This past week brought about more of the same for the Flyers: mind-numbing inconsistency. After providing some hope with a little streak of 4-1-1, the team proceeded to drop two crucial contests against currently superior Eastern Conference foes New Jersey and Montreal before flipping the script and dominating the New York Islanders. Now, the Flyers sit on the cusp of the playoffs, looking ahead at yet another opportunity to make up some ground after a tough task in Pittsburgh.
Since a seven-goal margin of victory is unsustainable, how can the Flyers continue to stay in the win column with less offense? They can start by continuing to make strides on their coverage in their own zone.
Before shutting out the Islanders, they gave up nine goals in two games (seven if you discount a few empty netters). On most of these occasions, the Flyers had three to four players below the circles, leaving the space between the blue line and the top of the circles wide open for the defenders.
While it didn’t necessarily lead to each goal, this space allows the defenders time to find holes in the defensive scheme the Flyers are employing. It proved to be a particular issue against the Devils and the Maple Leafs, and was less of a factor against the Islanders.
The Flyers need to tighten up their gaps between the defensemen in order to limit the shooting lanes and options they might have. This also gives the opposing defender less time to make decisions when they have the puck, possibly forcing them into a mistake. As it stands, the wingers flee to the points whenever they get the puck, but it leaves them exposed to things like a quick deke or pass. If they can tighten the gap sooner, they can be more prepared for what the defender might do.
When the Flyers face the Penguins tonight, they will find themselves on the wrong end of a game of keep away at numerous points in the contest. They need to stay calm and remain tight on their defensive responsibilities in order to limit the damage. If they can do this, they might find themselves with a pleasant boost before hosting the Panthers, Jets and Maple Leafs in Philadelphia.
A win against the division leader in their barn is exactly the way to turn an inconsistent season around and start a streak, but the Flyers need to make sure they show up to play or all momentum could be lost. Just 17 games into the season, it doesn’t get any more important than this.
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