Five things the Flyers need to address as the start of 2018 unfolds:
> Special teams: Philadelphia began Tuesday night’s game against Pittsburgh ranked 14th on the power play (19.6 percent) and 29th on the penalty kill (76.9 percent). If the Flyers have designs on a playoff spot (however unlikely that might sound), both areas need to improve. On the kill, Philly’s 31 goals allowed are only surpassed by Vancouver’s 32 and Edmonton’s 35. On the PP, the scoring is OK, but the Flyers don’t seem to connect at opportune moments.
> Goaltending balance: It’s not that 32-year-old Brian Elliott started his 14th straight game on Tuesday night. It’s that Michal Neuvirth most likely will be awfully rusty when he does get a start. And one has to wonder if Elliott, who was leading the NHL in goaltending minutes for December when he left the ice Friday night, might begin to wear down at some point.
>The home-ice disadvantage: The Flyers’ home record (8-8-4) is not as good as their road record (8-7-4). That has to change, mainly because it’s unlikely the Flyers’ road record will stay above .500 much longer.
>Faster starts: The numbers probably aren’t different than most teams: The Flyers are 10-3-3 when they score first, 6-12-5 when they don’t. The real problem here is the Flyers have only scored first 16 times while their opponents have recorded the initial goal on 23 occasions. >
>Team goal differential: Yes, the Flyers have been among the NHL leaders in five-on-five goals for most of the season but they were a minus-3 in overall goal differential heading into game No. 39. Teams who finish in the red at the end of the season usually head to the green (of the golf course).