Previously looking down on the rest of their foes, they now find themselves in fifth place. The red-hot New York Islanders are now in first place after winning five straight contests, and seven out of their last eight. The Capitals are now in second place with 32 points, followed by the Bruins and the Penguins in a tie for third place with 29 points.
The emergence of the Islanders this past month is a major issue for Philly, as it adds yet another team to fight for those top three spots. Since return from the mid-season break caused by COVID-19, the Flyers have struggled with consistency against some of the better opposition in the division, as we saw against Pittsburgh and the Capitals this past Sunday.
I would argue the main reason for this inconsistency is the struggling special teams play, both on the powerplay and increasingly on the penalty kill. The Flyers currently have the 22nd ranked PP unit and the 28th ranked penalty kill, with the PK being a huge red flag, especially in such a competitive division. This weekend we saw multiple lapses in coverage and positioning that can’t be overcome against teams like Pittsburgh.
Watch Evgeni Malkin just stroll around the back of the net for an easy wrap-around goal. You cannot let a man with 1000+ points and counting cash in a goal this easily.
Against the Pens on Saturday, the Flyers PK suffered two goals against in the first period. An improved penalty kill is vital to the Flyers getting into the playoffs this season, and acquiring a Mattias Ekholm should absolutely be on Chuck Fletcher’s mind right now.
Regarding the powerplay unit, there are moments where we look dangerous and others where we struggle with opponents’ PK units applying major pressure in their zone. Over the next few games, the Flyers need to get back to trying to open up lanes from the point and having players like Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk around the net. Hayes did score the lone PP goal for the Flyers over the weekend with a sweet snipe:
The orange and black are facing either the most ideal opponent for a rebound game, or it is going to be the biggest trap game of the season. The Buffalo Sabres are currently in the middle of a seven-game losing streak, and have lost their last three games by a score of 5-2.
Puck drops at 7:00 PM tomorrow night, let’s get back in the win column.