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Do Flyers need a shakeup? Next 2 months will decide | Sam Carchidi

The Flyers are off to another slow start, and general manager Ron Hextall might not be patient with the team he constructed by the end of 2018.

The Flyers' goalie corps entered Friday with the worst save percentage in the NHL.
The Flyers' goalie corps entered Friday with the worst save percentage in the NHL.Read moreMichael Dwyer / AP

When a team leads the league in faceoff percentage, as the Flyers do, it's usually a good sign.

Getting control of the puck means more time in the opponent's end and less time for the Flyers' struggling goalies to be exposed.


That hasn't been the case in the first 10 games, however.

The Flyers' .576 winning percentage on faceoffs has been trumped by this number: an .865 save percentage by their goalies, which was last in the NHL entering Friday.

"We watch video after games all the time, and we've put our goalies in a really tough position," captain Claude Giroux said. "It's not about how many shots we give up; it's the quality shots, and we have to do a better job in front of them."

That seems to be a common theme in the Flyers' locker room: They aren't giving their goalies enough help.

"When you're giving up quality opportunities, you can't rely on your goalie to bail you out every time," defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "The players are too good in this league, and they're going to score goals if you give them chances."

The Flyers' poor goals-against average (3.97) and save percentage "have more to do with everyone as a whole and how we're playing as a group collectively out there," MacDonald said. "We're off and on so far this year. When we're on, we're playing well, but when we're off, we're kind of playing all over the place."

"We are up, and we are down," coach Dave Hakstol said earlier in the week. "We have to find the consistency in habits that lead us to the next level of play."

You would think that, since this is Hakstol's fourth year, and he has had many of the same players, those habits would be automatic by now. But that's a story for another day.

There's no debate that consistency — a trait the elite teams possess — has been an issue in Hakstol's tenure.

"Once we establish that," said MacDonald, mindful the Flyers also struggled in the first two months last year before regrouping and having the league's fifth-most points from Dec. 4 until the end of the season,  "I think that we'll show our true colors."

Thursday's 3-0 loss in Boston was a positive step from a defensive standpoint. The Flyers shut down Boston's vaunted top line, limited the Bruins' Grade A chances, and goalie Brian Elliott played one of his best games of the season. One goal was an empty-netter, and Elliott had no chance on the other tallies. One deflected past him after it hit MacDonald, and the other was a power-play tip-in by an uncovered player.

Still, despite Elliott's strong performance, he was outplayed by his counterpart, Jaroslav Halak. That was a common development in the first 10 games. Opposing goalies have been much better than the Flyers' goaltenders.

Some of that is because the Flyers don't have a hell-bent scorer's mentality around the net. They make things too easy for the other teams' goalies.

Some of it is because the Flyers are playing too tentatively. Case in point: On Thursday, they faced a Boston team that was coming off a Western Canada trip and didn't look like itself in the first period. But instead of taking advantage of a tired team, the Flyers played as if they were afraid to make a mistake in the opening 20 minutes, which ended in a scoreless tie.

"We're pretty much a perimeter team right now," defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said after the loss to a Bruins team that used a patchwork defense because of injuries to three regulars.

Maybe when James van Riemsdyk returns next month from a knee injury and Wayne Simmonds displays his mojo on a more consistent basis, the Flyers will get more "dirty" goals around the net.

Maybe general manager Ron Hextall, whose trademark patience has to be running low, will soon make a deal to add a much-needed penalty killer with speed.

Maybe the young defense will keep improving, and the team's poor starts in games will be erased, making the first three-plus weeks of the season an anomaly.

If none of that happens, there is a growing sense that Mount Hextall will erupt and major moves — whether it's trades (Simmonds?) or coaching changes — will be made before the end of 2018.

The clock is ticking. The Flyers, from this perspective, have two months, tops, to show their general manger they are worth keeping together.