Flyers need to look forward during break
Craig Berube and the Flyers rank dead last in the NHL with two points this season. (USA Today Images)
Maybe a six-day break is exactly what the Flyers need.
After suffering an ugly 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, the Flyers are idle until the New York Rangers come to the Wells Fargo Center later this week.
A break in the schedule couldn't have come at a better time for the Flyers, who are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and off to the worst start in team history (1-7-0). It also provides a chance for several banged up Flyers -- Kimmo Timonen, Vinny Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell just to name a few -- to heal up some early-season bumps and bruises.
New head coach Craig Berube, who replaced Peter Laviolette on Oct. 7, has plenty of practice time to implement his systems and work on the team's conditioning. Berube said earlier this week that he wants the Flyers to be more aggressive in the neutral zone and to improve their speed. The Flyers were given Saturday off, but expect Berube to have the team on the ice in each of the next five days.
With just two games on the schedule this week, here are a few storylines we're going to be keeping an eye on:
Started from the bottom
After spending much of last season towards the bottom of the Atlantic Division, the Flyers haven't gotten off to a strong start in the new Metropolitan Division. In fact, the Flyers woke up Sunday ranked dead last in the NHL with just two points.
Not to worry. Every team in the Metro, with the exception of the Penguins, has a losing record and glaring flaws of their own. Although other clubs within the division are likely to pick up some points before the Flyers play next, the season is still young. Look at the bright side, this could be the longest period between Flyer losses this season. Stay tuned.
Where are the goals?
Eight games, 11 goals. The Flyers are averaging just 1.38 goals per game, which is second-worst in the NHL. That's obviously not going to win you many games. If the Flyers want to climb out of the cellar of the Metro Division, they are going to need their stars to start finding the back of the net.
As of Sunday morning, Phoenix Coyotes netminder Mike Smith has one more goal than five prominent Flyer forwards -- Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell, Matt Read and Sean Couturier. Yes, you read that correctly.
McGinn stepping up
Since being called up from the Adirondack Phantoms, Tye McGinn has been one of the Flyers best forwards in each of the three games that he's played.
The 23-year-old is first on the Flyers in goals with three and has made an immediate impact on the top line. McGinn has averaged just under 16 minutes per game this season and hasn't been afraid to take a beating between the circles.
McGinn was held scoreless against Pittsburgh and played just 11 minutes. With Lecavalier and Hartnell returning to the lineup soon, McGinn's ice time will continue to decrease but the forward may have earned himself more games with the big club in the future -- just in a much different role. One thing is for sure: the Flyers can always count on McGinn for energy.
When was the last time the Rangers can say they had a problem in net? Since entering the league in 2005, Henrik Lundqvist has been a constant between the pipes for New York, winning at least 30 games a season -- with the exception of last year's lockout-shortened campaign in which he won 24 contests.
Lundqvist, however, has struggled in the early going for the Blueshirts. In seven games this season, he is 2-4-0 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .890 save percentage.
The 31-year-old will likely be in the crease for New York when the Flyers host the Rangers Thursday and that's a bad thing for the orange and black. The former Vezina winner is 25-12-3-3 with a 2.52 GAA and .914 save percentage in 42 career regular-season starts against the Flyers.
The Flyers will take on the New York Islanders for the first time this season on Saturday and they would be smart to keep and eye on John Tavares
Tavares, who was named New York's new captain this offseason, is off to a strong start for the Isles. The 23-year-old has four goals and six assists through eight games and has emerged as an elite center over the past few seasons.
The former first-overall pick was a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL's most valuable player, after scoring 47 points last season. He has nine goals and eight assists in 22 career regular-season games against the Flyers.