The Flyers first chance to go against a team in their own division was another early season flop with a familiar beat. Defensive struggles have been a trend across the league for the early part of the season, but nothing like this. On Thursday, in just their seventh game of the season, the Flyers allowed five goals or more for the fourth time, falling to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 6-3.
Defense on this team isn't a problem, it's an epidemic. And it's making for some downright unwatchable hockey.
You probably know the theme, but let's get to the takeaways.
- You Get a Turnover - Call them giveaways, call them takeaways — it doesn't matter. At the end of the night, all turnovers may not be created equal, but they can have the same end result. And it happened a lot to the Flyers.
You would think after a game with as poor defensive play as the home opener against San Jose that this team would find a way to tighten up defensively, getting a full wake-up call that they were essentially forcing their goalie to bail them out. It can't keep happening like this.
What Columbus did in this game was essentially wait for the turnover. They certainly forced a few with good forechecking, but really, if you're patient, the Flyers will find a way to turn the puck over.
The big problem is that this is coming from all sources. These aren't rookie mistakes. Claude Giroux tried a backhanded pass that sent Columbus in transition for a goal. Michael Raffl lost the puck on the wall and that turned into the first goal of the game for the Blue Jackets. Jake Voracek was pickpocketed on the final goal of the game. These are veterans that need to be better in all phases.
For a change, this was a game where even the best offensive effort against an all-world goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky wouldn't save the Flyers. There were too many mistakes and if it's not cleaned up fast, this will be the team's identity.
- Provorov's Struggles Continue - Ivan Provorov's rookie season was a dismal one for the Flyers as a team. They really could never establish themselves as a playoff team and ultimately fell short despite being mathematically alive until the final week of the season. Provorov was a bright spot that year as an impressive rookie.
His second season, Provorov increased his level of play, instantly vaulting into No. 1 status on the team. The kid was a stud and played like it.
The start to Provorov's third season has been filled with struggles and each game it becomes more noticeable. It's hard to tell if he's fighting something physically or if this is mental and a confidence issue. Whatever the problem is, the Flyers need Provorov to come around and get back to his usual self, because when the top pairing isn't on point, the rest are certainly not going to save the team.
- Holey Cal – If Cal Pickard was the shootout hero on Tuesday, he was one of the many goats on Thursday. For all of the things that went wrong on Columbus' first goal, the most identifiable one was that Anthony Duclair's shot from one knee essentially went right through the wickets of Pickard when a stop should have been made.
Pickard was pretty helpless on the transition goals by Cam Atkinson and the screened shot from Nick Foligno that produced goals in the second, but the two in the third were also very weak and again came at a time when the team could have used a stop, especially on Anderson's, which is typically stopped by an NHL-caliber goalie.
In some of these games, it's been hard to fault goaltending with the way the rest of the team plays in front of them. In this game, it was equally as putrid as the coverage.
- Folin Down – In the third period, the Flyers were actually on the comeback trail. They got an early goal from Oskar Lindblom to cut the Columbus lead to one and controlled the play through the first 10 minutes. Their only real poor spot was a power play that didn't generate much.
When Jordan Weal took a penalty with 7:41 to play, you felt the momentum shift and were waiting for the dagger. Instead of coming in typical fashion with an opponent scoring on the power play, the Flyers created a new and very Flyers way to have this one get out of reach.
Fresh off a successful kill and trying to turn the momentum back in their favor to get the tying goal, Christian Folin went to go start his breakout to move the puck up ice. And he caught an edge in the ice and flat out fell. Josh Anderson jumped on the chance, took the puck and scored. Game, set, match.
- Time for Adjustments - The Flyers allowed five goals in the second game of the season to Colorado. They allowed eight in the third game to San Jose. They allowed four in the fourth game against Ottawa. They allowed five to Florida in the sixth game on Tuesday. And in the seventh game on Thursday, they allowed six. In total, the Flyers have allowed 31 goals in seven games, an average of 4.43 per game. That is one fewer than Detroit for the most goals allowed this season.
It has gone on long enough. The Flyers have to start trying out new pairings. Split up Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Try new pairings across the board. Look into new line combinations if needed. Work on the systems play and strive to perfect it.
This is not a team that will win many games and judging by the way they have gone through the first seven games allowing goals at will, they seem content with it. That can't be the case any longer. It's time for enough to be enough and for this team to try to find a way out of this mess or completely assume the identity. And honestly, who knows what happens if that is their identity.
By the Numbers
The Flyers actually had a 51.06 CF% and shot attempts were virtually even through two periods. The Flyers even had more high-danger scoring chances in the game than Columbus, 12-8. The issue wasn't in the number of quality chances allowed, it was that every quality chance seemed to find the back of the net.
Stat of the Game
With two assists, Claude Giroux had his fourth multi-point game of the season. He has points in six of seven games this season.