Even with their 4-3 win over the Hurricanes on Sunday night, on the back of Brandon Manning’s short-handed goal, the Flyers will still begin the month of November without a winning record for the fifth straight season.
The last time they escaped the opening month of the year above .500 was in 2011, when the Flyers bolted out to a 6-4-1 start.
Otherwise, October has not been kind to them. In the last half-decade, they’ve gone a combined 17-26-5, which includes this year’s disappointing 4-5-1 mark.
While the slow start – yet again – is frustrating, there is cause for concern but no need to panic.
Consider, the Flyers are right in the middle of the pack in the Metropolitan Division, and the players and coach Dave Hakstol feel they are finally headed in the right direction.
“We working on our game a lot right now,” captain Claude Giroux told reporters after Sunday’s game. “This is not the record we want right now but we are getting better as a team.”
As the club gets ready to flip the page to November tonight with a home game against the Red Wings, here’s the Metro’s three keys for the Flyers to reverse course.
Need better first periods
The Flyers have shown improvement in this area lately, especially their last two games. However, much like how their season has gone, their opening 20 minutes have been just as bad. They’ve been outscored, 11-4, in the first period this year, and at one point, allowed opponents to score first in seven straight games. Although the Flyers have been able to overcome some of the early deep holes they’ve dug themselves, constantly playing from behind is not a recipe for long-term success.
Need better goaltending
What looked like the team’s biggest strength at the end of the preseason has turned into possibly their biggest weakness so far. Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth have both looked mediocre, at best, and unsettled, at worst. Mason is 4-2-1 with a 3.46 goals against average and .878 save percentage and has been yanked from one game this year. Neuvirth is even worse with a 2-1 record, 3.84 GAA and a .861 percentage – and has been already pulled twice.
Need better consistency with their lines
Hakstol gets some leeway to tinker with his lineup to figure out what forward lines and defensive pairs work best together. His job hasn’t been made any easier with the suspension of three regulars and a couple other starters missing due to injury. However, he is juggling his lines too much and not allowing players to mesh. When the Flyers made their late-season playoff push last year, their lines remained relatively intact.