The Flyers’ playoff hopes seemingly slip away a little further each and every game.
Since a 10-day break due to COVID-19 protocols last month, their hold on an East Division playoff spot has diminished. In their last 18 games, the Flyers are 7-9-2 and head into Thursday’s game with the Rangers on a three-game losing streak. The last time they saw the Blueshirts the end result was a 9-0 drubbing on Wednesday Night Hockey last week.
That goal rush is one of the key factors in the Flyers’ lack of success this season. Carter Hart, dubbed the franchise’s goalie of the future, has taken a big step back and has an .885 even strength save percentage in 21 appearances. His backup, Brian Elliott, hasn’t been any sort of relief with a .889 ESSV% of his own in 15 games played. Combined, Philadelphia’s duo in net have the worst ESSV% in the NHL at .884, per Natural Stat Trick.
Despite the black hole in net, general manager Chuck Fletcher still has faith in his young netminder.
“I believe in Carter,” Fletcher said on Wednesday. “I believe in his talent and I believe he’ll be a very good goalie for this franchise for a long time. But clearly right now, he’s not on top of his game.”
Besides the goals going in (3.52 goals allowed per game), special teams haven’t helped as they are a bottom-10 team on both the power play (19.1%) and penalty kill (74.5%). Fletcher took responsibility for the current makeup of the team and coaching staff and expressed a desire for more consistency. He also said that with the April 12 NHL trade deadline approaching, he’s looking to buy, not sell.
“We’re certainly not looking at selling right now,” he said. “I would say to you in my calls with managers around the League, first of all, I’ve received very few calls. It’s been really quiet in terms of receiving calls. I’ve made many. I’ve been much more aggressive, I think, than a lot of people, just looking at different options. But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of teams out there willing to take on dollars and term at this point in time. There seem to be more teams looking to move some pieces than take on pieces for various reasons.”
Fletcher went on to say he feels the Flyers’ issues are fixable and one area he’d like to improve is the blue line. That makes sense when you watch them play and hear the daily rumors tying them to the Mattias Ekholm sweepstakes.
The Flyers are up near the cap ceiling and have 49 of 50 contracts on their books, so any deal would also see bodies leaving Philadelphia as a fresh face or faces arrive.
Despite this skid, Fletcher is keeping the faith. He believes in Hart and he believes this downward trend will soon reverse itself.
“I do think we can rebound from this,” he said. “I think we’ll get a chance to catch our breath a little bit here. We don’t have as many back-to-backs in the next little stretch here. We’ll actually get a chance to have a practice or two, and I think we have a chance to reset a bit here. But we have good players. We need to play better.”