Donnellon: Top of the Flyers' wish list is a greasy goal or two
You hear the phrase most often when a team isn't getting them. We all know 'em when we see 'em, and the embraced theory is they are a by-product of effort and persistence.
The Flyers insist, to a man, that they have been persistent over a scoring malaise that has now extended well beyond a month. Once among the league's top scoring teams when the season started, they now hover near the bottom feeders, their shot percentage indicative of a room full of players who could all use an eye exam.
The Flyers have surrendered the first goal to the opposition a bunch this season. While this is suggestive of a team with a bad starter, the reality is they often emerge from the first period with a shot advantage, sometimes even a misleadingly excessive one. On Monday, for example, the Flyers outshot the St. Louis Blues by 11-1 in the first period and 11-4 in the third period, scoring not a single goal via those 22 shots. Or the four they mustered in the middle period.
They lived on their goals in the battle zones early, one big reason Wayne Simmonds was named an All-Star.
They are gasping without them now.
"Sometimes it happens,'' groused Simmonds, when someone brought this up the other day. "It's hockey. You don't always put the puck in the back of the net. We just have to keep working at it.''
"The results haven't been there,''Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "But you look at the rebound opportunities and opportunities that we did have in front of the net. There were some pretty good opportunities there.
"Can we be better in that area? Yes we can. Can we try to do a better job opening up the ice and creating a few more rush opportunities? Yes we can. Can we get a few more pucks to the net from our blueline? Absolutely. So there are some areas to do a better job. But the biggest thing is keeping a real positive mindset, sticking together and getting the job done.''
It is clear Hakstol is most concerned about that first thing listed. He already had to bench two of his more prized young players, Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere, to clear their heads. We are all keenly aware that Jake Voracek can put himself into quite a funk when he's not finding the net.
"I don't need to pump guys up,'' Hakstol insisted. "They're pretty smart, they're pretty sharp. They go out and do the job.''
But then… he said this: "One of the things – you know, you guys, at times you can make it tough. Because the reality over the last couple weeks is we're 4-2-1. Yet you get the feeling that on certain days that we haven't won a hockey game in three weeks. So… mindset is everything. Positive, sticking together, doing the things we do and going and doing them well.''
Hakstol is right about the numbers. The Flyers have been a statistical anomaly over the past three weeks. They beat the Rangers in New York thanks to an outrageous performance by Steve Mason, then eeked out a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs the following night, despite firing 34 shots. It gave them three wins in a row heading into the All-Star break and probably set them up for the clunker that followed it, a 5-1 dud down in Carolina that predicated the benching of the two young players.
Spackled all around it have been these tough-it-out games of points, and the bottom line, for now, is that the wheels have not fallen off yet.
But it would still be nice to put a little grease on 'em, eh?