Ever hear that saying, “take one step forward and two steps back”? How about “two steps forward and one step back… off a cliff”?
That’s what the Philadelphia Flyers did as you would think that last Sunday was rock bottom for the guys in Orange and Black when they took a 7-0 beating at the hands of the New York Rangers, but no. The Flyers were able to take any and all progress they had made in their previous two games against the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs and not only squander it, but revert back to a lead-blowing, inconsistent, fragile hockey team when they went up three to nothing at home on a desperate Atlanta Thrashers team and took that lead into the third intermission.
The third period is often the most important period in hockey and this team has let itself slip all year long. They paid dearly for it this time as they let the Thrashers not only back into the game, but to tie it up in the last minute of regulation, send it to overtime, and finally lose in the first minute and 20 seconds. Lest we forget that this is pretty much the same team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals last year after getting in on the final game of the season by way of a shootout.
This is a team that was able to regroup after losing the first three games of a series only to go on and win three in a row and then come back from a three-zip deficit within a game seven on the road to cap one of the greatest sports comebacks in the history of sports comebacks. A team that thrived on adversity and against all odds could and would surprise you if given an opportunity to. A team bursting at the seams with character.
The Flyers will be searching for that character for the rest of the season or it could be a much longer summer than any of them anticipated.
As a fan of the NHL brand of hockey, you have to know that the team you love won’t win every game.
They will lose games they should win. They will win games they should lose. They will lose badly occasionally. But this, now, is inexcusable. You cannot let a point in a game where you are up three goals to none, with just twenty minutes remaining, slip away because of some really bad mental lapses that have been festering over the first 67 games of the season.
This is where things should be tightening up, not getting blown apart. They need to recognize that this isn’t a one-time thing. This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s time to get back to the drawing board and back to work and put the pedal through the metal, to the asphalt, and not take it off until you lose four out of seven.
In not terrible news, Jeff Carter has now taken over the goal lead for the Flyers, being the first Flyer to reach 30 on the season, while Claude Giroux has been setting a career high in points since he reached 47 what seems like forever ago. Ville Leino also notched his first career hat-trick as well as assisted on the final Thrashers goal by turning it over in overtime, too bad he doesn’t get a point for that because it was really helpful in springing the Thrashers on their final rush there. The Flyers will look to re-right the ship this week with games against the Florida Panthers, a rematch against the Atlanta Thrashers, and the second and final meeting with the Dallas Stars.
03.15.2011 at 7:30 p.m. in Sunrise
The Florida Panthers are nine points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference right now and have just 13 games left on their schedule before they’re probably going to be playing golf.
Stranger things have happened, but right now they’re going to be more focused on building an identity for next year or at least trying to start the offseason with some optimisim. This was a team that had had a really good goal differential the entire season and despite never really making it into the top eight spots, they were able to keep scores close.
That hasn’t happened lately as they’ve now allowed 18 more goals than they’ve scored and are 3-5-2 in their last 10. However, on the bright side, they beat instate and divisional rival Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-3 in overtime.
Stephen Weiss is likely to lead the Panthers at the end of season as right now he has 45 points and 27 assists. David Booth has the most goals for the Panthers with 21 while Marty Reasoner leads the team in game winning goals as he has 4. The Panthers are a team that is rebuilding and it would be very surprising if goaltender Tomas Vokoun stays with them past this year as he is scheduled to enter UFA status after this season.
Needless to say Vokoun is one of the better goaltenders in the game and on a bad team has put forth decent numbers including a 21-24-5 record, with five shutouts (including one over the Flyers), a very good .921 SV%, and a respectable 2.60 GAA. Scott Clemensen has been pretty solid as a backup to Vokoun as his numbers are also decent with a 7-7-4 record, a .915 SV%, and not that bad 2.56 GAA considering he has no shutouts.
The Flyers need to win games against teams like this to gain their confidence back, but it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if they are unable to put forth a solid, much less a winning, effort.
03.17.2011 at 7 p.m. in Atlanta
The Atlanta Thrashers were able to shock just about everyone in the Wells Fargo Center as they scratch and claw and will their way back into a game that seemed all but decided with just 20 minutes to play.
All four of Atlanta’s regulation goals came in the third period as four different Thrashers were able to net goals in the final period of play. Ron Hainsey had the final marker as the Thrashers capped an incredible 5-4 comeback win over the top seeded, but recently terrible Philadelphia Flyers. One of the most important things to know about this game is that the Thrashers outshot the Flyers in every single period with period by period shot totals of 10, 11, 18, and finally 2, as they put 41 total shots on net.
Andrew Ladd notched his team leading 26th goal on the season and had an assist to put himself at the top of the Thrashers point pile with 53 on the season. Tobias Enstrom also put a puck away in the third to pull himself ahead of fellow blue-liner Dustin Byfuglien as they have 51 and 50 points on the season respectively.
Ondrej Pavelec has great numbers on a really bad defensive team this year as he has a 19-18-9 record including three shutout victories, a pretty good .918 SV%, and a real good 2.67 GAA considering the Thrashers have allowed 223 goals overall this year. Chris Mason relieved Pavalec of his duties in the third and his numbers have been pretty much miss all year as he has posted a 10-10-3 record, a brutal .896 SV%, and a dead-awful 3.42 GAA.
One would expect that the Flyers would want to atone for what was a terrible third period with a complete effort in this game, but will probably lose as they don’t take teams that are not in the top eight spots seriously at all.
03.19.2011 at 8 p.m. in Dallas
The Dallas Stars had been falling in the standings for the better part of the past month, but have recently regained some traction going 6-2-2 in their last 10 and garnered points in all of their last eight while going 6-0-2 during that stretch.
They are currently in 4th place with 82 in the Western Conference but are only two points ahead of the Nashville Predators who has fallen out of a playoff spot and currently sit in 9th place with 80 points. A big plus for the Stars is that they have gotten their most valuable player this year in Brad Richards back from a concussion suffered in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets a month ago today on February 13th.
Richards has played two games since and registered an assist in the Stars’ most recent outing, a 4-0 shutout win over the Minnesota Wild. In Richards’ absence, 2011 All-Star Loui Eriksson stepped up in a pretty big way as he registered eight points and two game winning goals in 10 games. Dallas Center Mike Ribeiro also put up nine points during that same stretch including a four game point streak where he had one goal and three assists.
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has been really good this year as he owns a 29-18-8 record, one shutout, a pretty good .915 SV%, and a good in the West 2.57 GAA as he has played a ton of games in what has to be the best division in hockey in the Pacific Division which at one point had all five teams in a playoff spot, though currently has four of the five with spots while the Anaheim Ducks sit just two points out.
In the only other meeting this season between these two teams, the Flyers won by a score of 3-1 which was a little over a month ago. This should be a good game and the Flyers absolutely have to get up for one of the better teams in the West if they want to have any shot at taking home that big shiny thing this year with all of their names on it.