November 20, 2017

Flyers need to get this figured out – before the spotlight turns to them

Flyers NHL
AP_17323556370766.jpg Chris Szagola/AP

Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds, left, has words with Calgary Flames' Travis Hamonic, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Philadelphia. The Flames won 5-4 in overtime.

The Flyers have the great fortune of being blessed by timing. Right now, the Philadelphia sports landscape is gaga about the NFL-leading Eagles after their 37-9 triumph on national TV over the hated Dallas Cowboys. Right now, the 76ers are 8-7 — and 7-3 over their last 10, which includes making the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors sweat out a comeback victory Saturday night.

And right now, the Flyers sit at the bottom of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division with an 8-8-4 record, losers of their last four games, 1-5 over their last six and 3-7 over their last 10. This month, they’re 2-6 hosting Vancouver Tuesday night.

For the second-straight game, the Flyers blew a two-goal lead to lose in overtime, dropping a 5-4 decision to the visiting Calgary Flames Saturday afternoon.

The front line has been the only consistent scoring threat the Flyers have, but as has been the case with this team this year, when one problem goes away, another always appears to emerge. The new one is holding down leads.

The Flyers were 3-1 in the opening period against Calgary, before unraveling. That came after being up 2-0 in the first period in Winnipeg, before blowing that in the last minute of regulation — and then losing in overtime.

What’s more is that no one seems to have answers to some of the problems that ails this team.

“It’s tough when you’re always in the box trying to control a game,” said top-line center Sean Couturier after the loss on Saturday. Couturier has been one of the bright spots in what has so far been a dismal season in replying to the Flyers’ inability to hold a lead. “That gives the other team momentum. I think we’re playing well five-on-five. We’re just undisciplined and that gives the other team a chance to get back into the game.

“We were outshooting [Calgary] at one point, and penalties allowed them to get back into the game. We have to be better at the PK [penalty kill], but at the same time, we have to be more disciplined. We have to stay focused on what we can control. Certainly yapping at the refs isn’t going to help us.”

That was a veiled reference to Shayne Gostisbehere getting hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty. It was uncharacteristic of Gostisbehere, but it still happened — and it hurt the Flyers.

“I wasn’t a good team player there and that was in the heat of the moment, obviously,” reasoned Gostisbehere. “I really let my team down. Collectively, I thought we were disciplined the last couple of games.”

It’s November and the Flyers find themselves at a crossroads.

Again, the work ethic is there. They’re playing hard for coach Dave Hakstol. The end result, however, has been lacking.

“It’s not deflating, it pisses you off, pardon my language, when things are a little within our control at that point in time,” said Hakstol in reply to a question about the lost leads the last two games.

In the meantime, the Flyers can slip under the wary eye of the scrutinizing Philly sports fan. Their collective eyes are on other places this November.