By Tom Dougherty, CSNPhilly.com
After his team’s latest loss — a 5-2 defeat to the Capitals on Thursday night — Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol had a simple explanation why his team is struggling to score.
“I don’t think we’re shooting the puck enough,” Hakstol said after the Flyers were outshot — 32-20 — for the ninth straight contest.
“We’re turning down too many opportunities — not Grade A opportunities but just entering the zone and getting pucks on the net. That’s something we’ve got to do a better job of.”
Once set up in the offensive zone on a power play to start the second period, Claude Giroux, along the sideboards, fired a lackadaisical shot toward the Capitals’ net.
With Wayne Simmonds screening Braden Holtby, Giroux’s shot found the back of the net. It was something the Flyers lacked both on the man advantage and even strength against the Caps.
And shooting is something Hakstol believes the Flyers have to do more.
“I don’t think we throw enough to the net,” he said, “even from the outside with people going to the net. I think that’s due to guys wanting to make plays.
“But I think you still have to go back to basics and simplify the game a little bit more.”
The lack of shots has played into the Flyers’ struggles. In their last five games, they’ve averaged 23.4 shots while allowing 35.8 per game.
They’ve been outshot, 322-234, during their current stretch of eight losses in their last nine games.
“We got to get better looks,” right winger Jakub Voracek said. “We’re making it harder on ourselves. We’re running around on the forecheck and they make one play and it’s out of the zone.
“When we play good teams and we’re patient, make smart plays and forecheck that’s when we generate the chances. That’s why we had so many shots in the beginning of the season.
“We don’t have that (right now) because we go too fast or everybody is trying too hard. That’s what happens.”
In their first eight games, the Flyers averaged 34.9 shots and were 4-2-2, but scoring was still an issue. They potted just 16 goals in the first eight games — two per game.
Still, the shots were a result of stronger forechecking and better neutral-zone play, both of which have been lacking recently.
Against the Capitals, the Flyers were outshot, 11-4, after the first period and at one point, the shots were 31-13 in favor of Washington.
What do the Flyers have to do to correct it?
“Early on,” Hakstol said, “you have to establish a little bit more of the shooting mindset whether it’s early in the game or early in a power play.”
Scoring has been a major problem this season for the Flyers. After their two-goal effort against the Caps, they’re now scoring 1.81 goals per game. Only Anaheim scores less at 1.69.
In their last nine games that number is 1.56, which helps explain why there have been two team meetings and why general manager Ron Hextall challenged the team already.
Sixteen games into the season, Voracek is still without a goal. The 26-year-old played 18:26 against the Capitals with two shots on goal.
One of Voracek’s shots came on the Flyers’ second power play, but it was hardly a scoring chance. He also had two third-period two-on-ones with Giroux that didn’t convert.
For a team in the midst of a long stretch of losing, it would be easy to place blame on the goalie. Steve Mason let in five goals Thursday night, but none of them fall on the goalie.
The Flyers’ defensive coverages broke down and they were burned by two Washington power plays. Mason had no shot on any of the Capitals’ goals.
While Voracek said he doesn’t like to comment on goaltenders’ play — good or bad — he did mention the blame doesn’t fall on Mason and Michal Neuvirth.
“Hockey is a collective sport,” he said. “You win together, you lose together. We didn’t play great defense. We didn’t score enough goals.
“We have to play better as a team and goalies — that’s the last of our problems. They’ve been good and we have to make sure we score more goals.”
Another area that struggled against Washington was the Flyers’ power play. On Thursday night, the Flyers generated two shots in four power-play opportunities and finished 1 for 4.
The Flyers are now 4 for their last 32 on the man advantage.
The problem, Giroux said, is they are too impatient and try to make plays there aren’t there — something they didn’t do against the Jets in a 3-0 win last Saturday.
“Against Winnipeg, we were patient and we were waiting for our chances,” he said. “We weren’t trying to force it. When we do that, that’s when we get our chances.”
The irony here is both of the Flyers’ goals Thursday came on quick shots. Scott Laughton gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 3:34 in the first period on a shot from above the right circle.
Laughton quickly fired the puck past Holtby after Chris VandeVelde gathered it off the boards on the forecheck.
“We’re in a tough spot right now,” Laughton said. “It’s not fun losing and the only way we can get out of it is sticking together. We’re all professionals here.
“We have to come to work every day and I thought we had a pretty good start to the game. We just didn’t get enough pucks on net and we got to do a better job at that.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: See the story on CSNPhilly.com)