As the Flyers skated off the ice down two goals to the Washington Capitals at the end of the first period Wednesday, they were met by an overwhelming boo from the fans in attendance.
It was a little much, especially since the Flyers have repeatedly overcome two-goal deficits – or larger – this season and with the way the team had been playing for two months, one bad period while missing two of it’s top six forwards against the defending Stanley Cup Champions didn’t deserve such ire from the fans.
I said as much on twitter and had fans tell me I have no right to tell them how to react when they paid so much money for their seats.
My two responses to that are:
- It’s not my fault you couldn’t find cheaper seats than the ridiculous sums you pay to see a regular season hockey game. That’s on you.
- While you do have a right to react any way you want, just because you spend money on a ticket doesn’t mean your reaction is the right one.
Then the second period started.
- Alex Ovechkin scored before everyone was back to their seats from an intermission bathroom break.
- Andre Burakovsky less than two minutes later and Brian Elliott’s night was mercifully over.
- The first shot Cam Talbot saw in relief came 80 seconds later from Nicklas Backstrom – and it too went in the goal.
And the boos rained down again. This time, it was deserved.
No, the Flyers didn’t quit – they never do – and actually got the game back to its eventual final score of 5-3, making the final 12 minutes or so interesting, but overcoming a five-goal deficit – even one that occurred within the game’s first 25 minutes – is incredibly difficult to do.
Even more so against a team as good as Washington. Even more so without Jake Voracek or Nolan Patrick in the lineup.
And with that, the Flyers playoff chances took a huge hit and for all intents and purposes could evaporate completely in the next four days.
The Flyers remain seven points out of a playoff spot with just 15 games remaining. Carolina, Pittsburgh and Montreal all have 79 points and the Flyers have 72. The Hurricanes and Penguins have a game in hand on the Flyers and all three teams have a significant edge in regulation wins, which is the first tiebreaker.
The Penguins host Columbus – another team ahead of the Flyers, albeit on the outside looking in – and Montreal is in San Jose tonight before heading to Anaheim Friday. The Hurricanes host Winnipeg Friday night. The Penguins then travel to Columbus on Saturday to complete their home-and-home series and host Boston on Sunday while Carolina travels to Nashville Saturday night.
That’s a lot of games that could impact the Flyers in the next four days and the only one the Flyers can control themselves is a game in New York against the Islanders Saturday night.
And while the stars could align in such a way that the next time the Flyers are on home ice against Ottawa Monday they are only five points out of a playoff spot, it could also go incredibly sideways and look like this come Monday morning:
- Pittsburgh 84 points
- Carolina 83 points
- Montreal 83 points
- Columbus 80 points
- FLYERS 72 points
(Top three are playoff spots)
Yeah, that’s why the game at home against Washington was so important. And that’s why a 25-minute brain fart was not ideal.
“There’s obviously minimal room for error at this point for us,” said alternate captain Andrew MacDonald after the game. “It’s obviously not realistic to say we’re going to win every single game, but these divisional games are pretty important. It’s kind of a missed opportunity for us.”
No doubt. But what went wrong? How do you come out so flat when you know coming in that so much is on the line for the team?
“I don’t think there was one thing,” coach Scott Gordon said. “Our pace of play, I didn’t think we did a lot away from the puck to support. [In the] offensive zone, we had a few turnovers. [In the] defensive zone coming back for breakouts, I thought we made it easy for them to gain the zone and attack. [We had] missed-coverages in the slot. [On the] first goal we have three guys in the area, Ovechkin comes up with it, falling down makes a pass to the front and it goes right to their guy and they score, and we don’t get anything on it, a stick on it or anything. So, that kind of typified the first [25 minutes].”
Ovechkin sets up Tom Wilson from his knees – NHL https://t.co/nU7VzxoY68
— Hockey24x7 🏒 (@hockeynews24x7) March 7, 2019
Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim get caught running around a little bit, and Phil Varone always seems one step behind on this goal.
It’s one Gordon didn’t like, but also credit Ovechkin for a great play.
However there were a few other goals that were pretty bad.
Brian Elliott had been excellent for the Flyers since returning from injury a couple weeks ago. Two solid relief appearances and four strong starts in which the team went 3-0-1 was a significant reason for why the Flyers were still thinking playoffs in March despite being the worst team in the NHL in January.
But Elliott crashed back to earth against the Caps.
He allowed three bad goals, which ended up being the difference in the game.
