The Flyers lost to the tenth-place Atlanta Thrashers in a shootout last night. The question I asked myself after the game was, "Did the Flyers steal a point in Atlanta by tying the game late, or piss away another perfectly good opportunity to grab two points against a mediocre team?"
The problem is that most Flyers fans have been asking themselves similar questions all too often since the All Star break. It's also concerning that the Flyers aren't piling up the points to secure the top spot in the conference against weaker opponents.
Since the Flyers win against Tampa Bay (who was second in the conference at the time but has since fallen to fifth) on February 15th, the Flyers opponents have been: Florida (twice), Carolina, New York Rangers (twice) , Coyotes, Islanders, Senators, Leafs (twice), Sabres, Oilers, Atlanta (twice). Out of the 14 games, the Flyers only won 6 of them. Even more concerning: Except for the Coyotes in the West, all of these teams are on 7th or worse in their respective conferences, and only two of these teams will squeeze into the playoffs.
If the Flyers can't beat teams who will be playing golf in April instead of playing playoff hockey, how can they win the Stanley Cup? Some will argue that the Flyers are simply playing more desperate teams, and that the Flyers aren't motivated since grabbing first place in the conference on January 4th and maintaining a weak grip.
Flyers fans can only hope that this is the case. If this theory is true, then the Flyers should play better to close out the season. Instead of playing cellar-dwellers, the Flyers close out the season with a huge game against Washington on Tuesday, 2 games against Pittsburgh, a home game versus Boston, and a match against the red-hot Jersey Devils. Maybe in the previous 14 games, the points were simply a luxury and not a necessity. But with the Capitals and Penguins oh-so-close to overthrowing the Flyers' reign, these points are necessities for a deep playoff run.
If the Flyers weren't desperate before, they should be now. With games against stronger opponents and rivals to close out the season, the Flyers have a chance to show their true colors. Will they show up now that it matters?