Another week, another Screen Shots column, in which we take a brief look at a handful of NHL topics. Let’s not waste any more time and instead, get right to it.
The Philadelphia Story
The Philadelphia Flyers altered their roster to a significant degree this past summer, but so far this season, they haven’t seen ideal results. Philly has lost four consecutive games and five of its past six games, and four of its next six games come against Carolina, the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay and Colorado.
The Flyers are in a four-team mix for the fourth and final playoff berth in the challenging Metropolitan Division, but they give up more shots per game (34.8) than any other team in the league, and they generate only an average of 2.44 goals-for per game – the sixth-worst total in the NHL this year.
In years past, the Flyers have been sunk by poor goaltending performances, but that isn’t the case this season. Starter Carter Hart and understudy Martin Jones have solid save percentages (Hart’s is .928, while Jones’ is .927), but they haven’t gotten much in the way of goals-for support. Only five Flyers (captain Claude Giroux, center Derik Brassard, center Sean Couturier and wingers Travis Konecky and Cam Atkinson) are in double-digits in points through the team’s first 18 games. They’re getting next to no offensive help whatsoever from their third and fourth forward lines.
It’s true the Flyers have had some injuries to key players (including Brassard and defenseman Ryan Ellis), but most teams have dealt with sidelined talents. A team that limits opponents’ offense yet can’t find the back of its opposition’s net is not normally what we see from the Flyers, but the result is frustratingly similar: Philly is going to face a massive struggle to outlast their Metro rivals and make the playoffs.
Consistency Is Tavares’ Middle Name
At the start of the season, you project different offensive totals for different players. Some of it is based on a hunch, but more often than not, those projections are based on past performance. And there are some things you can all but guarantee will happen each and every season: especially John Tavares’ steady-and-regular point production.
He’s missed one game due to injury this year, but otherwise, Tavares has been exactly as advertised: he has nine goals and 18 points in 20 games – nearly a point-per-game pace, just as he always does. Last season, he generated 50 points in 56 games-played. The year before that, he posted 60 points in 63GP. The year prior to that, he amassed 88 points in 82 GP. And the year before that, he had 84 points in 82 GP.
See why losing Tavares in last-season’s first-round playoff series against Montreal was so crucial for the Leafs? He more or less produces exactly what you’ve come to expect from him. Night-in and night-out, he makes Toronto more dangerous. If the Leafs are going to do damage in the post-season, Tavares will have to be active and thriving.
Coyotes On *CHECKS NOTES*…A Hot Streak?!?!
By this time last week, the Arizona Coyotes had posted a record of 2-13-2 Their tanking job has been so thorough, it was fair to ask if they’d ever win two games in a row at any point in the year.
Well, it must be an early Christmas miracle, because the Coyotes not only won two games in a row, they’ve won three of their past five games. Granted, those victories came against lesser lights in Columbus, Detroit and Los Angeles, but when your record sits at an awful 4-14-2, you take the wins you can get.
This week may be another story altogether, though. Arizona hosts the Dallas Stars, then departs for a short road trip to Winnipeg and Minnesota. All three of those teams are better than the Yotes, so a new, extended losing skid is well within the realm of possibility.