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Goaltending, defense have camouflaged Flyers’ scoring woes despite the team’s solid start

The Flyers are 6-3-2 but are averaging just 1.33 goals over the last six games.

Flyers right winger Cam Atkinson sees a shot stopped by Toronto's Jack Campbell in the first period of the Maple Leafs' 3-0 win Wednesday.
Flyers right winger Cam Atkinson sees a shot stopped by Toronto's Jack Campbell in the first period of the Maple Leafs' 3-0 win Wednesday.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Through 11 games, the Flyers’ offensive shortcomings have been masked by their outstanding goaltending and solid defense. They have allowed just 2.45 goals per game, the NHL’s fifth-best figure.

But make no mistake, the offense needs a jolt.

Maybe they’ll get it when Kevin Hayes returns to the lineup, potentially Saturday.

Maybe the power play will start clicking again like it did over the first four games (4-for-11), with Keith Yandle quarterbacking the top unit and James van Riemsdyk as the group’s net-front presence.

Maybe the third line — Scott Laughton centering Oskar Lindblom and van Riemsdyk — will start cashing in on its five-on-five chances, and Cam Atkinson (no goals in the last six games) and Joel Farabee (no goals in the last eight games) will resume their earlier form.

For now, though, the Flyers are not finishing.

“We’re getting our shots, but maybe not enough quality chances,” center Sean Couturier said after Wednesday’s sleepy 3-0 loss to Toronto at the Wells Fargo Center. “If I had the answer, I’m sure we’d be better.”

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“At the end of the day, we have to find a way to get pucks through, and to get forwards in front of the net,” captain Claude Giroux added.

Commendable record

When you consider the offense’s struggles over the last two weeks, the Flyers have done a commendable job to start the season 6-3-2. They have scored just eight goals (excluding an empty-netter) over their last six games. That’s an average of 1.33 goals per game and not a formula for success. Excluding empty-net goals, the Flyers haven’t scored three goals in a game since Oct. 27.

There has been too much passing. Not enough zone time. Not enough cycles. Not enough traffic in front to distract the goaltenders.

And the power play, which was flat-out awful as it went 0-for-4 and collected just four shots in Wednesday’s loss, has struggled mightily, going 1-for-14 in the last five games — and 2-for-21 over the last seven.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Yandle said after Wednesday’s defeat, referring to the power play. “Obviously every time you’re not going to score, but you have to go out and get momentum. We talk about that and obviously we didn’t do that tonight. It’s one of those things that happen during the season, where you have to go back and look at it and get better from it.”

Surprisingly, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault didn’t sound too concerned Wednesday about the team’s offensive demise.

“There’s obviously some adjustments we tried to make in-game tonight on the power play,” he said about moving Yandle back to the top unit on the Flyers’ third man-advantage of the game. “They didn’t work out. We’ll take the time here to analyze. In five-on-five, I liked our zone time. I’d like us to be a little bit quicker at getting pucks to the net. … But for the most part, we’re generating some good looks five-on-five.”

Changes coming?

Asked if he was close to making some line changes to shake things up, Vigneault said he wanted to take another look at the video of Wednesday’s loss, one in which the Flyers outshot the Leafs, 36-33, but had most of their attempts from the outside.

“Our group has been pretty good so far,” he said. “It won’t be perfect all the time, and obviously we weren’t perfect tonight.”

He talked about the Laughton line getting good looks but being snakebitten.

“Sometimes, for whatever reason, the puck doesn’t find the back of the net, and you have to keep playing the right way, keep believing in the right things and sooner or later it works out for you,” said Vigneault, whose team’s offense has vanished after scoring 23 goals over its first five games.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Flyers play Friday in Carolina.

“They’ve been a really good team the last four or five years,” Yandle said. “It’s a tough building to play in.”

Particularly against a relentless Hurricanes team that is an NHL-best 10-1 and has allowed a league-low 1.91 goals per game.

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