If you listen to any recent episode of SOP Radio from Dave, Ryan and I, you’ll hear a constant theme from us.
The Philadelphia Flyers are not doing the little things on a consistent basis. Because of that, and multiple other reasons, the team has lost its last nine games. Not that you didn’t know that already.
I’m not going to go back to the game against the Sharks. I took that film, dumped it in hydrofluoric acid, lit the remains on fire and buried it in a field far, far away. Instead, I want to return to the game against the Penguins, where the Flyers nearly broke their streak.
Let’s start out with how the Penguins scored their first goal. It all began with an innocent looking play.
Jake Guentzel scored this goal because most notably he has a disgusting wrist shot. However, Travis Sanheim didn’t react in enough time to force Guentzel on his backhand to negate the scoring chance and even before that Jori Lehtera unnecessarily gave up possession of the puck.
Puck possession is one of the keys to winning any hockey game. I understand that sometimes a player has to dump the puck to change up the lines, but I’d rather a player circle back, hand the puck off to the defenseman and then go off for a change.
Line changes are a small nuance of the game that add up. This goal is a perfect example of that. Justin Schultz had all day and night to break out from his zone. There was no one forechecking the puck which means it was either a poor line change or someone wasn’t hustling.
Lehtera dumps the puck from the far side of the ice, which puts his replacement in a bad situation. After yielding control, Lehtera has to skate the width of the ice just to make a change. Had he chipped the puck in at center ice, maybe this goal doesn’t happen.
Now let’s take a look at the Flyers executing the little things correctly on this play, and getting a goal out of it. The orange and black were given a great opportunity with a 5-on-3 power play. Here, Claude Giroux wins the faceoff back to the point.
Giroux shifts back after winning the draw. Keep your eyes on the penalty killers at the top.
See how Shayne Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick get the penalty killers moving to set up the one-timer? By using quick passes, they get the defenders moving their feet. When Ghost gets the puck, the Penguins are above the hashmarks. When Patrick feeds Ghost, they’re below the hashmarks. This puck movement also prevents Matt Murray from squaring up to make a save.
Also, watch how Gostisbehere moves in after Patrick receives the puck. He’s well above the circles when he makes his pass. But by the time he tees up the shot, he’s one or two strides inside the circle.
This next clip doesn’t lead to a goal, but it does show the importance of doing the little things. Both the Penguins and the Flyers use the boards to create a scoring chance. Check out how the Penguins utilize Carl Hagelin’s speed. He’s like that fast kid at recess. Throw the ball as far as you can and he’ll come down with it.
Board passes can create scoring chances – as you saw in the Guentzel goal – because it forces the defender to turn his back to the play for just a split second. A team doesn’t need a burner for plays like this. The players just need to execute it correctly. You can see how Brandon Dumoulin gets caught with Danick Martel’s one-hander off the boards. It almost ended up in the back of the net.
The Flyers need to go back to doing the little things right. When losing skids happen, it’s the fundamentals that are being ignored. Ron Hextall was right. The Flyers have not played as bad as their record has shown, but they’re still 0-9. And no “coulda, shoulda, woulda” is going to change those two numbers. What the Orange and Black need to do is get back to doing the simple things. The rest will follow, and so will the wins.