Flailing Flyers lack answers for recent struggles
With a series of ''I don't know'' responses, captain Claude Giroux was at a loss to explain what has happened to the Philadelphia Flyers lately.
Eleven losses in 14 games have erased the positive vibes and good feelings from their recent 10-game winning streak. Things have gone sideways for the Flyers over the past month, and general manager Ron Hextall said ''the negative energy seems to be a landslide.''
With their bye week underway, the Flyers have four days to stew over their losing ways.
''Right now, we're going to stick with what we've got here and move forward, but on a day-to-day basis I always look at how we can make our club better and if there's something that we think makes our club better, we'll do it,'' Hextall said Sunday after a 5-0 loss to the Capitals. ''The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren't going right and that's not going to happen, but if we can find a way to make ourselves better we will.''
Coach Dave Hakstol has seemingly tried everything, from rotating goaltenders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth to scratching 2015-16 Calder Trophy finalist Shayne Gostisbehere and shaking up the lineup. Philadelphia is almost fully healthy, so injuries aren't an excuse for the inconsistency from period to period, what Hextall considers mental mistakes and what players believe is a lack of execution.
Much like the five-goal loss to Washington, the Flyers' results have snowballed during this 3-8-3 stretch. After carrying them during the 10-game streak, Mason has an 0.880 save percentage in his past 12 games and hasn't been helped much by the defense in front of him.
Defenseman Michal Del Zotto said, ''Plain and simple we're giving up too much right now.'' Giroux wonders if the Flyers are ''working wrong,'' and things are breaking bad.
''I don't know how much worse we can get,'' All-Star winger Wayne Simmonds said. ''It's kind of a combination of things. I don't think it's effort or anything like that. It's the execution. We have plays, they're there and we're not executing as we should and as we have in the past and it's hurting us.''
It's hurting the team's psyche and cutting into its once-comfortable playoff cushion. Philadelphia entered Monday with just a one-point lead over the surging Carolina Hurricanes for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, has played three more games and almost certainly will be out of a playoff position by its next game Saturday against New Jersey.
''If you keep losing like you do, you lose your spot in the standings pretty quickly,'' Del Zotto said. ''Other teams are playing well and winning games, and we keep declining.''
Hextall expressed confidence in Giroux and the Flyers' leadership group while also acknowledging the leaders and many more players ''haven't been good enough.'' With the Colorado Avalanche apparently open for business on Matt Duchene, young captain Gabriel Landeskog and others, and the Arizona Coyotes possibly getting younger by the March 1 trade deadline, there will be a temptation for Hextall to make a move if the struggles continue.
For now, the Flyers can only try to get away from hockey for a few days and hope to make the most of the time off.
''You want to go back and get back at it, but it's part of the schedule,'' Hakstol said. ''You use it to our advantage, that's my approach. Clear our heads and make sure we're rejuvenated and ready to go to work again.''
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno