PHILADELPHIA – Just about all season long, Flyers coach John Tortorella has relied on just four words to describe his team’s biggest shortcoming.
“We just can’t score.”
The numbers bear this out. Entering Thursday night’s game, their 71st of the campaign, the Flyers had notched just 187 goals, which ranks them 30th in the 32-team NHL.
However, in recent competition, the Flyers have suddenly found their shooting eye. On this current homestand, Philadelphia had posted 18 goals in the first four games at the Wells Fargo Center.
What’s been the difference?
“Well, I think the last couple of games we’ve been playing a little bit cleaner, closer support with the puck,” Scott Laughton said prior to the game.
Laughton has been a big proponent of keeping a close gap between the forwards and the defense.
“I think especially on our forecheck, when you’re connected like that,” Laughton said. “It’s not one and done all the time. So I think that’s been a better part of our game. It all kind of adds to being connected but in the neutral zone. Being able to get out of that and having support on the puck and having guys all around it and then our D are getting more touches up top.”
Forwards such as Joel Farabee have been the beneficiaries. He entered the Minnesota game with goals in his previous three games.
“Anytime you can see a couple guys kind of get rewarded for some of the work it’s good,” Laughton said. “We’re going to need that here down the stretch. . .have everyone contributing — that’s what has been happening the last couple games.”
Tortorella has been trying different line combinations. He seems to like a new unit of Farabee, Noah Cates and Owen Tippett, who registered his first career hat trick in last Friday’s win over Buffalo.
Overall, the Flyers just look like a more aggressive team.
“We’re definitely getting to the net better,” the coach said. “We’ve spent a lot of time with (video) tape, getting to that (scoring) area. . .having some depth to our offense. Sometimes when you tell players to go to the net, you’ve got two guys in front of the net but two guys in front of them.
“They gobble it up and go the other way. We’re trying to get some depth in some of our stuff in front of the net. I think our ‘D’ has put more pucks there, too. There’s nothing magical for us to score goals.”
>Zamula makes good impression
Rookie defenseman Egor Zamula, getting another brief trial this week, appears to be making a good impression with Tortorella. He posted a pair of assists in the win over Florida on Tuesday.
“He sees the ice,” Tortorella said. “But he has to move the puck quicker. I think that’s part of his progression. See the play, move it. Pass it harder.”
>Cates high ranks
Cates is enjoying a very good rookie season. Currently his plus-8 is tied for second among the top 10 NHL freshman scorers. Cates stands seventh in total points with 31. He is one of only two rookies with a shorthanded goal and his two shorthanded points are tied for first among first-year players.