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Consecutive games in which Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. has hit leadoff home run

Flyers Notebook: Losing their balance

Posted by Eric Fisher On November 23

What happened to the Flyers’ balance? Nearly all of their scoring is coming from the top line or the power play.

Wayne Simmonds leads the Flyers with eight goals. Five of those goals came on the power play. Even if you take away his power play goals, Simmonds would be tied for third in goals.

Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn have seven goals apiece, with each scoring one while on the power play. After playing well on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read, Schenn was promoted to the top line with Voracek and Claude Giroux.

Giroux has six goals this season, but all are on the power play. On the one hand, it’s good that Giroux is connecting on the power play. On the other hand, it’s slightly disturbing that he hasn’t scored in a five-on-five situation.

Michael Raffl scored six goals in 12 games before suffering a lower body injury. Raffl scored most of his goals after earning playing time with the top line. Despite missing seven games, Raffl has more goals than most of the Flyers’ forwards.

After the first group, there is a dramatic drop in scoring along the forward lines. Center Couturier has four goals and four assist. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is next with three goals.

Vincent Lecavalier has just two goals and seems to have lost his scoring touch, although injuries have limited him to 12 games. Read has just two goals, a huge decline since last season. No other forward or center has more than one goal.

Perhaps the poster boy for the Flyers’ lack of scoring balance is R.J. Umberger. Acquired from the Blue Jackets in exchange for Scott Hartnell – Umberger’s contract runs out two years before Hartnell’s contract – Umberger has one goal and two assists while playing all 19 games.

At $4.6 million and $4.5 million, respectively, Umberger and Lecavalier are behind only Giroux in salary cap hits among the Flyers’ forwards and centers.

The Flyers are going to need significantly more offense from forward lines other than their top line in order to make the playoffs.

*****

HALL MOMENTS: Few, if any, organizations are better at honoring their past than the Flyers. Thursday’s Flyers Hall of Fame ceremony was simply the latest example.

Thursday’s ceremony was unique because two former Flyers, Eric Lindros and John LeClair, were being inducted at the same time. The dual induction could have been cumbersome. Instead, it was nearly perfect.

Instead of feeling these players were shortchanged by the dual induction, there was a feeling that each was enhanced by entering the Hall together. It was also a smart move to have Bob Clarke, who had a contentious relationship with Lindros, conveniently be in Florida on the night of the ceremony. It was equally wise not to have Lindros’ parents, Carl and Bonnie, sit at center ice, as did Lindros’ wife and son and LeClair’s family. The main sources of the drama that detracted from Lindros’ tenure with the Flyers was kept out of sight.

Thursday’s ceremony was another major step in the healing process that will be complete when Lindros enters the Hockey Hall of Fame and has his number retired by the Flyers.

*****

PENALTY KILL KILLING FLYERS: The Flyers snapped their four-game losing streak Saturday with a 4-2 win over the visiting Blue Jackets, but their penalty kill continues to hurt them. The Flyers gave up a first-period power play goal, meaning they had allowed nine goals in their past 17 shorthanded situations.

The Flyers entered Saturday’s game last in the NHL in penalty killing. That has to change.

What do the Flyers have to do better while shorthanded? Everything. They have to win battles, clear the puck better, win faceoffs, make it more difficult to enter their zone, control rebounds, get better goaltending and whatever other aspects of killing penalties that I’m missing.

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ROLLING 7’S: With Michael Del Zotto returning from a “lower body” injury and Luke Schenn and Andrew MacDonald having returned from injuries this past week, Flyers head coach Craig Berube elected to use seven defensemen Saturday against the Blue Jackets.

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COBURN STRUGGLING: Braydon Coburn scored the Flyers’ final goal Saturday against the Blue Jackets, giving him a goal and an assist in the victory. His production Saturday doesn’t alter the fact that Coburn hasn’t played well since returning from a lower-body injury sustained in the season opener. Coburn looked particularly bad this past week while killing penalties.

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LAUDING LAUGHTON: Center Scott Laughton has played fairly well in the three games since being recalled from the Phantoms. It will be interesting to see if the Flyers decide to keep Laughton around when injured players such as Michael Raffl and Chris VandeVedle return. At the very least, if Laughton plays well, it will provide general manager Ron Hextall with the flexibility to include forwards in deals before the trade deadline.

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READING THE RIOT ACT: Both general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Craig Berube lambasted the team after last Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at Madison Square Garden. Hextall’s expletive-laced tirade could be heard outside the dressing room. Berube described his team’s play as “soft,” which is a Cardinal sin in the Flyers’ organization.

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FOLLOW THE LEADER: Through Saturday’s games, Jakub Voracek leads the NHL in assists (22) and points (29).

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Seven of the Flyers’ next eight games are on the road. They begin this road stretch Monday (7 p.m.) against the Islanders, who swept the Penguins this weekend to move into a tie for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers play at Detroit on Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) before facing the Rangers in a home-and-home matinee series (both games at 1 p.m.) on Friday and Saturday. The importance of games with the Eastern Conference, particularly divisional games against the Islanders and Rangers, goes without saying.

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