The 5 Biggest Reasons for Philadelphia Flyers' Losing Streak

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IJanuary 28, 2014

The 5 Biggest Reasons for Philadelphia Flyers' Losing Streak

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    The Philadelphia Flyers are struggling lately. The Orange and Black are 0-3-1 in their last four games and have gone just 2-5-2 in their last nine contests.

    The team is approaching a key part of the schedule when it plays six games before the NHL shuts down for the Olympic break.

    The Flyers struggled early in the season, getting off to a 1-7-0 start. They did manage to play well enough to get back into playoff position in November and December but can ill afford a lengthy dry spell in the competitive Eastern Conference.

    Here is a look at the five biggest reasons for the Flyers' recent slump.

    Feel free to comment on any of these issues or to add one of your own that was not mentioned here. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.

5. Average Goaltending

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    While team defense has been a bigger issue, the Flyers goaltenders are not bailing the team out enough during this recent slump.

    When a team struggles, it needs goaltenders to step up and cover up the team's mistakes. Neither Steve Mason nor Ray Emery has played particularly well over the past few weeks.

    The Flyers have allowed 39 goals in their last nine games, or 4.33 goals per game. That's not exactly the kind of numbers that result in a lot of victories.

    Emery started three games and is 0-2-1 as a starter. He did win one game in relief. Emery's save percentage is a very average .902.

    Meanwhile, Mason has a 1-3-1 record and a save percentage of just .851 since January 11. His GAA is 4.56, and he has been pulled from three games during the slump.

    Coach Craig Berube believes Mason has been lacking confidence lately. "I think there are parts of his game, like our team, where he looks pretty good," Berube told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  "But when things go wrong, or something happens, the confidence level drops."

    The Flyers need better performances from both netminders if they hope to get back on the right track before the Olympic break.

4. Inconsistent Offense

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    The Flyers offense has not been consistent during the recent slide either. Over the past four games, Philadelphia has scored only eight goals as a team.

    The total improves to 25 goals over the full nine-game slump, but the scoring depth that helped carry the Flyers when they were playing well has not been there.

    Sean Couturier is goalless over the past nine games. Steve Downie has not recorded a point and was a healthy scratch for three games during the slump. Vincent Lecavalier has only two goals and three points in the past nine games, while Michael Raffl has one goal and two points.

    There just aren't enough players producing points in a consistent manner for the Flyers offense to put fear into opposing defenses. The results are that the team is struggling to score at times, and the Flyers are easier for opponents to defend against.

3. Poor Penalty Killing

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    The Flyers have allowed opponents to score six power-play goals over the last four games, including three Saturday against the Boston Bruins.

    Overall in the last four contests, opponents have a 30 percent success rate with the man advantage. The power-play goals against have also come at the worst possible time.

    The aggressiveness the penalty kill was showing earlier in the season seems to be missing in action.

    The penalty kill needs to improve if the Flyers hope to get back on the winning track.

2. Lack of Consistent Effort

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    If you watched the Flyers' 6-1 loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday, you could see how uneven the team's effort has been.

    At times, the Orange and Black have played competitive hockey, but at other times, the team looked outworked and almost indifferent.

    Philadelphia fans can handle the occasional loss, but a team that does not put forth effort will quickly anger the fanbase and frustrate coach Craig Berube.

    Berube admitted his team didn't play well Saturday. "We're not very confident right now. That's our mind-set," Berube told Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We're a fragile team. That's what I see. It doesn't look like we want the puck."

    The players were equally unimpressed with the way they played. "It's a skating game," defenseman Kimmo Timonen explained to Ford. "We got outskated by a mile today. We lost today by every category there is in hockey."

    Unless the effort and the confidence return, the results will not be different for the Flyers.

1. Poor Team Defense

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    While the goaltending has been shaky, the team's defense has been completely missing in action.

    The forwards aren't backchecking enough or picking up their man coming through the neutral zone. Meanwhile the defensemen are often chasing the puck and finding themselves out of position.

    Goalie Steve Mason sees the problem in front of him and admits the entire team needs to improve. "We've just been getting hemmed in our own zone," Mason told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Mason added that the team needs to get "on the same page, playing their roles night in and night out."

    As a team, the Flyers have not allowed three or more goals in their last nine games. They have allowed the first goal of the game in 10 of the last 13 contests.

    Unless the team finds a way to return to Berube's defensive-first system, it will continue to struggle on the ice.