Postgame Perspective: Fixing special teams a Flyers New Year’s Resolution

The stat sheet said it all about the Flyers latest loss, a 4-2 defeat in San Jose on Wednesday night.

The Sharks were 3-for-5 on the power play. The Flyers were 0-for-3. 

In their last five games, the Flyers have gone 2-for-17 on the power play and allowed seven power play goals on 19 attempts. The Flyers have 29 shots on those 17 power play attempts. On the penalty kill, they have allowed 39 shots on 19 kill attempts.

Special teams has been killing the Flyers of late, and it a large part of their back-to-back losses in returning from the holiday break.

The Sharks seemed to display all of the Flyers special teams flaws at both ends of the ice. The Flyers can be a successful team when they work hard and win the puck battles along the boards and in the dirty areas. 

On Sunday night in Anaheim and again on Wednesday night in San Jose, the Flyers took too many penalties — three in Anaheim, five in San Jose. Those chances against high-powered, star-studded offenses — featuring the likes of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski — that are just waiting to break out can't be given easily.

Entering Wednesday's game, the Flyers had the league's 25th-ranked power play and 21st-ranked penalty kill, both in the bottom third of the NHL. They showed why.

In some cases, a special teams goal here or there doesn't decide a game, more or less just changes its course. Special teams fully decided this game, and for a team that had a small wave of momentum in that department as the holiday break approached doesn't appear to have any confidence at the moment.

As a result, the Flyers power play is now 28th in the NHL and the penalty kill sits in a tie for 26th.

This could not come at a worse time. The Flyers started December off with an incredible change of pace in play. They pulled back into a playoff race with a 6-2-2 record as the holiday break hit. With back-to-back losses, the Flyers dropped to a 6-4-2 record for the month of December and feebly make their way into 2016.

It's not the way the Flyers wanted to return. But these are not losses that went against them because of a penalty call or an unlucky bounce. This was about execution and when the Flyers needed a clear or to win a puck battle, they were bested every time.

The Flyers will open 2016 in Los Angeles, where they could use a statement to get back on track. A strong special teams game on both fronts would certainly do that and it should be a New Year's Resolution for the Flyers.

It's gut check time for Dave Hakstol and his assistants, who are responsible for the special teams systems run regularly. It is on the penalty kill units — most notably Radko Gudas, Nick Schultz, Matt Read, Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and others — who have not been able to keep the puck out of the dangerous areas. It is on the power play and a top unit, featuring the likes of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Shayne Gostisbehere and Brayden Schenn, that has gone as cold as the second unit of Sean Couturier, Michael RafflEvgeny MedvedevMark Streit and Read to start to find some consistency and ways to get the puck on net, instead of looking for nothing less than that perfect play.

Simplicity goes a long way in special teams and the Flyers had it for a while. But now, it has become an all too complicated approach that isn't paying any dividends.

For the past two games, the most identifiable flaw for the Flyers has been a power play that can't gain entry into the offensive zone and a penalty kill that hasn't won a puck battle or managed a clear when they needed it most.

Two games back from break, and that has resulted in back-to-back 4-2 losses to the West's worst team and a Pacific team struggling mightily to get a win at home.

That's the wrong statement from a team trying to claw their way into the playoff picture and watching 2015 go out the door with a whimper, when the Flyers were roaring just one week ago.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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