By Mary Cunningham
It’s New Year’s Eve in Denver, and which team will go into 2015 with a morsel of momentum?
The Avalanche (13-15-8) and Flyers (14-16-6) both went into the Christmas break having won three straight but have returned with back-to-back losses.
“When we see the type of team we can be when we’re firing on all cylinders, we’re a dangerous team,” Philly goaltender Steve Mason said. “We just have to have that consistently, not just a period here and a period there.”
The Flyers have three seemingly winnable games left on an eight-game road trip – Colorado, Carolina and New Jersey are three of the only four teams with fewer victories. However, they haven’t won at the Pepsi Center since Dec. 27, 2002, losing six straight there with five coming by one goal.
Philly also has gone six in a row without scoring on the power play, a span of 15 chances. The franchise hasn’t had a longer drought on the man advantage since going seven straight games in November 2002.
“Special teams makes a lot of difference in every game and the power play has gotta find a way,” captain Claude Giroux (photo above) said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s pretty or not.”
Giroux had two of Philly’s three power-play goals in a 4-3 win over Colorado on Nov. 8 as he and Jakub Voracek each had three points. However, the No. 1 linemates each had a minus-3 rating without a point Monday in a 4-2 loss to Arizona. Voracek had eight points during the three-game win streak to begin the trip before being held off the scoresheet in two straight games for the first time this season.
R.J. Umberger scored both goals Monday, and another bright spot was Mason returning after missing four games with back spasms.
“I felt really good, actually,” said Mason, who has a 1.82 goals-against average in his last six starts.
Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov made his second start after missing six games with a groin injury, stopping 22 shots in Monday’s 3-0 loss at St. Louis. Backup Reto Berra gave up all four of Philadelphia’s goals in the first meeting and hasn’t appeared since Dec. 5.
A much bigger concern for coach Patrick Roy is the play of his forwards.
Top center Matt Duchene has no goals and one assist in the past seven games, and linemate Nathan MacKinnon has scored once in his last 18. On the second line, Gabriel Landeskog has gone 12 games without a goal and Danny Briere has none in his past 11.
“Right now we have too many of our forwards in a slump,” Roy told the team’s official website. “… It’s not enough offensively. We need more from our top guys.”
Colorado is averaging 26.2 shots in December, sixth-worst in the NHL, after matching a season low with 16 on Monday.
“We have been talking about playing simple hockey. Put pucks on net, and (Monday), how many times did we lose the puck at the blue line on turnovers or giveaways?” Roy asked. “We’re going to have to be better in those areas. … Our forwards need to play a lot better than what they are doing right now for us.”