PHILADELPHIA – When words like cheating, shortcuts, “look in the mirror’’ and “clutter between the ears’’ come up, something is definitely wrong.
And something is definitely not right with the Flyers, who after Saturday’s embarrassing 6-1 loss to the New York Islanders have lost three straight games by a combined score of 13-2.
The Flyers, now 4-7, find themselves just one point out of the Metro Division basement, barely ahead of the last-place New York Rangers.
The only time the Flyers were three games below .500 last season occurred on Dec. 2 when they fell to 8-11-7.
Even the first start of the season for backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth failed to light a spark for the beleaguered Flyers.
Neuvirth, who suffered a groin injury in the preseason, did his best but he was under constant pressure from the Islanders. He allowed all five New York goals.
For the 10th time in 11 games, a Flyers’ opponent scored the first goal of the game. The Flyers are 4-6 in those games.
Who could have predicted the Flyers would be this inept, this so functionally unsound so early in the season?
Scott Laughton probably summed it up best when he said the Flyers are taking shortcuts in their game and basically getting burned because of it.
“We’re cheating for pucks,’’ Laughton said. “We’re cheating all over the zone. We’re hoping the puck gets outside the zone so we can get going, myself included.
“We have to move pucks quicker.’’
It’s still October but the Flyers need to get their act together or they’re going to be chasing a playoff spot again, much as they have had to do in each of the last three seasons (albeit twice successfully).
“We’re the only ones who are going to get us out of this,’’ Laughton said. “No one is going to feel sorry for us. Everyone has to take a deep breath and look in the mirror and see what you have to do better.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol said the Flyers have to get rid of the “clutter’’ in their minds.
“The first thing we have to do (is) a much better job handling a poor play, a goal against, a bounce against,’’ he said. “As soon as we gave up the first goal, then we start to chase a little bit.
“Honestly we tightened up in this building. And that’s not a very good formula to push back into a game. It leads to things like cheating on pucks and looking for plays that you hope are there.’’
Simplicity seems to be the solution.
“We have too much going on in between our ears,’’ Hakstol said. “I see that in our game. That’s my job to clear some of that out. So we can go out and play that game with a clear head. We have to simplify that and do better.’’
New York got off to a fast start on the Flyers (what’s new), with Leo Komarov doing the honors at 11:38 of the first period.
The line of Nolan Patrick-Jake Voracek-Oskar Lindblom was on the ice for this goal and, in fact, the next two New York goals.
Patrick and Voracek both finished the game a season-worst minus-4.
Just 1:42 later, the Islanders struck again. This time Anthony Beauvillier was the beneficiary of some strong forechecking work by Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle.
A two-on-one rush led to New York’s third goal, with defenseman Christian Folin stuck up ice, leaving Shayne Gostisbehere to face the attack.
Brock Nelson finished off Josh Bailey’s set-up pass to make it 3-0.
That pretty much sealed the deal in these proceedings.
There was plenty of blame to go around.
“Giving up six goals obviously didn’t help much,’’ Neuvirth said. “Got to be better.’’
As for the team’s overall mood, he added: “I think it’s the team’s confidence. Once we get scored on, we get too hard on ourselves. It’s all about confidence right now.’’
The Flyers’ top two defensemen, Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, are both a surprising minus-8 and they’ve been as much a part of the problem as the solution.
“We’re making a lot of ‘hope’ plays out there,’’ Gostisbehere said. “We’re just waiting for something to happen. It’s getting the puck in deep, forechecking hard, making all the easy things and then those bounces will come.’’
Jori Lehtera finally got the Flyers on the scoreboard at 6:28. The Islanders fumbled the puck in front and Lehtera was able to poke a short shot past Thomas Greiss for his first goal of the season.
But the Islanders came back in the third period to net three more on goals by Adam Pelech, Nelson and Anders Lee to put the game away.
The Flyers’ power play went 0 for 3 and now is just one for its last 20 attempts.
The Flyers are 0-6-0 when trailing after two periods. . .Philadelphia now leaves on a four-game road trip through Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Arizona before returning Nov. 8 to play the Coyotes. . .Jordan Weal and Andrew MacDonald were scratched. . .Rookie center Mikhail Vorobyev returned to the lineup after a four-game absence and centered the third line of Laughton and Wayne Simmonds.
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