Flyers' defense is in a funk

Columbus Blue Jackets' Brandon Dubinsky (17) shoots against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery (29) as Flyers' Claude Giroux (28) tries to help during the third period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus won 6-3. (AP Photo/Mike Munden)
Columbus Blue Jackets' Brandon Dubinsky (17) shoots against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery (29) as Flyers' Claude Giroux (28) tries to help during the third period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus won 6-3. (AP Photo/Mike Munden) (AP)
Posted: December 24, 2013

For the Flyers, there has been a disturbing trend the last few weeks: They have gotten soft on the defensive side.

Too many odd-man rushes. Too many scoring chances allowed. Too much traffic in front of their goalies.

"Obviously we have to do a better job limiting chances," defenseman Luke Schenn said after Saturday's 6-3 loss in Columbus. "We're giving up some quality opportunities, but I don't think we're worried. We believe in the guys in the room."

The Flyers have allowed four or more goals in six of their last eight games as their goaltending - which had been the team's strong point - has struggled.

In Saturday's loss, the Flyers were missing their best shot blocker, Nick Grossmann, a crease-clearing defenseman who was sidelined with the flu. Without him, Columbus had too much traffic in front of goalie Ray Emery, who allowed five goals on 28 shots. Most of the goals came on deflections or screened shots.

"I don't think it's not playing good enough defense. I think it's just a mistake made here or there," coach Craig Berube said. "We have to do a better job blocking shots. The forwards have to do a better job blocking shots."

The Flyers were developing a defense-first identity under Berube until their recent tailspin. During one stretch, they allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of 11 games, helping them get back in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

They probably need to get back to that makeup because they don't have the offensive firepower to win a lot of high-scoring shootouts.

The Flyers (16-16-4) will host Minnesota (20-13-5) on Monday in their final game before the Christmas break. The Flyers have won eight straight at the Wells Fargo Center - after starting the season by winning just two of their first nine home games.

"I think we were trying to do too much to give the fans something to cheer about," goalie Steve Mason said. "When you simplify your game, you're going to have more success. You look at our home games the last month or so, they've been real consistent, hardworking games."

After Monday, the Flyers will not play again until Saturday, when they start a six-game trip in Edmonton, which now has their old pal, Ilya Bryzgalov, as its goalie.

Gustafsson update

Defenseman Erik Gustafsson has a left-knee sprain and will miss about two weeks, general manager Paul Holmgren said. Gustafsson was injured Saturday.

The Flyers expect to have Grossmann back in the lineup Monday. Andrej Meszaros or Hal Gill would replace Gustafsson.

Breakaways

Minnesota is without goalie Josh Harding, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday to make adjustments to his multiple sclerosis medication. Harding is 18-5-3 and has an NHL-best 1.51 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|