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Inconsistencies That Need to Change for Flyers

By Jeff Quake, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

Recently, the Philadelphia Flyers (27-17-6) have been on and off their game. Despite two victories over the Los Angeles Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers still currently sit out of the playoff race. In their last 10 games, the Orange and Black are just 5-4-1, largely due to a horrible West coast trip in which they went 1-4-1.

Over this stretch of 10 games, several issues of inconsistency have been noticeable. They include the following: slow starts, turnovers, road play and the power play.

Start with the first problem: it is certainly a big issue in starting off slow in their games as of late. It seems that the team does not get “moving” until the second period, far from ideal given the level of competition. In order to get back into the playoff picture, like any team, Philadelphia needs a full 60-minute effort.

Prior to the game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Flyers have given up the first goal in each of their last three games. The Flyers are 9-10-3 when the opponent scores first, while posting a 18-7-3 record when scoring first. It is all about getting off to the right start, regardless of if the team is home or away. Although more favorable on home ice, the Flyers certainly need to have better starts from here on out in order to make any progress in the standings. That includes creating more opportunities for themselves, making sure that their shots are on target, and getting more bodies in front of the netminder.

Despite taking a 1-0 lead late into the opening frame against the Habs, the Flyers gave up a goal just 18 seconds later off a Phil Myers turnover. The Flyers gave the puck up seven more times in that game. Including the game against Montreal, within the past five games, the Flyers have turned the puck over 37 times.

The turnovers did not stop there, as the Flyers turned the puck over 21 times total in their two most recent wins over Los Angeles (11) and Pittsburgh(10). Recently, it seems Myers and Travis Sanheim have been a big part in that unfortunate stat, however they are still young and have plenty of opportunity to learn. Justin Braun returned from injury against the Kings, and played a big enough part to make a difference in the 4-1 victory for the Orange and Black. He logged 18:07 of ice time, including 2:07 while on the penalty kill. Shayne Gostisbehere, who is scheduled to come back approximately around Feb. 4, would certainly have a great impact once he returns, decreasing the pressure on the young stars in the making.

Each game there seems to be one or two major turnovers that doom the Flyers. Their passes need to be sharper, and the players need to be more aware of who is on the ice.

Now onto the elephant in the room: a road trip of 1-4-1 clearly does not help any team in the standings, but with a tough win in St. Louis against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Flyers could be getting back on track. Their next road game is not until Friday with a matchup against Pittsburgh in the second half of a stretched out home-and-home series, thanks to the All-Star break and bye week.

After going back and forth between a few home and away games, the Flyers next road trip of significant length does not occur until Feb. 11 to Feb. 15, when they play three games in five nights against the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a current away record of 10-13-2, something has to change. Whether, it is another attempt at finding the right line combinations or using more morning skates to get the team focused on their opponent that night, this team needs to have the ability to win on the road. The teams that go on to win the Stanley Cup do so by playing in the toughest buildings.

Finally, the power play needs to change completely, either in the way the Flyers enter the zone with the puck, repositioning players, or simply coming up with a new style. This power play has become way too predictable and it shows on the ice. It is currently at 18.9 percent (30 goals out of 159 power plays), which puts them as the 20th-ranked power play in the league.

Throughout the season, the power play had been in the top 10 consistently. But lately, Michel Therrien's setup looks stale and has struggled to be successful, falling numerous spots in team rankings.

A former power-play star in James van Riemsdyk has underperformed on the man-advantage; a place he built a reputation for success on in previous years. Just six of his 29 points this season are on the power play, nowhere near the production value that he is expected to have. Last year, “JVR” notched 13 points while on the ice for special teams in his first year back in Philadelphia. If the performance doesn't change soon, it would not be a surprise if he is bumped from the top power-play unit or off the power play altogether for players showing more signs of success.

Losing Oskar Lindblom for the season was also a major and unpredictable blow to the power-play unit. One final factor that could change the entire look of the power play is to simply put Claude Giroux back on the left side of the ice. Therrien seems to prefer having the captain on the right side in order to handle the puck along the boards. Although keeping the puck in the offensive zone on your non dominant side can be a challenge, Giroux certainly has some of the best hand-eye coordination on the team and in the NHL. But without him in a shooting position as he is on the left side, the production as a whole suffers. If he were to go back on the left side, the production in power play scoring could rise immensely.

These factors all take time to fix, however once they are, this team should be back on track right where most expect them to be. This team wants to win, but first they have to take their game to the next level to prove it. By simply working on the mistakes, and staying focused on making the smaller plays, it will eventually lead to the Flyers success.

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