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Flyers struggling to find answers 

Joel Farabee

It’s beginning to reach crisis mode.

Twenty games doesn’t sound like a lot when you’re talking about an 82-game season, but the Flyers season is already slipping away.

After a decent start in which the Flyers won four of their first six games, and then won every other game over the next eight, things have turned grim during their current six-game losing streak. That was all it took to plummet from near the top of the Metropolitan Division to a distant seventh place in the standings.

The Flyers (8-8-4) just about reached the quarter mark of the season as game No. 20 of the 82-game season was played against the New Jersey Devils in a 5-2 loss in Newark on Sunday.

With 20 points in 20 games, it’s easy to see the team is on pace for just 82 points through the first quarter of the season. After Sunday’s games, Boston had the eighth-best points percentage in the Eastern Conference and was on pace for a shade over 100 points. So in order to hit 101 points, the Flyers would need to go 38-19-5 over their final 62 games, which is roughly a 107-point pace the rest of the way.

That’s a tall order. Especially when the Flyers have finished a season with more than 100 points only three times in the salary cap era, which spans the last 15 years.

Maybe things cool down in the red-hot Metro Division, or one of the big four teams in the Atlantic (Tampa Bay, Florida, Boston, Toronto) falls off dramatically, but the Flyers certainly have an uphill climb if they hope to be playing hockey in late spring.

In comparison, three years ago, the Flyers were 9-9-2 (20 points) at this point and “Fire Hakstol” chants rained down on the game at the Wells Fargo Center. A few weeks later, Dave Hakstol was relieved as coach of the team. There have been rumblings from the fan base for current coach Alain Vigneault to be the next victim.

Hakstol coached 277 games for the Flyers (.560 points percentage) and made the playoffs in two of his three full seasons before getting canned 31 games into his fourth year. Vigneault has coached 145 games in Philly, which spanned two COVID-shortened seasons and 20 games into this year. He’s 1-for-2 in qualifying for the playoffs with a .576 points percentage. Vigneault is under contract for two more seasons after this one at a $5 million salary, which means the Flyers would have to eat more than $10 million if they were to cut him loose this season.

So if not the coach, where do they turn?

The turnover has already been significant, as nine players made their Flyers’ debut already this season: Cam Atkinson, Derick Brassard, Patrick Brown, Ryan Ellis, Martin Jones, Zack MacEwen, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nick Seeler and Max Willman. It represents more than a third of the team as newcomers — with the same results. Several key players, including pending unrestricted free agent Claude Giroux, have trade protection. Many more have undesirable contracts.

The quick fix is on the ice. You can talk all you want about the Flyers needing to score more goals. They do. They’re ranked 26th in the league in goals per game. And the power play stinks. It’s ranked 27th. But the team is also allowing the most shots per game (roughly 35) in the entire league. Last year, by comparison, they allowed 29.2 per game. Carter Hart and Martin Jones have done their jobs, both posting a .920 save percentage.

There are a number of questions surrounding this team and not a whole lot of foreseeable answers.

Talk Thirty to Me

The 2014-15 season was the last 82-game season in which no Flyer reached the 30-goal plateau. The Flyers finished with 84 points that year in sixth place in the Metro. Through the first quarter, no Flyer is on pace for 30. Cam Atkinson, Joel Farabee and Claude Giroux are close, with seven goals apiece, and could hit 30 if they pick up the pace. Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny each have five.

Heating Up

Speaking of Joel Farabee, the 21-year-old has matched a career-high three-game goal-scoring streak, which he actually set earlier this season. Farabee opened the year with goals in the Flyers’ first three games and then went pointless in 13 of his next 14 games before his current three-game tear.

Freezing Cold

There’s been a lot of patience shown with Oskar Lindblom, for good reasons, after he returned from beating Ewing’s sarcoma in the 2020 playoffs. But Lindblom is enduring his worst offensive stretch of his career with just one assist in 19 games this year. Sunday’s game at New Jersey was the seventh time Lindblom was held without a shot on goal this season. ••

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