You might want to cover your eyes on this first one:
— Hockey Daily (@HockeyDaily365) March 7, 2019
“I think he shot [and] at the same time one of our D men… [they] kind of whacked sticks,” Elliott said. “It’s kind of an off-speed pitch.”
Sure, Brett Connolly’s shot flutters on him a bit, but a goalie can’t whiff with his glove like that. That’s a save that needs to be made.
Then there’s Ovi again:
Ovechkin goes 5 hole off a beautiful pass by Backstrom for his 46th of the season pic.twitter.com/LI1K14nB82
— Heart of NHL (@HeartofNHL) March 7, 2019
Yes, it’s a nice keep by John Carlson. Yes, Backstrom does a good job shielding the puck, absorbing a hit from Radko Gudas and finding Ovechkin open on the far side. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave the wickets that open. It’s too inviting to any shooter, never mind arguably the game’s greatest goal scorer ever.
“It was a broken play that we pressured on the boards and became a two-on-one pretty quick,” Elliott said. “He’s a good player. [He] caught me trying to read if he was going to pass or shoot, and he scored.”
Appreciate the honesty Moose. But still, it’s not like it was a trademark Ovechkin rocket. That’s another goal that needs to be prevented by the goalie.
Then this was pretty much the death knell:
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 7, 2019
Phil Myers with a rookie mistake on this one getting caught in the neutral zone as two guys get behind him with the puck, but Shayne Gostisbehere does a nice job of closing on Burakovsky to force the weak shot.
But Elliott whiffs on this one too. Just listen to Brian Boucher on the broadcast (in the video above) talk about Elliott. It’s why Boosh is the best in the business. He should be on the No. 1 broadcast team and not freakin’ Pierre McGuire.
Elliott was pulled. Talbot came in. But the damage was done.
Hey, the kid made a mistake on that fourth goal, but otherwise had a pretty good night one that resulted in this:
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) March 7, 2019
It’s a sweet goal for the rookie, who Russ was able to snap a picture of celebrating his first NHL goal in the locker room (at least Russ was good for something at this game!)
— Russ Joy (@JoyOnBroad) March 7, 2019
But scoring a goal is not all we should talk about with Myers. You notice him on the ice – and not just because he’s a big kid. But he’s such a fluid skater for his size as well.
Take this play for example:
Phil Myers – very good at the sport of hockey pic.twitter.com/ZJ3z7cU3VN
— Brandon Murphy (@2Murphy8) March 7, 2019
He’s going to be a very good player at this level. The Flyers are going to have to deal with the mistakes like what happened on the Burakovsky goal for a little while, but those are growing pains that will be worth it in the long run.
Myers is a confident kid and a hard worker who is proving he belongs at this level. Would he have been a difference maker if he was called up sooner though:
The idea that the Flyers season would have played out differently if Hart would have been up since the start is dumb (he was bad in the AHL for the first two months). The idea that January might have went a lot better had Philippe Myers been up — that holds water for me.
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) March 7, 2019
I often agree with Charlie on his assessments, but I don’t know if I can get behind this completely. A rookie defenseman would have been the difference between winning and losing in the first five games of the month of January when the team was outscored 20-8 – in what would have been the first games of his NHL career no less? That is a little much.
Myers is going to be very good. But let’s not elevate him to Bobby Orr status this quickly. He’s not a difference maker yet.
- This game was the first time in Flyers history that they scored a goal in the last 15 seconds of one period and the first 15 seconds of the subsequent period as Myers closed out the second and Claude Giroux opened the scoring in the third period.
- Speaking of Giroux, it was his 20th goal of the season, marking the seventh time in his career he reached the 20-goal plateau. Giroux is on pace for 88 points this season, which would be the third highest in his career.
- Sean Couturier had two more assists. He now has 63 points in 65 games this season. He is on pace for 78 points, which would eclipse last season’s 76 points as a career best. Not too shabby for a guy who only had three points in his first 11 games (which is 60 in the last 54 games).
- As was reported here yesterday and confirmed with more details last night on Twitter and the Press Row Show, the Flyers will open next season in Prague, Czech Republic with two games against the Los Angeles Kings. There will likely be an exhibition game there as well as part of the trip. Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer was the first to report the Flyers would be playing in Europe and Dave Isaac of the Courier Post was the first to link the Flyers and Kings as potential opponents using some ingenuity and connecting dots.
(Kinkead: apologies for the generic cover image, our photo service is currently down)