I am being realistic here; I know the Flyers have won 3 games in a row. I am not overly excited yet since they beat Tampa Bay, Carolina, and the Islanders. All of these teams will be in the lottery this coming spring and Carolina scored 3 goals in the last 11 minutes to tie the game last night. But 3 weeks ago these would have all been losses. Here is my take on the causes for the slump which they seem to be clawing out from. This is more like a chain reaction.
Cause 1: Goaltending. Emery was playing hurt and not making key saves. This put the Flyers behind and into comeback mode. Cause 2: Scoring. While trying to play from behind, the forwards got spread apart too much from the defense which creates long passes – which typically do not work. These turnovers led to more goals against. Cause 3: Lack of team play. While trying these constant stretch passes, the forwards were all put into NBA style one on one mode to score. This created no puck possession. Cause 4: Lack of puck possession. Now they never put any substantial time in the offensive zone, so your hurt goalie has to make more saves. Cause 5: Penalties. Being out of position forced players to make desparation moves and create nothing but bad penalties.
It was a vicious cycle that I can see them breaking at the moment. Boucher and Leighton have played like typical backup goalies. Both are capable for a short stretch and have at least righted the ship in the crease. Emery will be back after the Olympic break and will be needed. The forwards are back to playing as a unit on defense and closer together. This creates short passes and puck possession. The cycle is back in the offensive zone and players are passing the puck. When you have the puck and are not chasing it all night, you don’t take the dumb penalties. Has anyone noticed that we are taking hooking and stick fouls all of a sudden? I guess being accountable for dumb penalties pays off still. By avoiding the penalties, the ice time is spread around all the forwards more and they can play with more focused energy in the offensive zone.
I wish Holmgren made this coaching change during one of the long off periods early in the schedule and this prolonged slump might have been avoided. I was not a fan of John Stevens as a head coach. He shows no passion and a head coach must show passion and enjoyment for the game. He was basically a .500 coach and except for the playoff run 2 years ago, did little to help the team. He allowed them to play undisciplined and go unpunished by the team. If the Flyers didn’t win Game 7 against the Caps, Stevens would have been the coach that blew a 3-1 lead. We got lucky to win Game 7 and then rode a goalie playing out of his mind through Montreal.
The Flyers currently are currently only 2 points out of a playoff position and have plenty of time to climb the standings. They have more talent both up front and on defense than the teams they are chasing. Let’s face it one of the top 4 teams is going to have a tough 1st round matchup versus the Flyers come spring time.