not have the same chemistry with his new linemate Michael Raffl. When goals are the issue, I’d think Coach Hakstol would want to put the best scorers together, instead of spreading it out amongst three lines. To his defense, I also think Couturier’s game is focused on defending Sidney Crosby, as much as it is trying to create offense.
The same cannot be said for Voracek and Simmonds. Voracek has been almost a liability to this point in the series, especially in game 3. An irresponsible hook on Conor Sheary led to a goal in the second period. In the third, a high stick on Jamie Oleksiak landed Voracek in the box once again. For a player with so much talent offensively, he needs to be on the ice helping his team create chances and getting the puck in the net. Committing lazy penalties has hurt the entire team.
Simmonds is a Flyers veteran who has missed a step this whole season, not just this series. Since coming back from injury earlier in the season, Simmonds has not put up the numbers we are used to seeing. He could still be recovering from an injury, his style of play could be catching up to him, who knows. But Simmonds stepping up and playing his usual style of play would make a huge difference on this team.
Can’t Win A Game Shorthanded
When facing the team with the best power play in the NHL, you’d think staying out of the box would be priority #1. The Flyers veterans, however, have been less disciplined during this series on average than they have all season. When you take a look at the four core players penalties, most of them are lazy plays. Tripping, slashing and high sticking. Lazy plays. If the Flyers kept their feet moving, they wouldn’t need to rely on their stick to defend. When they use their body, they not only have a better chance at taking away the puck but also taking a Penguin out of the play. According to nhl.nbcsports.com, penalties have been called .17 percent more this postseason than last year, and the Flyers aren’t getting away with anything.
Sunday, the Flyers veterans were also penalized for too many men on the ice penalty. That penalty is generally a mistake made by the coaching staff. They have been lucky to not get caught on multiple occasions as well, as pointed out by fans everywhere. The Penguins are too offensively talented for the Flyers PK to let them play a man up. Staying out of the box will be a major factor if the Flyers can make a comeback in this series, and it starts with the veterans.
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Featured Photo: @CaniacCaz via Flickr