The Flyers’ playoff hopes are all but buried alive, but we still have plenty to discuss after a busy week of hockey.
The Flyers took the ice four times and finished up with yet another inconsistent showing last week.
They pulled off a 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, dropped a disappointing 3-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, impressed with a strong 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and then were stifled in a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon.
Let’s take deeper dive into the week that was for the Flyers.
• While it was another one of those up-and-down weeks for the Flyers that we’ve all become used to, Sean Couturier stuck out in a good way this past week. Two plays, in particular, stuck out, and not just because the puck ended up in the back of the net each time. Sunday in overtime against Carolina, Couturier revved up on a quick and powerful solo rush up the ice, broke in on goalie Cam Ward and created a prime scoring opportunity that Brayden Schenn cleaned up for the game-winner. It was something we don’t see often enough from Couturier. He has the size with his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame and can be tough to stop when he gets in gear the way he did in OT on Sunday night. That could be such a weapon for the Flyers if he could do it on a more consistent basis. His goal Thursday in Minnesota was a thing of beauty. He took a slick pass from Schenn, maneuvered the puck through his legs and beat Devan Dubnyk five-hole. Between the pass and the lovely finish, it might have been the prettiest goal the Flyers scored all season. But it was Couturier’s skill that finished it off. So he again showed flashes of mixing his size and skill this week to create offense. Queue the broken record, but the Flyers, who average just 2.50 goals per game heading into Sunday night’s tilt in Pittsburgh, really need Couturier to do those kinds of things much more consistently.
• Steve Mason was not out of line to question his teammates after Tuesday’s disheartening loss in Winnipeg. Heading into that game, the Flyers talked about how, even though their playoff hopes were slim, they still thought they had a real chance to reach the postseason. Entering the third period on Tuesday, the game was tied at 1-1. The Flyers had 20 minutes to vanquish a Jets team that was missing five regular defensemen in the lineup. Instead of playing like a team hungry for the playoffs, the Flyers sat back and let the Jets carry play to predictably terrible results for the Flyers. Think about this: the Flyers had just two shots in the period 13:34 into the frame. I know Mason mentioned the eight straight minutes of penalties the Flyers took in the second period, and, while frustrating, that happens sometimes. The two shots through more than half the third period can't happen. Urgency anybody? They did respond nicely Thursday against a good, albeit stumbling, Wild team. That may have been the Flyers' best all-round effort of the year.
• In response to Tuesday’s lackluster effort in Winnipeg, Dave Hakstol again switched up the Flyers’ lines ahead of Thursday’s game in Minnesota. One of the changes saw rookie forward Travis Konecny slide down to the fourth line next to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde. That’s a curious move. Think about this: the Flyers’ playoff hopes are virtually toast, right? What does Konecny get out of playing fourth-line minutes now? Shouldn’t he be further up the depth chart in an effort to find some chemistry with more skilled linemates heading into next season? I get that he has defensive deficiencies. But he’s a rookie and all rookies have those. At the end of the day, the kid is a skilled scorer. And these are important minutes for him to get more and more comfortable in a top-wing role. You’ve got to take the good with the bad, especially with the Flyers’ goal-scoring needs.
• The Flyers’ power play continues to be a debacle. After an 0-for-3 showing Saturday in Columbus, the Flyers’ power play is 3 for 43 in the month of March. It’s not just that the power play is stagnant right now. It’s that it’s giving the opponent momentum and helping turn games around against the Flyers. It’s more deflating than anything else. More often than not, it just seems that opponents have more quality chances while shorthanded than the Flyers have with the man advantage. Gotta give the Flyers’ power-play units credit on Saturday, though. They fired 10 power-play shots on goal, but Sergei Bobrovsky had every answer. He was superbly flawless all game long for the Jackets, for that matter.
• Want a telling stat? Try this on for size: heading into Sunday’s games, 16 teams have positive goal differentials for the season and 14 teams have negative goal differentials for the season. Those 16 teams with positive goal differentials are in the current playoff picture. The 14 teams with negative goal differentials, well … I’ll let you fill in the blank. FYI, the Flyers’ goal differential is -27.
• Was going over some stats on Sunday morning and, oh, those poor Avalanche fans. Colorado has just been abysmal this year. As of Sunday morning, the last-place Avs are 20 points behind the next team in the standings, Arizona. Twenty! The Avs’ goal differential on the season is -104. That’s an astounding number that’s 44 goals behind the next worse number, coincidentally Arizona’s. So for you Flyers fans angry at how this season has soured, just remember it’s worse somewhere else. Much, much worse. … If that’s any consolation.
Coming up this week: Sunday at Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSN), Tuesday vs. Ottawa (7 p.m./TCN), Thursday vs. New York Islanders (7 p.m./CSN), Saturday vs. New Jersey (7 p.m./CSN)