PHILADELPHIA, Pa – The Philadelphia Flyers have had a rough go of it lately, losing their last three games, and are all of a sudden back looking over their shoulder for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Things were looking rather bright and rosy when the orange and blank were defeating some of the top teams in the league right before their recent downfall.
Then the wheels began to fall off with loses to the Rangers and Kings A brief sigh of relief came at the expense of the Toronto Maples Leafs before the Boston Bruins started the recent slide at the end of March.
What once looked like an easy playoff spot now has the Flyers only two points ahead of Columbus for the last playoff spot. The bad news doesn’t end there. New Jersey and Toronto are only three points back and Washington is only four back. The power play has come to almost a standstill while waiting to take the perfect shot. The PP is about several things: Puck movement, getting in front of the net, screening the goalie, and taking advantage of being up by more than one man. None of that is happening and it is costing the Flyers.
Still the Flyers are 10th in the league on the power play, 6th on the PK, 12TH in offense, 17th in goals against, and 16th in face-offs, just barely over 50 percent at 50.1. Some good news for the Flyers is that they have five players with 20 or more goals and eight players overall with 10 or more. The Flyers have five games remaining which should give defenseman Mark Streit, and forward Michael Raffl time to get each player one more goal to join the 10 and over club.
Scott Hartnell and Erik Gustafsson are tied for the team lead in plus/minus with a +9, but Gustafsson has only played in 28 games due to being in the Flyers doghouse more often than not. The Flyers have four players, three of them forwards, are over a -10. If the Flyers want to clean up their defense they might want to start with the forward positions next season rather than worrying about going after the Shea Webber’s of the world.
The goaltending has been up and down this season but for the most part it has been up. Both Steve Mason and Ray Emery has save percentages over 90% and GAA’s between 2.50-3.00 but they will have to do a lot better if the Flyers expect to go deep into the playoffs. Mason should get the call come playoff time but he will have a short leash.
Things are looking like a Rangers-Flyers first round match-up with New York having home ice advantage. Both teams have played well in both teams’ arenas in recent years so look for this series to be one where home ice won’t matter much until later in the round. Claude Giroux and Mason will take the Flyers as far as they will them to go. Assuming the Flyers make it to the playoffs that is. If they don’t make it, expect Ron Hextall to be named the team’s new GM with Paul Holmgren going back into a scouting role.
That announcement might never happen but if not now you can be sure it will sooner than you think. Hextall didn’t come to the Flyers just to wait another 5 years for this job to become open did you? Regardless of what happens to the GM, the Flyers have a lot of things to change in the off-season.