Better With Popcorn

For Flyers, Too Much is Never Enough

The Philadelphia Flyers are a tenacious team.

Fully capable of exploding with a barrage of goals at any moment, the team is rarely out of any game.

Whether they’re down by four goals to the Winnipeg Jets, or three goals to the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders or Anaheim Ducks, the Flyers have proven that no deficit is too great for them to overcome.

While the team has had great success in overcoming leads, as of late, they’ve done an even better job of blowing them.

This was made painfully evident in the team’s disappointing 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

After establishing a 4-2 lead after two periods, the team allowed four unanswered goals in the third.

Unfortunately this isn’t an isolated incident.

In the Winter Classic, the Flyers led 2-0 before allowing three unanswered goals to the New York Rangers.

Against the Chicago Blackhawks, the team led 4-2 in the third period before allowing two consecutive goals in a matter of 25 seconds.

On Saturday, in the first game of the home-and-home with Ottawa, the team gained a lead in the first only to allow the Senators to chip it away.  

Since the beginning of the New Year, the Flyers have blown a lead in each of the four games they have played.

Ultimately, the question begins to arise as to why this trend is occurring. While it could be a case of poor goaltending, defensive breakdowns or an incensed opponent, the answer is not a simple one to ascertain.

In the final episode of HBO’s 24/7, the show gave a detailed look into how the Rangers and Flyers prepared for each period of the outdoor game.

Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette focused on offensive pressure, while Rangers coach John Tortorella focused on finishing checks and driving bodies into the boards.

During the second intermission, with the Flyers already up 2-1, Laviolette continued to stress offensive play and finding ways to generate chances in the New York zone.

Tortorella on the other hand, continued to stress physical play. He wanted his team to play sound defensive hockey to wear the Flyers down and generate offensive chances with strong defensive play.

We all know what ultimately happened in the third.

It’s no secret that Laviolette likes to run an aggressive system, which emphasizes fast rushes with heavy involvement of his defensemen in the fore-check.

For team that has only recorded one shut out in the last two seasons and has still managed to be in the top three in goal scoring despite trading away a majority of it’s offense this off-season, the team’s defensive problems may be more about the system than the sum of it’s parts.

Before saying the problem is due to a lack of Chris Pronger or an overpaid goaltender underperforming, think about how many times you’ve seen a defensemen carry the puck through the neutral zone or have seen a forward covering for a trailing defender on defense.

As of right now, the fact that the Flyers are having issues with holding leads is only a small problem. They are still one of the best teams in their conference and boast phenomenal records when leading after the first period (15-1-1) as well as when leading after the second period (19-2-1).

While the team is often praised for the aggressive style they play, it may prove to be a weakness if they continue to implement it without caution.

They can still generate offense while focusing on the defensive component of the game.

Realistically, when in possession of a one or two goal lead in the third, the team should be lessed focused about instituting their fore-check and more concerned about stifling their opponent’s.

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