Flyers Storylines: Slow week before road trip

Flyers Storylines: Slow week before road trip

Can Flyers correct defensive issues in time for Wild?

December 22, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have combined for 10 goals and 13 assists over the last seven games. (AP)

It's a good thing the rest of the Metropolitan Division has been struggling this season, too.

The Flyers failed to carryover the momentum gained in a furious rally against Columbus on Thursday into the second leg of their home-and-home series with the Blue Jackets on Saturday. The result? A disappointing 6-3 loss that dropped the orange and black back to .500 (16-16-4).

Somehow, the Flyers are still in a position to earn a playoff spot in a very mediocre Eastern Conference. They are one point behind the New Jersey Devils for the third guaranteed position in the Metro with a game in hand.

Every team goes through same issues in a season, whether it be tough scheduling, injuries or a slump. It's getting close to that part of the year where the winning teams will find a way to overcome those issues.

Are the Flyers one of those clubs? We'll find out soon enough. Here are some other storylines we'll be following this week:

Slow week
With only two games on the schedule this week, the Flyers have the opportunity to get some banged-up bodies off the ice. 

After returning home to face the Minnesota Wild on Monday, the Flyers will have a four-day break before traveling to Edmonton for a matchup with the Oilers on Saturday.

The Christmas break comes at a good time for Steve Downie (upper body), Nicklas Grossmann (flu) and Erik Gustafsson (left knee). It also gives Vinny Lecavalier, who returned to the Flyers' lineup almost two weeks ahead of schedule on Saturday, some extra time to rest his ailing back.

Still streaking
Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek kept their respective scoring streaks alive in the Flyers' loss to the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Giroux has at least one point in each of his last six games and the Flyers' captain shows no signs of slowing down, either. He's collected four goals and eight assists during his current streak and has been playing some spirited hockey.

As for Voracek, the 24-year-old extended his points streak to seven games after picking up an assist against Columbus. The Flyers' most valuable player from a season ago has scored in five of his last seven games and has 11 points (six goals) during that span.

Defense struggling
It's a good sign that the Flyers' offense has been able to put up a lot of goals as of late -- 19 in their last five games -- but their defensive-zone coverage has been atrocious.

The Flyers have allowed four or more regulation goals in seven of the 10 games they've played in December. With numbers like that, they're extremely lucky to have a 4-4-2 record this month.

Part of that has to do with goaltending. Steve Mason and Ray Emery were outstanding through Thanksgiving, but haven't been as sharp over the past two weeks.

However, Mason and Emery haven't been getting much help in front of the crease. Several breakdowns and turnovers have proved costly for the Flyers lately.

An example? The Blue Jackets scored twice off of point shots on Saturday. In both instances, the Flyers' forwards were too low in the defensive zone and the defensemen down low failed to clear the porch. It's something that's been happening regularly and needs to be addressed.

Hitting the road
Monday's clash with the Wild will be the Flyers' last game at Wells Fargo Center until Jan. 8.

Beginning in Edmonton later this week, the Flyers will play their next six games away from South Philly.

The trip comes at a bad time for the Flyers as they've dropped five in a row on the road.

Players to watch
Minnesota: The Flyers have been clicking on offense, but one player who will try to slow them down on Monday is defenseman Ryan Suter. Suter is an excellent two-way defender. Although he doesn't have a goal yet this season, the former Predator can hurt teams offensively. He's tied with Mikko Koivu for the Wild-lead in assists with 20.

Edmonton: The Oilers have plenty of young forwards that the Flyers will have to keep an eye on, but let's take a look at former first-overall pick Taylor Hall. Hall is leading Edmonton in scoring this season with 30 points (13 goals) in 31 games. Although he's injury-prone, the winger is emerging as a prolific scorer. He has 80 points in his last 76 games dating back to last season.