Flyers look to get their offense back on track

James van Riemsdyk

PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps overshadowed by the Flyers’ recent 5-1-2 surge was a rather severe scoring slump which has coach Alain Vigneault a bit concerned.

Heading into Saturday night’s game, the Flyers had scored just 26 goals in their last 10 games (easy math, 2.6 goals per game) and, as Vigneault pointed out, they were being outscored in five-on-five play for the season.

“That (lack of scoring) is something that we, as a staff, have been talking about for the last little while,’’ Vigneault said before the game against the Islanders. “I believe that five-on-five we need to be better than we have.

“We’re a minus team right now five-on-five. There’s no doubt that teams that get into the playoffs are on the plus side. So we’re not there right now as far as our five-on-five play.’’

The Flyers haven’t disappointed Vigneault in terms of effort.

“I think our process is good,’’ he said. “We’re getting a lot of chances. We’re just not putting the puck in the back of the net.

“I believe we have to keep doing the right things. But sooner or later, our guys have to find a way to get those results.’’

The stats sheet tells the story.

Going into the Islanders game, Kevin Hayes had not scored in 10 games, Jake Voracek in nine and James van Riemsdyk had just one goal in his last 10 games.

Vigneault pointed to Friday night’s 2-1 loss at Ottawa as an example.

“We’re playing a real good game and it’s 1-0 (Flyers),’’ he said. “If we make it 2-0, we hurt their will a little bit and we weren’t able to do that.’’

One thing working in the Flyers’ favor is their performance on the power play. Through 19 games, Philadelphia was ranked 16th at 20.2 percent.

However, even the man-advantage units have stumbled a bit of late, going two for the last 20 and five for the last 39.

“I still think five-on-five you have to be on the plus-side,’’ Vigneault said “I think right now we’re minus three or four. We need to get on the plus side. To do that, continue with the process.

“But you have to go to the tough areas. Most of the goals are scored a couple feet from the goaltender. You have to have that willingness to play inside.’’

Van Riemsdyk believes the chances will eventually get positive results, especially on the power play.

“Sometimes it’s finishing sort of stuff,’’ he said. “To be honest, that’s something where if we get that going good, it bleeds over into the five-on-five.

“I think if you’re feeling good about the power play, and getting it going as good as it can be, it will definitely help us create more five-on-five.’’

>First quarter evaluation

The Flyers hit their 20-game mark on Saturday night and Vigneault expressed general satisfaction with his team’s progress. But there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

They entered Saturday play third in the Metro Division standings.

“Not knowing what we (the coaches) had to work with, I believe we’re a work in progress,’’ Vigneault said. “I really believe we have steps forward to make.

“We’re not where I want this team to be or our team wants to be. But we’re in a good place. We’re right there with a lot of good teams, battling.’’

Added van Riemsdyk: “Ultimately, you know with this many new faces and having a new coaching staff there’s going to be an adjustment period. I still think we have room to get better and room to find that cohesion. We’ve put ourselves in playoff position and we just want to try to cement that status.’’

Good health has played a part in what success the Flyers have enjoyed.

They entered the New York game with only 32 man-games lost to injury (a pace of about 145). Last year they lost 245 man-games to injury.

Does the Flyers’ training staff deserve some credit? The only two sidelined players (Nolan Patrick, chronic migraines; Scott Laughton, broken finger) could not be associated with training issues.

“There’s no doubt our training staff is very professional,’’ Vigneault said. “They do what they need to do to make sure the players are in great form. . .getting the rest, recovery, nutrition they need.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2411 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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