Inside the Flyers: Road trip pointed out Flyers' flaws

Flyers goalie Ray Emery looks shellshocked after giving up six goals and being pulled during a 7-2 loss in Chicago that closed a 2-3-1 trip.
Flyers goalie Ray Emery looks shellshocked after giving up six goals and being pulled during a 7-2 loss in Chicago that closed a 2-3-1 trip. (CHARLES REX ARBOGAST / Associated Press)
Posted: December 16, 2013

Six games, 13 days, 6,801 miles.

Oh, and most important, a disappointing 2-3-1 record.

That sums up the Flyers' longest journey of the season, which ended with an embarrassing 7-2 loss in Chicago on Wednesday night against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Flyers' trip and mine had aggravating similarities. My luggage, thanks to the combined efforts of U.S. Airways and Air Canada, was lost leaving Dallas and I didn't get it until six days later, when we returned home. Likewise, the Flyers lost in Dallas and did not win again until they got home and defeated Montreal, 2-1, ending a three-game losing skid.

It was a trip in which Peter Luukko stunningly announced he was stepping down as president of the Flyers' parent-company, Comcast-Spectacor; a trip in which the invaluable Vinny Lecavalier injured his back in the only game he played during the trip - the veteran center, despite ailing, scored the shootout winner in Nashville. Lecavalier could miss another three weeks.

It was a trip in which the Flyers were badly outplayed by Nashville but stole a win because of Steve Mason's brilliant goaltending. There were heroics (Sean Couturier's career-high four-point night in a 6-3 win in Detroit) and sheer knuckleheadedness (See Zac Rinaldo vs. Dallas).

All told, the trip was just like the Flyers' season to date - a picture of mediocrity.

Consider:

Front-line struggles.

Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, and Jake Voracek were a combined minus-20 on the trip, causing coach Craig Berube to do some line-tinkering in the next game.

Defensive miscues.

For the most part, the defense has been solid under Berube. But in the last three games of the trip, the Flyers allowed a combined 16 goals, surrendering too many odd-man rushes and giving opponents too much open space. Blown coverage was especially noticeable in the losses to Dallas, Ottawa, and Chicago.

Dumb penalties.

The Flyers lead the league in a dubious category: the highest number of penalty minutes per game (17.9 average), and they entered the weekend with 151 minor penalties, second-most in the league.

During the road trip, they averaged 24.7 penalty minutes per game.

Rinaldo has become the poster boy for dumb penalties recently. The winger played four seconds in Dallas - repeat: four seconds - and was assessed 27 minutes in penalties, including a game misconduct, after going after Antoine Roussel and punching him in the head a few times. It was a rarity for an NHL "fight" because only one of the players was penalized.

Berube called Rinaldo's actions "stupid," but the Flyers coach - an enforcer during his playing days - missed a chance to send a message to Rinaldo by benching him later in the trip.

Despite losing two straight heading into Chicago, the Flyers had an opportunity to salvage a winning record on the trip if they could have beaten the Blackhawks. Before the game, the players talked about its being a measuring stick to see how far they had come from their franchise-worst 1-7 start.

And, then, after a solid first period in which they were disciplined and took a 1-0 lead, the Flyers were outscored 7-1 over the last two periods, embarrassing themselves in front of a national-television audience and demonstrating, without doubt, that they cannot play against the big boys without Lecavalier.

The Flyers entered the weekend 3-11-1 against teams that were in playoff spots in both conferences. They had done a good job of fattening up on the lightweights, compiling an 11-4-2 record against teams not in a playoff position.

So until they start playing solid hockey against the "haves" - the Flyers have a chance because they start this week with two games against Washington - it's difficult to imagine this team making a significant playoff run.

That is, if they make the playoffs.


Inside the Flyers: No Longer Close

Since the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, the teams have gone in different directions. Here are some comparisons since then, entering the weekend:

   Blackhawks   Flyers   

Players left from 2010   8   4   

Regular-season record   148-68-30   131-86-27   

Goals for-goals against   790-658   728-682   

GF/GA differential   plus-132   plus-46   

Playoff record   21-15   9-12   

Number of Cups since 2010   1   0   

- Sam Carchidi


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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