Flyers are close to becoming the team this playoff series needs them to be

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This playoff series has been frustrating for Flyers fans. Of course, this is contextual. A 3-2 lead over Montreal isn’t exactly poor and having a record-breaking goaltender only sweetens each positive moment. But this series should be dead and buried. Instead, the Flyers gave the Habs a lifeline in a crushing 5-3 defeat. The problem? Finding the complete package.

It seems as though the Flyers just can’t seem to tick every box at the same time. If Carter Hart records a shutout, becoming the youngest ever Flyers goalie to do so in postseason history, the powerplay collapses under its own weight. If the powerplay picks up for the first time since the end of the regular season, finally ending a bitter, bitter run of missed opportunities, Hart wobbles and defenders are left looking dazed. The Flyers have all of the talent in the world to get past the Canadiens and to do so in a convincing manner. Instead, they’re getting in their own way.

Let’s take the power play for example. The unit was a combined 1-30 in the playoffs before Jake Voracek smashed home two goals in last night’s loss. In fact, the three-goal outing by the PP unit was so contrasting that it was the first time three power-play goals had been scored in a playoff game by the Flyers since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Pittsburgh.

Alain Vigneault was quick to compliment his special teams unit after weeks of grit and determination leading up to this run.

There’s no doubt that our power play was able to capitalize on a couple of opportunities. We made maybe a few too many mistakes and they were able to capitalize on it. It’s playoff hockey. It’s hard fought. There’s not a love in the air on the ice. Guys are going at it and they are going at it hard. After tying it, obviously giving up that goal was a heartbreaker for us. Got to turn the page and get ready for the next game.

The pattern of ups and downs coincides with another previous weakness of the Flyers – production from the stars.

Five Flyers this season have scored 19+ goals. Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, James Van Riemsdyk, and Kevin Hayes. None have scored in the playoffs so far and production has been minimal.

Depth has carried the Flyers through their opening playoff series in the Bubble thus far, but there’s a reason those depth guys aren’t on the top two lines. They cannot be expected to carry the team every single game. But in a matchup where finally, there’s a breakthrough and Giroux bags a pair of assists along with Couturier, the depth then slips and slides.

Matt Niskanen, someone who himself has been key to igniting such a hot run of form, made a couple of costly mistakes and held himself accountable after the game.

Their season’s on the line, so you know that they’re going to bring their best. I think we were just a half a step slow killing plays. They were able to connect a few passes, get some looks in the slot and convert on a couple.

Claude Giroux, meanwhile, alluded to the desperation of Montreal maybe bringing an unnatural scrappiness out of the Flyers.

They came out pretty hard. When we got going, I think we played well. I think defensively we did a few mistakes. When you’re down, you try to do a little too much sometimes. I think when we go going, we played better.

Silly penalties were given up, poor turnovers were given away, and outside of Kevin Hayes who skated his blades off and led the team with 7 shots, there was little in the way of offensive flair.

We all know the Flyers can beat the Canadiens. We know they have enough firepower to extinguish Carey Price. Enough character to silence Brendan Gallagher. Enough ‘Hart’ in net to stop the all-out barrage that Montreal want to bring. The problem is simply one of ensuring every phase clicks at the same time, producing a complete team performance for 60 minutes.

The Habs know that they will be going home if they lose one more game. The Flyers have a couple of lifelines yet, but the more the Canadiens creep, the quicker those lifelines will fade.

However you want to slice it, one thing is inherently clear. It’s going to take a total team performance to send Philadelphia through to the next round.

Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre

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