Better With Popcorn

'As the World Turns' with the Philadelphia Flyers

When discussing the 82-game NHL season, many often compare the grueling seven-month long gauntlet to a marathon race. However, there are times that it is probably more akin to a season of a mid-day soap opera than one of a professional sport.

With so much time between the beginning and end of the year, the perception of how a team is doing changes as consistently as an episode of ‘As the World Turns.’

This is especially true when speaking of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Whether it is about defense, leadership or goaltending, there is always an interesting plot twist just around the corner.

Following the team’s Tuesday night loss to the San Jose Sharks, a new trend began to develop in the form of goal scoring, or rather, lack there of. 

Of course, this is a story line the fans have all heard before.

At the start of the year, it was wondered openly by many as to where the Flyers goals were going to come from. With the loss of three key players and a roster of youngins, it was projected that offense was going to be the team’s weakness.

Ultimately, nothing could have been further from the truth.

With the team scoring goals as consistently as they did last season, those concerns went out the door fast enough to make your head spin.

Now, after being shutout in two of their last three games, the issue has returned like the long lost mutant stepson from one of those daytime dramas.

Why the Flyers have had scoring problems in these games is any one’s guess.

While the Sharks are in the upper-third of the league in ‘goals against,’ the Edmonton Oilers are in the bottom-third of the league. Of course, in between those two games the Flyers managed to score four goals against the Calgary Flames, a team in the middle of the pack in terms of allowing goals.

With a lack of rhyme or reason as to what spawned these outcomes, it leaves the situation open to speculation.

One option could be that the team is worn-down by a weeklong road trip across western Canada. There is also the possibility that the emotional fatigue of the trade deadline could have worn them down just as easily.

However, there is also the possibility that the team’s line combinations are the cause for the inconsistent efforts.

For Tuesday night’s game, head coach Peter Laviolette put together combinations that had yet to be seen this season. With the exception of the first pairing of Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell, all three lines had at least one alteration that made them completely unique.

The most drastic of which brought Daniel Briere together with roommate Sean Couturier and energy-man, Zac Rinaldo. Following the game, Laviolette failed to mention whether the move was a demotion for Briere or a promotion for Couturier and Rinaldo.

Whatever it was, it didn’t last beyond the first period.

By the second period, Laviolette began changing his lines again. At one point, he even broke up the first pairing of Giroux, Hartnell and Jagr.

When posed the question about the lines post-game, the Flyers head coach explained that it was an attempt to try to get something going. This of course is contradictory to statements he made earlier this month, which flat-out stated that he would rather roll out consistent pairings on a nightly basis.

Realistically, this drought was bound to happen at some point, if it's even fair to call it that. Considering that the team had a four-goal game in between two shutouts, it is evident that the club isn’t snake bit, yet (knock on wood).

However, the line combinations are another story.

With the exception of the third period, the team looked sloppy in all phases of the game. Errant passes and offsides calls were just as frequent as goal calls earlier this season.

Of course, if the only consistency is inconsistency then this problem may become more frequent. If the players are unable to build chemistry with their linemates then sloppy efforts like the one on Tuesday night may become more common.

Could it have been an off night? Absolutely.

At the very least it adds a bit of drama to a long year.

Ultimately, while drama may be what attracts viewers to soap operas, the only kind of drama the fans in Philadelphia want to see comes in the form of wins by the Flyers.

That is the only thing out of all this that isn't in question.

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