The Flyers have often left themselves little margin for error this season.
They have either been tied, or trailed or led by one goal in the third period in all but a couple of their 17 games. One mistake, misplay, bad bounce or breakdown has the potential to lead to a loss.
The good news is there is one way to avoid always putting themselves in this frantic and pressure-packed position, though.
“We have to do a better job extending the lead in the third period,” coach Dave Hakstol said following Tuesday’s shootout loss to Senators. “We played a pretty good hockey game, but whether it’s extending [the lead on] the five-on-five or on the power play opportunities, we have to do a better job and have to work to extend that lead.”
On Tuesday, the Flyers coughed up the tying goal with 1:59 to play when the defense and goalie Steve Mason were beat on a wrap-around move. It ruined what had been a terrific performance by the team and the goaltender and ended up costing them a point.
However, the Flyers were able to protect a one-goal lead in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Wild. Still, it didn’t come without at least one harrowing moment. Mason made a brilliant pad save in the closing seconds of the contest to preserve the victory.
“They’re always difficult,” defenseman Brandon Manning said Tuesday on the subject of tight games. “When you give up a goal in the last five minutes, I think that’s hard on everyone. You want to do a better job. I think at the Minnesota game we did a good job locking it down, so it’s always tough to give away those points.”
Fortunately, the Flyers have handled themselves adequately in tight games. They are 5-4-3 in games decided by one goal, including 3-1-2 in November, and are 2-1-1 this season when leading after two periods.
They are also getting used to playing on the edge. Ten of their last 11 games have been decided by one goal. In the one game during the stretch that wasn’t, a 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs, they entered the third period with a 3-2 lead.
The Flyers definitely wouldn’t mind giving themselves a little extra cushion going forward.
“We’ve got to keep growing because [Tuesday] is a game that, while we had it in hand, we’ve got to do a little bit more [to extend our lead],” Hakstol said. “We have to push that so that one play doesn’t tie it up late in the hockey game.”
Flyers to face Jets’ league-leading rookie
It has no doubt been intriguing to watch the development of Flyers rookies Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov this season. The pair of 19-year-olds are playing key roles and proving they belong in the NHL.
Playing on the second line with Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier, Konecny has four goals and six assists through 17 games. Meanwhile, Provorov has six assists and is playing more than 20 minutes a night.
However, the Flyers welcome one of the explosive teenagers in the league on Thursday when they host the Jets. Rookie Patrik Laine, who was selected second overall in last June’s draft, leads the league with 12 goals and could become the first rookie to score 50 goals in a season since Alex Ovechkin did in the 2005-06 season