Flyers-Penguins: Postgame Review
Things keep going from bad to worse for the Flyers as they dropped yet another game to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, 5-2.
That's now four straight losses for the Flyers, who are suddenly going through the motions of these games and falling into some of the same bad habits that led to a 10-game losing streak back in November.
Let's get to it with our Postgame Review.
- Power Outage - The Flyers went 0-for-5 on the power play, and that's really where this loss can start. There were a lot of reasons the Flyers ended up on the wrong end of the result, and the first two power plays were abbreviated in a first period that lacked any flow whatsoever.
But the Flyers had three other power plays, all at times when they could take back control of the momentum. They failed on all accounts, and it's not just in trying to finish off opportunities. The opportunities don't even start. The entries are horrible. When they do get control, they are pressured into mistakes by penalty kill units that should be an example to their horrendous PK.
The biggest indicator of this was on the third-period power play. This was a chance to wake everyone back up, to get a crowd that had been knocked out of the game after trudging through bad weather conditions to be in the building, and this is the disappointment you give them?
It isn't just this game either. The Flyers power play has been bad since, well, this losing streak began. The Flyers were 0-for-2 against Carolina, 1-for-5 against Tampa, 0-for-2 against Florida and now 0-for-5 against Pittsburgh. If you add in the Montreal game, the Flyers are 1-for-17 in their last five games. That is not playoff quality.
- Off the Rush - Another game, another series of odd-man rushes gone bad.
To the Flyers credit, they didn't allow near as much open ice off transitions as they did in Florida, but once again, on the one they did, it was played poorly.
Andrew MacDonald was the lone man back on a two-on-one with Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary. MacDonald's positioning may have forced Crosby to take the shot, but MacDonald leaves his feet, leaving Sheary uncovered. Petr Mrazek allows a bad rebound and the puck is in the net a split-second later.
In the third period, the Flyers got a three-on-one and made one pass too many again. The Flyers overthink this process. Pittsburgh just lets it come to them. That's the difference between a Stanley Cup Champion and a team that has a long way to get to that level.
- Konecny Keeps Going - How about a bright spot from the game? There weren't many for the Orange and Black, but Travis Konecny is turning into the catalyst of the offense.
His goal in the second period was a showing of pure will and determination and his fiery celebration fit right into the rivalry night spirit. He now has 18 goals on the season too, certainly showing that he has the ability to be a consistent scorer for this team in the future.
At this point, he's the only scorer who is consistent. In the last four losses, Konecny has goals in three of them. The surprising part of this is that Konecny didn't score in the game where it felt like every other Flyer did, the 7-6 shootout loss to Tampa. Konecny had the only goal in the losses to Carolina and Florida and had one of the two against Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
He's boosting his own totals and he'd be helping the Flyers standing position if it didn't feel like he was acting alone.
- Losing is Contagious Too - For a stretch of three weeks, the Flyers won on a regular basis. From Feb. 6 to Feb. 28, the Flyers lost one game, in a shootout no less, and won the other 10 they played. With the 10-0-1 stretch coming in the aftermath of the Eagles win in Super Bowl LII, it seemed that winning was contagious around the city and for the team itself, as each win started to become more dramatic than the next.
But losing is also contagious, and the Flyers are starting another epidemic. These aren't just losses, these are complete mismatches. To think that the Flyers most competitive game to this point was a 7-6 shootout in Tampa is just ridiculous, but it's true.
Losing isn't the only thing that becomes contagious. The Flyers penalty kill struggles have been a season-long thing, but that gets magnified when every goal holds meaning and wins are hard to come by. The power-play has gone cold. The goaltending has been mediocre. The defense hasn't been much better. The passing isn't crisp and accurate. They don't shoot enough. They overthink the simple plays. The overall play has been average at best, but certainly not to the standards of a playoff team.
The Flyers playoff status still isn't at stake yet, but it could be soon. But more than anything, the confidence that once surrounded this team seems to be completely gone at the wrong time.
- Prove It - The month of March, following the loss to Carolina on the first of the month, was going to be about seeing better competition. This was a chance for the Flyers to go toe-to-toe with the Eastern Conference's best teams and a few of the top teams in the West.
For a change, Wednesday night's game was supposed to be a rivalry renewed in a sense, two teams, cross-state rivals, both battling for the division title in a potential playoff preview. Mike Milbury was right in postgame. It was a complete dud.
There was absolutely nothing exciting about the final period. There was a brief period where the game had some of the back-and-forth and the energy that the Flyers usually bring to these games and the Penguins always have in these games, but it quickly disappeared and turned into the same game the Flyers played in January against the Penguins. It was just boring.
After failing to prove that they could match up with the Penguins, the Flyers now have to go to Boston to face a red-hot Bruins team. They get the Winnipeg Jets over the weekend and the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday. At this point, good luck holding your playoff spot. Nothing in these games will come easy, so if the Flyers don't start playing with some energy -- or jam as Peter Laviolette liked to say -- then the playoff picture is going to look different. Too many games will be played over the next week for the Flyers to lose out against these three teams to keep them where they are now. It won't happen and suddenly the playoffs will go back to being a question, not a certainty.
This is gut-check time for the Flyers, and it's fitting that Thursday's game is against the Bruins. Boston was the final opponent in the Flyers 10-game losing streak, a game that came right after a team meeting and comments from GM Ron Hextall that the game was a must-win. This is pretty much a must-win game now, just to prove that the team can snap out of this losing skid and try to turn the page.