The Philadelphia Flyers have looked downright atrocious in losing four out of their last five games. In those four losses they have been outscored by a 23-12 margin. Say what you want about the current goaltending situation, but let’s get one thing straight: this not a goaltending issue, yet.
Defensive coverage and turnover issues, along with the absence of anchor Chris Pronger, are what currently ail the Flyers.
Go ahead and blame these losses on Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky if you want, but have you seen some of these goals that have been scored on the Flyers recently? Granted there have been a couple softies, but opposing players have been left wide open near or in front of the net and, in turn, Flyer goalies have been hung out to dry. With the way they played defensively on Thursday night, it’s a minor miracle the Jets only scored nine goals.
Sure, there have been plenty of bounces going against the Flyers lately, but you aren’t going to get many bounces when you play such shoddy defense. If the offensive player gets positioning, of course he’s going to have a better sightline to deflect the puck past the goaltender. Harp on these bounces if you want but the defense is partially to blame for them.
Take a look at the sixth goal Winnipeg scored on Thursday night (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqUUz_rSGuU). Keep your eye on #80 Nik Antropov just to the left of Sergei Bobrovsky. I know the Flyers were on the PK but no one is near Antropov that close to the net. That’s unacceptable. Take the man and let your goalie deal with the long-range shot if it comes. That’s what he is paid to do.
Fast forward to 2:43 and take look at Andrew Ladd’s game winner from Thursday night (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0pDnYfJn0E). Watch as #26 Blake Wheeler is allowed to control the puck in the corner basically unpressured while #16 Ladd cuts down the slot untouched. Inexcusable defense all the way around.
These are the types of issues that have plagued the Flyers over this stretch. I don’t care if it is Ilya Bryzgalov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Ron Hextall, Bernie Parent, Patrick Roy, or Ken Dryden in net, no goalie is going to stop the majority of shots where guys are left wide open and untouched.
The other issue that has hounded the Flyers over the past few games is turnovers, especially in the defensive zone. I know there are plenty of new players on the squad and that communication may be a concern, but these are general hockey plays, not some kind of plays within an intricate system. These are among the most elementary and simple hockey plays but right now these plays are a monumental struggle.
The Flyers just can’t seem to get the puck out of their own zone cleanly. Every time the puck is in their zone, you can almost bank on a turnover. These defensive zone turnovers are deadly. Washington’s first goal last Thursday night came after Scott Hartnell blindly threw a puck into his own defensive slot area. It seemed like almost every Winnipeg goal on Thursday night came from a chance created from a turnover.
The Flyers are looking to make that pretty pass out of the zone to start a breakout. As we’ve seen recently, that doesn’t work out to well all the time. They have to make the smart play and not the pretty one. Get the puck out of the zone at all costs. Take the icing if you have to. At least when you ice the puck you have a chance to either win possession or set up your defense off of a faceoff.
The offensive skill of this hockey team is easily recognizable. Their offensive depth is unreal. That’s fine and dandy but unless this team commits itself to defense and puck security, they will find themselves stuck in this embarrassing rut.
…Paging Mr. Pronger… Paging Mr. Pronger… Paging Mr. Pronger.