Kevin Hayes’ season pretty much typifies that of the entire Flyers’ roster.
Coming off an eye-opening first season with the Flyers – 23 goals, four of them an NHL-leading four shorthanded – Hayes got off to a good start this campaign.
But then, shortly after the COVID pause, things went downhill in March and that negative trend continues.
While Hayes does have 11 goals in 45 games and should finish this pandemic-shortened, 56-game season on a pace similar to last year, the 28-year-old Dorchester, Massachusetts native knows he hasn’t met his usual high standard of play.
“I think the work ethic of this team, myself included, is there, everyone wants to be great,’’ Hayes said on media Zoom call after Wednesday’s practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.
“I would say I’ve had an average year. I want to help the team every single night and I felt I haven’t done that as much this year. It’s something I need to work on.’’
It’s a known fact, when a team struggles, individual players usually have a tougher hill to climb in order to achieve personal goals.
So what’s the solution?
“You try to be consistent for a full 60 minutes ever night,’’ Hayes said. “Not doing that night-in, night-out has kind of bit us in the butt a couple times. That’s something that needs to change.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault doesn’t mince words when evaluating his veteran players.
When the Flyers lost to the Islanders, 1-0, in overtime on Sunday night, Vigneault made it a point to criticize a misplay by Hayes which led to the winning goal by New York’s Nick Leddy.
“Kevin had a good start,’’ Vigneault said. “But the last little while it’s been a bit more challenging. He is at his best when he’s committed to playing the right way, a 200-foot game.
“A lot of his offense comes from him being in the right spots defensively, a good stick, good positioning on the right side of the check – and then he can counter, both off the rush or in the other team’s end.’’
With so many players in and out of the lineup due to COVID and injuries, Hayes really hasn’t had a set line for most of the season, which could explain why he’s struggled in areas Vigneault talked about.
“When he gets away from that, his game slips a little bit,’’ Vigneault confirmed. “We’ve got 11 games here and I expect him to be a force. He’s a veteran player on our team, at the prime of his career age-wise and we need him to play well.’’
>Sprained knee to sideline Hart two more games
Vigneault said goaltender Carter Hart, who suffered a sprained knee in last Thursday’s game at Pittsburgh, will not make the trip to New York for the Thursday-Friday games against the Rangers.
“For Carter, it’s just taking a little longer than we anticipated,’’ Vigneault said. “It’s not serious. Hopefully in the next few days he’s back on the ice with his teammates.
“I’m hoping when we come back from New York he will be skating with us.’’
Brian Elliott will start the Thursday game with Alex Lyon as backup. Vigneault wants to see how much work Elliott gets in the first game before committing to a starter on Friday.
Meanwhile, rookie Tanner Laczynski also will be out for awhile due to what Vigneault is calling a hip issue.
“He’s getting a second opinion today,’’ the coach said. “So we should know more in the next couple days.’’
>Are Flyers too easy to play against?
Sean Couturier turned a few heads on Tuesday when he said the Flyers have been “a little too easy to play against.’’
Does Vigneault agree?
“I don’t know if it’s an energy thing, a non-practice thing,’’ Vigneault responded. “It’s too early for me to getting into analyzing how this all evolved.’’
>Sanheim on upward trend
Although Travis Sanheim accidentally poked the puck into his own net to hand the Islanders their win on Sunday, his overall play has improved over the past few weeks.
“For the most part his game has been good,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s been skating well, he’s been jumping up in the play. Defensively he’s had a good stick.
“Some games, because we’ve used him so much and he’s played a lot of hockey, maybe his play has slipped a little bit. But for the most part, I like his overall progression.’’
The Flyers find themselves at the bottom of NHL team rankings for shorthanded goals because they don’t have any.
Also, they have struggled in the penalty killing department all season. That wasn’t the case last season.
Ivan Provorov is as mystified as anybody over this lack of success.
Is it just puck luck or maybe a flaw in the system?
“I think it’s a little bit of both,’’ Provorov said. “I think it’s some tough bounces, for example, the one game we lost to Boston, 4-3, in overtime. We’re up 3-2 and then they scored with less than 10 seconds left.
“They scored again on the power play in OT. So there have been some bounces like that but at times we have a breakdown. We just have to play better, play tighter and everyone’s got to be willing to block shots when the time comes.’’