For the scuffling Flyers, it’s not too early to call their upcoming stretch — five games in seven nights — a critical part of their season.
Losers of seven straight, they start that difficult span by hosting two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay on Sunday and preseason Cup favorite Colorado on Monday. They then go on the road for games against New Jersey, Vegas, and Arizona.
“This is an important stretch coming up. It’s going to be a real challenging one,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “I’ve never in a normal season faced five in seven. But that being said, our outlook has to be one game at a time. We have to focus on our next opponent, Tampa Bay, and get ready for them. We can’t look too far ahead.”
“We know in our locker room that we can turn this thing around,” captain Claude Giroux said.
Veteran defenseman Keith Yandle agreed.
“For us, it’s finding a way to get their first win and then trying to build off it,” he said.
The Flyers have been outscored, 29-12, during their seven-game skid. Their power play, which is in a 4-for-53 funk, was 1-for-19 in the last seven games.
“At the end of the day, our power play needs to step up,” said Giroux, who pointed a finger at himself for the unit’s struggles. “We’ve lost multiple games this year because the power play couldn’t step up for us.”
“It’s one of those things where we’ve just got to get a bounce and find a way to get a goal,” Yandle said. “To get out of these, you have to get a greasy goal.”
In their last game, a 4-1 loss Wednesday to the host Rangers, the Flyers were 0-for-3 on the power play, including a five-minute man advantage. “We did some good things getting the puck into the zone and moving it around,” Yandle said. “But at the end of the day, we didn’t score, and when you don’t score and you lose, it becomes tough to swallow.”
Vigneault still believes the Flyers are a good team, but he knows they haven’t looked like one in recent weeks.
“You can say all the words you want, but I think you have to prove it with some actions,” he said. “… I’ve been around in this business long enough to know that things can change quickly, one way or the other. I’m confident it’s going to change the other way.”
Yandle is looking at the five-games-in-seven-nights challenge as a week in which the Flyers can get straightened out.
“It’s huge. I think that’s a good thing about this league sometimes,” said Yandle, who is tied with Oskar Lindblom with a team-worst minus-9 rating. “If you get on a good roll you can kind of feed off of it. I think right now is a good time for us to kind of get back to square one, go over some things that we need to get better at, and then come Sunday get ready to play some games and hopefully go on a run.”
The Flyers will be missing three key injured players Sunday against the Lightning: left winger Joel Farabee, defenseman Ryan Ellis, and center Derick Brassard.
“The biggest thing is staying positive and knowing that stuff like that happens,” Yandle said. “It’s out of your control, but just that next-man-up mentality [is needed] where you just have to worry about going out there and performing.”
The Flyers have numerous players who are in long slumps, including Cam Atkinson (1 goal in last 16 games), Sean Couturier (0 goals, 2 points in last 11), James van Riemsdyk (1 goal in last 15), Travis Konecny (1 goal, 2 points in last 12), Scott Laughton (1 goal, 3 points in last 12), Giroux (2 goals in last 13), Travis Sanheim (0 goals in 21), Yandle (0 goals in 21), and Lindblom (0 goals, 1 point in 20).
“Right now it’s all about confidence,” Giroux said, “and actually believing that we’re a good team.”
Having a day off and then two days of practice before the difficult stretch this week was beneficial, Giroux said.
Tampa, meanwhile, will be playing on back-to-back nights and coming off a game in Boston. “It’s good to take a step back and kind of reset and work on our game and what we have to do,” Giroux. “These few days that we’re not playing, I think it’s good timing right now.”
Funeral services for Phil Weinberg will be held Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks in Southampton, Pa. Weinberg, 66, the longtime attorney for the Flyers, the Wells Fargo Center, and Comcast Spectacorp, died suddenly Wednesday while recovering from hernia surgery.
Contributions in his memory can be made to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, Philadelphia Futures, and/or Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania.