The last five games tell a story. The Philadelphia Flyers top line is carrying the team and the powerplay unit is a shell of itself.
When it rains, it pours. In the first five games, the Philadelphia Flyers scored three or more goals four times. Then, after avenging an earlier loss against the Vancouver Canucks, the Flyers were engulfed by the Calgary Flames.
We’ll be sure to revisit that Flames date a few times. It was a pivotal point regarding offensive woes.
Since the last downpour of goals, Philadelphia is 1-1-1. Scoring three goals against the Arizona Coyotes wasn’t as impressive as the scoreboard shows. All three came in the third period after playing down to the Coyotes quality. When the puck dropped that game, Arizona was winless (they now have a win.)
In the last four games, the Flyers were scoreless twice. They were unable to take advantage of a depleted Pittsburgh Penguins roster. Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs brought it to Broad, becoming the second team to silence Philadelphia in eleven games. Puck possession is a worry in the offensive zone, and the powerplay needs to reset to its default settings. These next nine games could separate the Flyers from the bottom half of the Metropolitan Division.
Will they rise or fall within the standings? It all depends on the adjustment Alain Vigneault chooses.
Identify Team Scorers
Look at the top scorers on the Philadelphia Flyers and how they trend over the last five games. You’ll see the top two lines of forwards with a cameo from James van Riemsdyk.
Then, poof, the “FAB Line” went offline.
Lately, if Philadelphia is putting the puck into the back of the net, it’s usually someone from the top line. Since the loss to the Calgary Flames, the only goal scorers not on the first line were Scott Laughton (twice) and Brassard versus the Washington Capitals. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny scored during this recent five-game sludge. Those three need back up from the bottom nine.
Alain Vigneault likes the way his third line is humming. He acknowledges that Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, and James van Riemsdyk are playing the right way. Vigneault feels the goals will come. The bottom six should remain intact.
To put into context how dry the well is: Ryan Ellis is tenth in team scoring. He’s played three of eleven games.
A Lineup Change Suggestion
It’s the first line that’s steady. A possible quick adjustment could be spreading the steadiness.
Placing Joel Farabee at 1LW with Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny includes a higher reward than risk. Farabee set up 2021-2022 to follow a breakout 2020-2021 season. Alain Vigneault knows what he has with Farabee, which is a scorer. Elevating his game with Konecny and Couturier could break him out of his slump.
What about Claude Giroux?
He could return to his roots. The 2C role works until Kevin Hayes returns. Coincidentally, Hayes could return against the Calgary Flames, the opponent who laid the blueprint to shutting down the Philadelphia Flyers’ forwards. Derick Brassard would move to the 2LW slot. Giroux would provide even-strength stability and work particularly well with Cam Atkinson.
Ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Flyers need other lines to create scoring plays. Vigneault likes the even-strength performance of his third line, so he’ll likely leave that be. Maybe he’ll take a look at Nicolas Aube-Kubel with Zack MacEwen and Patrick Brown instead of Nate Thompson.
Returning to the Original PP
Remember, the powerplay units scrambled ahead of the shutout victory versus the Arizona Coyotes. After the game, Alain Vigneault commented about how he liked the puck movement, but they couldn’t finish.
Not finishing is the theme.
The catalyst behind the change was a 0/3 performance against the Calgary Flames. Following that up with another 0/3 performance against the worst penalty kill in the league should have been a sign. Then, Travis Konecny converted a powerplay against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Over the last five games, the Philadelphia Flyers are 1/14 on the powerplay. Before that loss to the Flames, they didn’t go more than a game without an extra-man goal. Theoretically, the solution is simple. Undo all changes to the powerplay units. Reset them to how they were before the Flyers hosted the Coyotes.
Keith Yandle had his worst game in Philadelphia against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s still the right person to quarterback the top unit. Rasmus Ristolainen is the right fit for the second unit. Some of this will change once Ryan Ellis returns. Above all, he’s the one to navigate a powerplay unit that’s lost at sea.
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire