Philadelphia Flyers: Badly in need of win vs. Arizona Coyotes

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The suddenly scuffling Philadelphia Flyers find themselves needing a big performance against the Arizona Coyotes to salvage the Western part of their season-long road trip.

The NHL schedule has not been kind to the Philadelphia Flyers this season, as they prepare to officially kick off its second half (game #42 out of 82) tonight when the visit the Arizona Coyotes in the desert.

First, there was the season-opening trip to Prague, followed by a one-game stop back home before going out to western Canada. Then there was the odd scheduling in December, which saw the Flyers go to Colorado, Minnesota and Winnipeg in a very unsuccessful road trip in the middle of the month, only to rack up more frequent flyer miles by going out to the west coast less than two weeks later after a brief stay back east over Christmas.

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Still, every team has to play these games at some point, so there is no excuse even when long road trips are compressed into a smaller part of the schedule than normal. It’s been pretty disappointing to see this Flyers team, winners of four in a row before hitting the road, look so flawed in going 1-3 over the first four games of this trip.

Things don’t technically wrap up on this 6-game swing until Tuesday when the Flyers face the Carolina Hurricanes, but at least that game won’t be too far from home. Instead, tonight’s game against the Coyotes feels more like the natural end of the trip. And it’s important one, as the Flyers need every game and every point that they can get.

The Flyers are currently sitting in the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, two points up on the Florida Panthers, who have a game in hand on the Flyers. And while it’s far too early to start looking at the “playoff race”, you can make things less concerning later if you bank points right now in the middle of the year.

So far, that hasn’t been the case on this trip. Facing three underachieving California teams, the Flyers only managed one win against Anaheim, which they sandwiched in between a terrible overall performance against the San Jose Sharks and a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings that saw the Flyers give up four goals in the first period, ending the old decade with a resounding thud.

Things in 2020 didn’t start off any better when the Flyers faced the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday and again surrendered four first period goals. The 5-4 loss was actually not a bad game as a whole for the Orange and Black; they just never fully recovered from the terrible stretch of hockey that saw them give up three goals in 2:45 during that first period.

Slow starts have become a distressing hallmark of the Flyers, seemingly for years now. But this last week has seen things taken to a whole new level. It’s not rocket science to say that you can’t give up four goals in the first period every night and expect to win in the NHL. Everybody knows that.

But tonight’s opponent, the Coyotes, have allowed the third-fewest goals per game in the league this year. Every goal is at a premium, and it might take just one blown assignment or defensive breakdown to make the difference.

As the season goes on, teams will tighten up their play, and the margin for error will become slimmer as a result. The Flyers have to start approaching games like tonight with a playoff mentality as they start to prepare themselves for the stretch drive that lies ahead.

The Flyers’ early results this year demonstrate that they are a good team and capable of competing with the best in the league at times. But inconsistency against some lesser opponents has shown that they have a long way to go. As such, they are destined to find themselves in a fight for playoff positioning and maybe even for postseason qualification itself.

2020 already started off on a sour note the other night in Vegas for the Flyers. Now is the chance to hit the reset button and come back east feeling like they accomplished something.

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No matter how they do it, a win against the Coyotes is imperative for the club’s confidence in itself going forward.