It’s hard to say in the moment where a team may have squandered an opportunity. Over the course of an 82 game season, tough losses occur from time to time. Most teams apply the old cliche of picking themselves up and moving on to the next game. If the Flyers happen to turn their season around and come up just short of making the playoffs, they may look at these past two weeks as a huge missed opportunity. Even though they have struggled through the season’s first six weeks, the Flyers, to a man, have stood by the fact they they are a good team in a bad funk rather than a bad team. These past two weeks were a chance to prove that they were a good team. Nothing helps a struggling team break out of a slump like a string of games against inferior opponents. The Flyers took on the Hurricanes, Devils, and Oilers, teams with a combined 17-27-11 record, and Edmonton came into the Wells Fargo Center as the worst team in the NHL.
The Flyers failed to meet the challenge, at least, that was the case early on in the stretch. There have been plenty of head-scratching losses thus far in this all too confounding season. None may be more enigmatic than the Flyers 2-1 Overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Coming off a near perfect defensive performance against New Jersey, the Flyers took a similar approach into the game against struggling Hurricanes that had lost five consecutive games and was trying to cope with injuries to key players, including standout goaltender, Cam Ward.
The two teams battled deep into the third period to a scoreless tie until Scott Hartnell finally broke through, scoring his first goal of the season with 3:58 in the game. It looked like the Flyers would have their second consecutive 1-0 vicotry, but a missed assignment by team captain, Claude Giroux, led to the tying goal with less than a minute left in regulation. Then, with just over two and a half minutes played in the overtime, an uncharacteristic turnover by Mark Streit led to the gut-wrenching game winner for Carolina.
The Flyers frustration was evident in their postseason comments. What was particulalry alarming was that no one seemed to be accepting responsibility for not playing the full sixty minutes. The answers to reporters questions were about bad bounces and teenage like apathy toward a difficult situation.
That attitude manifested itself in one of the worst performances of the season in their next game. The Flyers didn’t just look bad in their rematch with the New Jersey Devils; they looked disinterested and bored in going through the motions of being shutout by a resurgent Martin Broduer. It was an old story line against the Devils’ future Hall Of Fame goaltender, but, regardless of the opponent, the Flyers Faithful appeared to have had enough. The boos rained down from every corner of the Wells Fargo Center. After the game, the Flyers held a players only meeting in the locker room. Some of the themes included playing for one another and winning and losing as a team. If something was a change to be made, it seemed apparent that is was going to have to happen immediately.
Whatever took place in that meeting paid immediate dividends on the ice. The Flyers took it to the Edmonton Oilers and gave fans at the Wells Fargo Center a performance worthy of the price of admission. A decisive 4-2 victory that saw the Flyers finally play well in all facets of the game. It was a game that also saw embattled superstar, Claude Giroux, finally record his first goal of the season.
The Flyers followed up on that performance with their first dominating win of the season. A resounding 5-0 whitewashing of the Ottawa Senators. It was the game that the Flyers have been waiting for all season. They were the team with the fire. They were the team carrying the play. They were the team that was playing with intensity and passion for a full sixty minutes.
The time for accolades is short lived as the Flyers return to the ice tonight to take on the rival Penguins. Records are not important when these teams meet, but for a Flyers team that seems to finally be finding their way, this game will be a good barometer in showing where they stand in terms of trying to track down the NHL’s elite. Then it’s off to Winnipeg where the Flyers will have to guard against a trap game. Any game after playing the Penguins has the danger of a letdown. Finally they return home to take on the very same Senators team that soundly defeated last night. On the surface, this looks like it can be a good week for the Flyers, but, as we learned from the season’s first six weeks, that’s why they play the games.
On The Fly:
- With a 3-0 win over the Flyers last week, Marty Brodeur recorded his twelfth career shutout against the Orange and Black. It is the most shutouts that the future Hall of Fame goaltender has against any team.
- Prior to Saturday’s game against Edmonton, it was announced that former Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov had signed with the Oilers. There was wild speculation about how fascinating it would be if he could face his former team. It wasn’t to be. But be sure to circle December 28th on your calendars. That’s the next time the Flyers play the Oilers.
- The Flyers have scored nine goals in their last two games. It took them seven games to record nine goals prior to these games against Edmonton and Ottawa.
- With their 5-0 win, the Flyers handed the Senators their first loss in regulation against an Eastern Conference opponent.
- On Monday, legendary Flyers coach, Fred Shero was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.