On Monday, Flyers owner Ed Snider provided some no-nonsense analysis when asked about his team’s 2-4-0 start to the season.
“We better damn get our special teams straightened out or we’re in trouble,” Snider said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That’s what it’s all about in today’s game — special teams — because five on five, it’s hard as hell to score nowadays.”
Unfortunately for the Flyers, it was more of the same Tuesday when they damn didn’t get their special teams straightened out against the Rangers.
True, their lone goal in a 2-1 loss came on the power play; however, they failed to convert on a lengthy 5-on-3 man advantage in the second period — a failure that left forward Wayne Simmonds fuming.
“You’re playing a goalie like [Henrik] Lundqvist and only get two shots on a 5-on-3?” said Simmonds. “You’re definitely not going to score. I’m pretty sure we will work on that.
“Our power play — we have to smarten up and convert on our chances. Get our shots through. We’ll figure it out. My guess is we will be working on our power play a little bit for next little while.”
The Flyers’ power play — which features no shortage of offensive firepower — currently ranks 23rd in the NHL, converting at just 13.5 percent. Last year, it finished sixth, at 19.7 percent.
And it’s not just the power play — the penalty kill has been even worse (29th, 67.7 percent). Last night, the Rangers scored the game-winning goal with the man advantage.
Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.
Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”
The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.
Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.
But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.
“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.
“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”
Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.
The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.
“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”
“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”
Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.
“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”
The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…