Philadelphia Flyers' Weaknesses Exposed in Playoff Series vs. Rangers

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IApril 29, 2014

Philadelphia Flyers' Weaknesses Exposed in Playoff Series vs. Rangers

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    The Philadelphia Flyers are on the brink of elimination. After five games, they trail the New York Rangers in their opening-round NHL playoff series, 3-2.

    Trailing in the series is disappointing, but the way the Flyers have lost is even more frustrating. The Rangers have outplayed the Flyers for most of the series and in doing so, have exposed the club's weaknesses for all to see.

    Here is a look at five Philadelphia weak spots the Rangers have exposed during the first five games of this series. Notice that goaltending is not even on this list. The Flyers' goaltending hasn't been outstanding, but it's not a major reason Philadelphia trails in this series.

    Feel free to comment on any of the items on this list or to add another reason you feel merits inclusion. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.

5. The Flyes Are Too Reliant on Claude Giroux on Offense

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    The Flyers offense just isn't getting the job done, and that starts with captain Claude Giroux.

    Giroux has exactly 10 shots on goal in the first five games of the series, but six of them came in Game 5, when he also scored his first goal of the series.

    Like the rest of the Flyers, Giroux is trying too hard to make pretty passes and isn't being aggressive enough with the puck.

    When Giroux finally scored in Game 5, there was just 1:29 left in regulation time, and the game was already all but lost.

    Philadelphia's record during the regular season was 21-2-1 when Giroux scored a goal. He has improved as the series progressed, but the captain is still not playing to anywhere near expectations.

    The Rangers have done a good job of limiting Giroux's room and chances. That means other forwards need to step up and score enough to compensate for Giroux's lack of production. That could open things up for Giroux and take some of the pressure off of him. It hasn't happened enough in this series.

    The Flyers had six other 20-goal scorers this season. Now these players need to stand up and be counted on or the season will quickly come to a close.

    Giroux also needs to play up to expectations and be the catalyst for the offense that he has been throughout the regular season.

4. The Flyers Need to Play with More Discipline

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    The Flyers and their fans have not been thrilled with the officiating during this series. All partisan gripes aside, Philadelphia needs to be be smarter when it comes to taking penalties.

    The statistics show that the Flyers have had only 16 power-play opportunities while the Rangers have had 23.

    Yes, Philadelphia turned things around a bit in Game 5, where they had five power plays while the Rangers had only three. But the Flyers only scored one power-play goal in the game, and by the time they did convert, they already trailed, 3-0.

    Philadelphia led the NHL in penalty minutes during the regular season. They can't do the same and be successful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    It's great to be physical and try to get the other team off their game. It's expected in the playoffs that there will be pushing and shoving and scrums after the whistle. But the Flyers need to make sure they don't take foolish penalties during those scrums. They also cannot afford to take unnecessary penalties in the offensive zone.

    If the power-play chances were roughly equal, or if they Flyers had more opportunities with the man-advantage than the Rangers did, their chances of winning would increase.

    Philadelphia should continue to be physical, but they need to be smart.

3. The Flyers Lack Team Speed

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    With a few noticeable exceptions, the Rangers have showed they have more team speed than the Flyers do in this series.

    We've seen Martin St. Louis blow by defenders on too many occasions. Heck, even Brian Boyle and Daniel Carcillo have had breakaways during the series.

    When you look at reasons No. 1 and 2 in this slideshow, the conclusion is that overall, the Flyers need to increase the speed on their roster.

    Players like Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit and Vincent Lecavalier have reputations of being fast skaters, but all are on the wrong side of 30 and aren't as quick as they used to be.

    Regardless of whether they come from the minor leagues, the draft, trades or free agency, the Flyers need to add speed to all positions on their roster. They have had trouble keeping up with the Rangers in this series, and it's been costly.

2. The Defense Is Average at Best

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    The Flyers defense hasn't been horrible, but they haven't been good enough, either.

    Philadelphia's defense was considered a weak link this season, and the playoffs have only reinforced that idea.

    Throughout the series, the Rangers have had more odd-man rushes than the Flyers. They've also managed to score goals on tips, deflections and rebounds. That means the Flyers defenders aren't slowing down the Rangers forwards as they skate through the neutral zone, and they're not keeping them away from the Flyers' goal once they do get into the attack zone.

    Luke Schenn is the only defenseman for the Flyers with a plus rating through the first five games, and he's a plus-one. Nicklas Grossmann is even. The other five defensemen are all minus.

    The Flyers lack a shutdown defender and an outstanding puck-moving defender as well. The defensemen need to play better now to keep the season alive. This is also an area general manager Paul Holmgren needs to address in the offseason.

1. The Offense Needs to Get Dirty

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    The Flyers had 26 shots on goal in Game 5, and not one of them came on rebounds.

    Look at the photo on this page. There are more Rangers than Flyers around the New York net and the Rangers players, both forwards and defensemen, are boxing out the Philadelphia attackers.

    "We're not shooting the puck for a rebound, that's the key," head coach Craig Berube told Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News. "You've got to understand, a goalie of his caliber, if you don't have a clear shot, you've got to put it on net for a rebound. It's a key play."

    Berube is right. The Rangers have a world-class goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. To score enough goals against Lundqvist, the Flyers need to get rebounds, re-directions, tip-ins and deflections.

    In five games, the Flyers' forwards have only scored seven goals. That's not enough production.

    Philadelphia also has to get more shots on goal. The Flyers has registered fewer than 30 shots in four of the first five games of this series.

    Over the first five games, the Rangers have 152 shots on goal, the Flyers just 123. That's an average of almost six shots more per game for New York. When you consider the Rangers have the better goalie, that is a double handicap for the Flyers. Taking fewer shots against a better goalie and giving that netminder a clear view of those shots is not a recipe for success in the playoffs.

    The Flyers need to get more scoring chances from the slot and more bodies in and around Lundqvist. Otherwise, the Orange and Black will have a tough time scoring enough goals to win the series.