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Meltzer: Players exit knowing there must be change

Flyers contributor gives reasons for change after 2018-19, ahead of 2019-20

by Bill Meltzer @NHLFlyers

At the dawn of the 2018-19 season, no one on the Philadelphia Flyers expected Exit Day to come on April 7; one day after the conclusion of the regular season. Instead of talking about first-round playoff matchups, players tried to come to grips with what happened this season and, even more important, how to avoid another rollercoaster campaign and uphill struggle to make the playoffs. 

"I don't know what is wrong because [if we did] we would work on it and get better at it," said Voracek. "If you're chasing the playoffs from December or November every single year, especially this year, that's a really hard thing to do and you're going to come up short. Unfortunately, we did this year. It takes a lot of energy. Mentally it's really frustrating and tiring because you're chasing all the time."

Here are four areas that multiple Flyers players pointed toward as crucial facets of moving forward, regardless of personnel changes made during the offseason and other factors that are beyond players' control. 

The Flyers gave up the game's first goal in 50 of 82 games this season. Even worse, they fell behind by a 2-0 score at some point in 32 of those 50 games. It's not that players were unaware of the need for stronger starts but it remained problematic through much of the campaign.

"I don't necessarily think it's a coaching thing. I think as players we have to take responsibility to be ready to go every night. I think when your margin for error is kind of small and you have to make a push for it, especially if it starts to snowball a little bit," said James van Riemsdyk.

Sean Couturier, the team's leading goal-scorer this season, noted that the team was resilient enough to get back into games after trailing (16 wins, 3 OT losses). Nevertheless, he said that the sheer number of times the team had to play catch-up hockey and the amount of energy that has to be expended to do so inevitably took a toll and must be corrected if the team is to have sustained success.

Added team captain Claude Giroux, "I feel like it takes a while to get in the games. I think when you're in the second period and you've had your five or six shifts, that's when-our second period is always our best period."

Heading into this season, the Flyers had posted 50 or more points on home ice in five straight seasons (51 in 2013-14, 53 in 2014-15, 54 in 2015-16, 55 in 2016-17 and 50 in 2017-18). This season, the Flyers slipped to 42 points in their 41 games at the Wells Fargo Center.

"If you want to be a good team and be in a playoff spot, you have to have to be good at home, which we weren't," Voracek said.

"Pressure at home is higher at home than on the road. I think it's for every home team because they always want to see something extra, and you can't blame them. It's like a snowball and when you have a bad start, they let you hear it, which is fine. But you start overthinking and doing things that are not there."

One of the most unpleasant surprises the Flyers experienced this season was the extent to which the team -- which was used to annually clicking at or near 20 percent -- struggled on the power play in the first half of the season. In the second half, the team made some major changes on the man advantage both in structure and personnel.

"We had some different looks I mean even with the 5 forwards unit, I don't know what it was I don't know if it was clicking. We had two net front guys on the same unit, we had [Wayne Simmonds] and JVR it's a little different we had a lot of different looks and when you add a guy into the fold and obviously simmer is gone now. JVR and we have our 5 man unit and I wouldn't say we were clicking at the end but we were meshing a little better towards the end and that helps a lot. Chemistry is huge," Shayne Gostisbehere said.

Couturier said that roster changes and the systems favored by coaches are not things that are up to the players to decide; rather, it up to the players to execute to their best of their ability. 

"I think it's more of a philosophy around here. I don't think it's a question of effort, I think it's more of playing the right way and being a little smarter. More attention to details, system-wise within our systems. I think it's something we can maybe work on a little earlier in the year. Maybe at training camp, and be ready from day one," Couturier said.Video: Hear from Giroux, Couturier, Voracek & JVR

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