Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Summer remake shaken by injuries as Flyers try to regroup while facing tough schedule | Sam Carchidi

The Flyers, losers of two straight for the first time this season, are trending in the wrong direction and will try to regroup against a tough upcoming schedule.

Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk skates with the puck against Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy on Saturday. Van Riemsdyk is off to a slow start this season.
Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk skates with the puck against Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy on Saturday. Van Riemsdyk is off to a slow start this season.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

It’s easy to feel sorry for Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. He made some bold offseason moves and appeared to have his team headed in the right direction before injuries to Ryan Ellis and Kevin Hayes slowed the Great Redemption March.

Oh, the Flyers, on paper, look to be doing just fine. They are 8-5-3 and in a playoff spot despite playing in the league’s best division.

But they are trending in the wrong direction after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season, falling to Tampa Bay and Boston. And with their next three games against elite teams — at Tampa Bay, at Florida, and home against Carolina — this stretch could become known as the Fatal Five if the losing streak continues and the Flyers don’t recover.

We will learn a lot about the Flyers as their schedule gets downright nasty and they next face three teams with a combined 36-8-6 record heading into Sunday.

» READ MORE: Bryce Harper was the NL MVP, but does his season rank among the ‘most valuable’ in Philly sports history? | Mike Sielski

“We’re going on the road and it won’t get easier; those teams are really good,” center Derick Brassard said after scoring two goals in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Boston at the Wells Fargo Center. That defeat followed Thursday’s 4-3 shootout defeat, also at home, against Tampa Bay.

Until those two games, the Flyers were winning games because their goaltenders were outstanding, and their defense, which is much more physical this season thanks to the addition of Rasmus Ristolainen, was keeping shots to the outside.

Leaks appearing

But leaks are starting to appear on the ship. This is far from the Titanic, but with three elite opponents on the horizon, Alain Vigneault may soon be handing out life jackets.

The next three games are important for the Flyers, who need to stop their slide and show that, no, they aren’t the same team that slogged through last season.

Lose all three and Fletcher might get itchy to recall center Morgan Frost and defenseman Cam York from the AHL’s Phantoms.

Stay competitive and get, say, three out of a possible six points in those games, and Fletcher will likely keep those two hotshot prospects at Lehigh Valley for more seasoning.

The Flyers have had a defense-first mentality for most of their 16 games and, although they haven’t been as much fun to watch as high-scoring teams like Florida, Edmonton or Colorado, it has been relatively effective.

An anomaly

Saturday’s loss to high-powered Boston was more of a flashback to last season. The Flyers started slowly and chased the game. They allowed a season-high 44 shots — backup goalie Martin Jones was under siege from the outset — but this game was an anomaly compared to the season’s first five-plus weeks.

Carter Hart will try to steady things Tuesday in Tampa. The 23-year-old goaltender has looked like the guy who took the NHL by storm earlier in his young career, and he figures to keep the Flyers close in most games he plays, even with their popgun offense and their flawed power play.

Ah, the popgun offense. It is, by far, the Flyers’ biggest concern, and it is causing their goalies to play almost flawlessly to win games.

If you take away an empty-net tally, the Flyers have scored two or fewer goals in 10 of their last 11 games. And they needed a miracle finish — after Tampa just missed an empty-net goal, Claude Giroux scored on a six-on-five with 8.1 seconds left in regulation — in the only game in which the Flyers scored three goals in that span.

Clearly, the offense misses Hayes.

And the defense, which has played admirably and is allowing 2.63 goals per game — nearly a goal fewer per game that last season — is starting to show signs it misses Ellis, the team’s biggest offseason addition.

Those injuries, along with others to promising right winger Wade Allison and defenseman Samuel Morin, have cut into the Flyers’ depth and damaged Fletcher’s ambitious summer remake. Now the Flyers need players like James van Riemsdyk (two goals), Oskar Lindblom (no goals, minus-4), and Keith Yandle (no goals, minus-7) to step up before mediocrity sets in. Again.