Unfortunately, that ship began to sink again after two straight defeats to the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1) and New York Rangers (2-1). The Flyers know it's not time to panic, yet they also know there is definitely some urgency needed in their game, especially because of the shortened season (48 games).
If there is any good time to turn things around it is now, and the Flyers will have a great chance to redeem themselves in back-to-back games versus the 12th and 15th-place teams in the Eastern Conference.
Tonight, Philadelphia clashes with the Washington Capitals (1-5-1), who are currently last place in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals got their one and only victory Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres (3-2). Both Philadelphia and Washington have struggled to score goals this season. In 7 games, the Capitals scored only 15 goals, while the Flyers have just 14. Philadelphia has scored 3 goals or more only one time this season, while the Capitals have only accomplished the feat twice. Superstars Alex Ovechkin and Claude Giroux have a combined 3 goals and 6 points.
Special teams have not been very special for either squad. The Flyers Power Play ranks 23rd, while the Capitals rank 21st in the league. As bad as their Power Play is, their penalty kill is even worse. Washington's penalty kill ranks 26th, while Philadelphia is an abysmal 29th (2nd to last). Both teams have identical numbers scoring 5 Power Play goals and allowing 10 Power Play goals against in 7 games.
For the first time all season, the Flyers will be the well-rested team. Philadelphia had two days off for the first time this season, while the Capitals are coming off a 3-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night in Toronto. The Flyers played 7 games in the first 11 days to open the season. Two days of rest and practice should help get them start to get back on track.
The return of Danny Briere this week helps a lot as he brings his strong net presence and goal-scoring to a team that needs goals badly. Briere registered 10 shots in his last game (his 2nd highest total in his career). Briere is being placed on the first line with ex-roommate and newly appointed captain Claude Giroux tonight in hopes of lighting a spark under Claude. The young captain has scored a goal in the each of the first 2 games, yet has been very quiet since. Wayne Simmonds, the Flyers current points leader, will be the 3rd member of that first line.
Next, less than 24 hours later, on Saturday night, the Flyers will face the 12th-ranked Carolina Hurricanes (2-3). Carolina is another team struggling with special teams. They rank 27th on their PowerPlay and 24th on their penalty kill.
Scoring, however, hasn't been an issue for the Hurricanes. Newly acquired Jordan Staal is gelling quite nicely playing alongside his big brother Eric for the first time in his professional career. The Staal brothers have combined for 11 points in 5 games.
Ilya Bryzgalov (2.19 GAA), who has played very well for the Flyers will likely get both starts.
The Flyers will play 7 games in their next 12 days. Fortunately the schedule isn't nearly as challenging as their first 7 games. After the Capitals and the Hurricanes, the Flyers will face their biggest challenge during this stretch as they will embark in a rematch with the Tamp Bay Lightning. However, after the Lightning, the Flyers go on to play Florida, Carolina, Toronto, and Winnipeg. So in the next 12 days (7 games) they Flyers will only face 2 teams with a winning record: Toronto and Tampa Bay.
If the Flyers want to be taken seriously as a contender and want to get back in this sprint to the finish, now is the time. Leaders Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen all need to step up and lead by example starting with helping to improve their special teams so they can start winning some games and moving up in the standings.
- Friday Feb 1st @ Washington Capitals (1-5-1) @ 7:00 PM
- Saturday Feb 2nd vs Carolina Hurricanes (2-3) @ 7:00 PM
- Tuesday Feb 5th vs Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1) @ 7:30 PM
- Thursday Feb 7th vs Florida Panthers (2-5) @ 7:00 PM
Josh Kaz writes constantly about the Flyers at Drop The Puck.