In the season's first month, the Flyers' special teams have been superb.

In addition, the team has shown more discipline than last season, and has reduced its penalties.

Why, then, are the Flyers off to a less-than-auspicious start?

Because other problems - some new, some old - have surfaced.

New: The Flyers have had a penchant for allowing goals late in a period. In their last six games before yesterday, they had surrendered six goals (excluding empty-netters) in the final 3 minutes, 52 seconds of a period.

Old: Like last season, the team has struggled in even-strength situations. When five on five, they had been outscored, 18-17, entering yesterday.

By comparison, the rival Pittsburgh Penguins went into the weekend outscoring their opponents, 27-15, in five-on-five situations.

In short, the Flyers are relying too much on their power play to score goals.

"We have to do much better when we're five on five," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said.

Winger Scott Hartnell agreed.

"The power play has done a really good job of keeping us in games, but we definitely need to pick it up on five on fives," said Hartnell after collecting a goal and two assists in yesterday's 6-1 win over Carolina. "It's a matter of bearing down on our chances. I think everyone may be gripping the stick too tight; we need to relax a little and it'll come."

Said Matt Carle: "We just need to get our forecheck established and spread the puck out a little in the offensive zone."

The effort has been there. Ditto the scoring chances. The Flyers outshot their opponents in nine of their first 10 games.

But as closers, the Flyers haven't been Mariano Rivera-like, if you get my drift.

"We're spending a lot of time in the offensive zone; our pressure game is very good right now," coach John Stevens said the other day, "but we're not finishing, and that's the concern."

The Flyers have missed Mike Knuble's presence around the net. Knuble, who signed with Washington in the off-season, not only distracted goalies with his big body but he also was adept at scoring on loose pucks out front.

The Flyers need a garbage man in that mold.

They have gotten more offensive production from their defense, especially Chris Pronger and Carle, but they have yet to find someone to replace Knuble's goal-scoring skills.

"You have to go to the net with a purpose," Stevens said.

On Tuesday, the Flyers had a staggering 82 shots - 43 on goal, 19 that missed the net, and 20 that were blocked.

But all those scoring chances didn't translate into much as the Flyers managed just two goals, losing in Washington, 4-2.

"Sometimes, you need a reminder that they have to be as committed offensively as they are defensively," Stevens said, "and that takes work and determination and just a little more extra focus when you have chances to score."

With Simon Gagne sidelined by two hernias, the Flyers are missing three players - Gagne (34 goals last season), Knuble (27), and the traded Joffrey Lupul (25) - who combined for 86 goals last season.

The Flyers need the scuffling Jeff Carter - he has not scored a goal in seven straight games - to pick up some of the scoring slack.

An offensive funk has prevented the Flyers from getting off to the kind of sizzling start that, with the addition of Pronger, many envisioned.

A letdown at the end of periods has also been a factor. Late-period goals contributed mightily to three of their four losses heading into yesterday.

"You don't want to go into the dressing room on a downer. You want to finish the period strong," Hartnell said. "It might be a mental thing that you back off a little bit because it's the end of the period and, bam, it's in your net.

"We just have to be a little more intense, bear down a little more, and good things will start happening. We're right there."

We shall see.

Inside the Flyers:

Read Sam Carchidi's Flyers blog, Broad Street Bull, at http://go.philly.com/sports.

Blog response of the week

Subject: Fixing the Flyers.

Posted By: Jdeang at 9:26 a.m., 10/28/2009

I think a problem with the Flyers is they have too many centers and not enough good wingers. I would like to see them put Briere back at center, along with Giroux, Richards, and Powe (also at center), and move Carter to a winger, where I think he is much better suited given his shot. I would also like to see a line with Giroux centering Carter and JVR [James van Riemsdyk] . . .. I really like the way JVR is playing . . .. It will be hard to make a deal for a good winger, given where the Flyers are with the cap. Perhaps they should call up some players similar to what the Bruins have done, which gave them a big spark after some injuries and a lackluster start.EndText