The Philadelphia Flyers have focused this season on shot quality, but after a 7-3 loss to the Boston Bruins in the Honda NHL Outdoors Sunday, they might be convinced of the need to work on shot quantity.
“The players that we have kind of lend our style to that a little bit more, where we have a lot of really smart players that aren’t necessarily just looking to shoot the puck and throw the puck on net from everywhere,” forward James van Riemsdyk said. “Obviously, there’s a time and a place when that’s a good play, but there’s also a time and a place to try to maybe make a more high-percentage play where you have a better chance to score from an extra play.
“We have certain guys, I think, that can make those plays for us, so I think that’s why we have looked a little more opportunistic, but certainly, again, we want to try to carry the play a little bit more.”
In the loss to the Bruins at Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada, the Flyers had 11 shots on goal in the first period but eight combined in the second and third periods, and they were outshot 35-19. Philadelphia is last in the NHL with an average of 23.3 shots on goal per game, three fewer than the next-worst team, the Anaheim Ducks (26.3).
The Flyers are averaging 3.40 goals per game, sixth in the NHL, but the lack of consistent offensive-zone time has resulted in them allowing 33.3 shots on goal per game, second-most in the NHL, after the Chicago Blackhawks (34.0).
Last season, they averaged 31.4 shots on goal per game (16th) and allowed an NHL-low 28.7 per game.
As van Riemsdyk said, the Flyers have been opportunistic. They have a 13.3 percent 5-on-5 shooting percentage, which would be the highest by a team in a season since the NHL began tracking the stat in 2009-10.
But that appears unsustainable, considering they had a 9.3 percent 5-on-5 shooting percentage last season with mostly the same players.
Philadelphia played its second straight game Sunday without top-six forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom, who are on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list, along with forward Scott Laughton and defenseman Justin Braun.
Getting some key players back will help, but so will finding a way to strike that balance between shot quality and shot quantity.
“I think we know as a team we definitely have room for improvement,” van Riemsdyk said. “I don’t think anyone’s trying to hide from that. We’re just trying to find some of that chemistry and some of that stuff that we had going for us last year. Obviously, there’s lots of things we can do to be better. We’ve been able to bank some points in the standings here along the way and we have to continue to improve as the season goes on.”
The Flyers won’t have practice time to work out any kinks. Their next game, at home against the New York Rangers on Wednesday, starts a stretch of 19 in 38 days.
Van Riemsdyk, who scored three points (one goal, two assists) in the loss to the Bruins, including his 500th in the NHL, said he sees that as more of an advantage.
“I like kind of getting in that rhythm of just playing a ton of games and just going and keep finding more of that rhythm, finding more of that timing, that chemistry,” he said. “I think you get a lot of that by playing a lot of games, so for me that’s always my favorite parts of the schedule, when you get to these busier parts where you’re playing teams every other day and you can get into a really good rhythm and a routine, so I think that’ll be good for us to get that going.”
Although the four-goal loss may have lessened their enjoyment of the setting on Lake Tahoe, coach Alain Vigneault said he liked what he saw from the shorthanded Flyers, for the most part.
“To tell you the truth, obviously those are important players (missing), but we had a good team tonight, and we showed it in the first period,” Vigneault said. “Played extremely smart, hard. A couple of shifts got away from us in that second. But our guys battled and competed. At the end of the day, as a coach and the coaching staff and an organization, you want your guys to go out and compete. We’d like to have a couple of those shifts back in the second, but they got away from us a little bit.”