There’s such a fine line in the NHL between getting to the playoffs or ending up in the draft lottery. It can be even as simple as scoring the game’s first goal.
Of the 16 teams to make the postseason last year, 13 of those teams scored the first goal in more than half of their games. Being up one versus being down one is significant. The Flyers? They were among the worst.
“It’s tough to play that way, and part of it comes down to depth and the overall talent level of your team,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “For me, training camp is extremely important any year, but in particular this season. We have to change, and AV is going to come in and set a high standard in camp for our team, and he’s going to hold our players accountable.”
The Flyers last season jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 32 times in 82 games. In other words, they found themselves chasing the game more than 60 percent of the time. They won 21 of the 32 games they scored first, and lost in regulation 31 of the 50 games they trailed 0-1.
Inquirer beat writer Sam Carchidi even tracked the 32 games the Flyers faced an 0-2 deficit. They came back to win just four.
“Generally speaking,” Fletcher told Carchidi, "if you work at doing things the right way day after day, then you develop those good habits that allow you to have success when the game starts. It all comes down to structure and habits and details and just playing the right way. If we do, not only will we be better defensively, but we’ll have the puck more often and we’ll be able to dictate the play instead of chasing games and reacting to what the other team is doing all the time.”
Notable: St. Louis won the Stanley Cup, going 13-3 in playoff games they scored first, 3-6 when they did not. Boston, the Cup runner-up, was 13-3/2-6 in the postseason ... Arizona and New Jersey did not make the playoffs last season. They were among the worst teams in hockey when they did not score the first goal. Arizona (10-21-4 when down 0-1) finished four points out of the final playoff spot in the West. New Jersey was 6-26-4 when allowing the first goal.
Notable: All four teams missed the playoffs by more than 10 points.
The Flyers haven’t lost a home game in regulation when they’ve led after the first period in five years. Problem has been they haven’t had the lead very often after the opening 20 minutes.
*The Flyers were 30th among 31 teams with 94 goals allowed in the first period last season. Only Chicago (96 goals) gave up more.
*The Rangers were +19 in first-period scoring margin during Alain Vigneault’s five seasons as coach. The numbers range from +30 in his second season (2014-15) to -18 in his final year in New York (2017-18).
*The Rangers goal margin was even in the first period in his first season with the Rangers, something the Flyers would be thrilled to accomplish this year after the way they played in the first last season.
*The Flyers first-period goal differential in 2018-19 was -31, easily the worst in the NHL. L.A. was second at -21.