The Philadelphia Flyers have a speed problem – as in a lack thereof. The deficiency, especially on defense, is by no means a secret but it is magnified whenever they battle a team with superior quickness.
Take for example Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Overloaded with skaters that can fly up and down and across the ice, the Bolts created prime scoring opportunities while limiting the Flyers from breaking out of their own zone.
Despite facing a team that was playing its third game in four days and second in as many nights, the Flyers were the ones who looked a half-step too slow and zapped of energy.
“They’re a good team,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re in the standing because they’re a fast team. They play as a team and make a lot of good plays.”
It was the sixth straight time the Lightning, who trailed only the Penguins for most points in the Eastern Conference heading into Wednesday’s action, have defeated the Flyers. One of the main culprits in each of those losses was the Flyers’ inability to keep pace with the Lightning.
The same issue arises each time they play the Rangers, who have owned the Flyers. New York, which is also probably a bit inside the Flyers’ heads, takes advantage of its speed.
It’s also what the Islanders and Canadiens and most of the teams in the Western Conference have done this season – and the last couple of years.
On Tuesday, it was just the latest trend.
The Flyers had trouble just getting out of their own end with the puck and even starting offensive rushes up the ice against the Lightning. Tampa Bay swarmed the Flyers’ puck-carriers and swallowed up what little ice was available, especially in the neutral zone.
“I have to give them credit they play very well defensively,” Jakub Voracek said. “It was tough to get in (the offensive zone), they play really good hockey. … We couldn’t get in enough times to create something.”
The Flyers managed just 24 shots, including 14 over the final 40 minutes, against goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made his first NHL start.
“They’re always sound defensively,” Wayne Simmonds said.“They have a lot of players on that team that can skate well.”
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Flyers and it’s glaringly obvious against fast teams like the Lightning.