10 observations from Flyers-Blue Jackets

10 observations from Flyers-Blue Jackets
January 24, 2014, 11:30 am
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Brandon Dunbinsky scored a goal in the third period as his Blue Jackets dominated Jake Voracek and the Flyers Thursday night. (USA Today Images)

Here are 10 thoughts on Thursday’s 5-2 pounding the Flyers took in Columbus, which extended their losing streak to three games (see story). The Flyers have not lost three straight since early December.

1. Poor starts
Another flat start for the Flyers during which they gave up the first goal in the opening period. They've given up 33 goals in the first period this season, yet more than half (17) have come in the last 17 games. That’s a bad trend that needs to be reversed.

2. Forecheck
Columbus spent the first four minutes of the period in the Flyers' end. The Blue Jackets had a terrific forecheck and simply dominated the Flyers. It was sign of how the game would go, as if the ice was tilted in front of goalie Ray Emery. The previous night against Carolina, the 'Canes had the Flyers pinned in their zone for the opening five minutes of play.

3. Breakouts
They continue to be a problem for the Flyers. The defense is coughing up the puck or committing to passes too soon under pressure while the forwards are not coming back far enough to help them or getting jammed along the half-wall. For several games now, the Flyers have been flipping passes under pressure without knowing if they can complete them safely or even clear the zone.

4. Luke Schenn
He continues to have all kinds of trouble in his own end. Jack Johnson’s point shot went off him past Emery for the first goal of the game. Schenn was screening Emery on the right post when he should have been at the opposite post taking out Corey Tropp, who was open. If Schenn allows Emery to see the shot, it’s a save. In the second period, Schenn had another coverage gaffe, chasing Derek MacKenzie to the boards and leaving the net unguarded. Schenn isn’t quick enough to do that and still get back in front of the net. As a result, MacKenzie looped from there to above the circle, then came down the slot for James Wisniewski’s pass and tied the game, 2-2. Schenn arrived in the crease after the goal was scored.

5. Defense and pressure
Once again, this game showed the Flyers lack enough speed on the back end to defend, prevent odd-man rushes or move the puck quickly up ice without getting trapped. Early in the third period, Wayne Simmonds and Braydon Coburn both had the puck along the wall at the blue line, trying to clear it. It became a board battle and resulted in the line getting caught as Brandon Dubinsky scored to make it 4-2. Clear the zone, and that doesn’t happen.

6. Penalties
They've been a recurring theme. The Flyers had seven in the game and faced another 5-on-3. The penalty kill is taking its toll on the lineup because some players are playing too many minutes shorthanded and not enough on their regular lines. Others are simply sitting. Scott Hartnell had three penalties in this game. Another mistake, Steve Downie went off late and got caught, and the Flyers were whistled for too many men on the ice.

7. Penalty kill
It was pretty good under the circumstances, officially giving up one goal, but it might as well have been two. Hartnell came out of the box in the third period just as Nate Horton undressed Andrej Meszaros with a cut move and wicked shot that blew the game apart at 5-2.

8. Vinny Lecavalier
The jury will remain out on whether breaking up Brayden Schenn’s line with Hartnell and Simmonds was a good move or not. Hartnell now has to adjust to Matt Read and Sean Couturier. Lecavalier scored on the power play -- just his second goal this month -- and could use a shot of confidence. Schenn was getting real comfortable at center, where he seems a better fit than on the left wing, but the move to put Lecavalier between him and Simmonds produced Schenn’s career-high 14th goal. Flyers coach Craig Berube liked what he saw of the line and will keep them together for now.

9. Power play
The Flyers' power play was terrible, going 1 for 6. Too many times there was no containment of the puck, no setups, no shots on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The Flyers had a 5-on-3 at the end of the second period, lost the faceoff, and Columbus cleared twice. If you lose a faceoff with two extra men, you're not boxing out man-to-man on the draw with three players. Worse, their 5-on-3 carried into the third period, but the Flyers couldn’t even set things up. No shots.

10. Puck possession
How many times in the game was Bobrovsky tested? Can you think of a single tough save? Emery had to make far too many, because the puck was constantly on the Blue Jackets' sticks. The game was played in one end, as the Flyers had no offensive attack and precious few rushes that produced scoring chances. Without shots or sustained offensive play, there were no rebounds. They made it easy on Bob.