Penguins won't bury Flyers yet
Claude Giroux doesn't have a goal. Peter Laviolette doesn't have a job. Do the Philadelphia Flyers have a prayer?
The Penguins aren't counting out their biggest rival. When they meet Thursday in Philadelphia, the Penguins have an opportunity to take a 10-point lead on the Flyers just two weeks into the season.
“I am surprised to see them with the record they have now,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
The numbers speak for themselves:
• At 1-6-0, the Flyers have the NHL's worst record and fewest amount of points (two).
• The Flyers have scored 10 goals in seven games, equating to the second-to-worst goals-per-game average at 1.43.
• Giroux, dubbed the “best player in the world” by then-coach Laviolette when the Flyers defeated the Penguins in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, has zero goals and two assists.
“It's fine (that they're struggling),” Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “I'm not sad about it. I'm not cheering for them to fail, but I'm not sad that they are, either.”
The Flyers are dealing with injuries — forwards Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier are unlikely to play Thursday because of ailments — but still showcase proven scorers like Giroux, Hartnell, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.
Former NHL coach Rick Tocchet, a standout forward with the Penguins and Flyers, told the Tribune-Review that Philadelphia's problems are mental.
“Their confidence level is really low,” he said. “That transpires into a costly mistake during a tight situation.”
“It's a long season,” Penguins right wing Pascal Dupuis said, warning that the Flyers are capable of heating up. “There are things in their system that they aren't doing right. I'm sure they're trying to address that, and I'm sure they're looking at this game as a stepping stone for them.”
A lack of scoring has been the Flyers' primary problem.
New goaltender Steve Mason's record is 1-4, but he has been stout between the pipes, boasting a .227 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
The team that scored 30 goals in six playoff games against the Penguins 18 months ago has just 10 thus far.
“The thing about this league right now is the parity,” Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said. “If you just have a little stretch where your team is off its game, you're not going to win many games because every team in this league is pretty good right now.”
Penguins left wing Tanner Glass said the Flyers can recover.
“They've got guys who just aren't scoring yet,” he said. “We're still only six or seven games in.”
Flyers chairman Ed Snider deemed his team in such disarray that he fired Laviolette and replaced him with Craig Berube three games into the season.
“It can happen in hockey,” said Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL with 12 points and has produced 71 points in 43 games against the Flyers. “They've lost a lot of one-goal games. The margin of error is so small in this league.”
The Penguins' lead over the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division won't be so small if they beat the struggling Flyers.
“It would be unusual for them to not be in the playoff race by some point in this season,” Niskanen said. “But we just need to worry about us and how we play.”
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