Thanks…. for Nothing: Thoughts After Flyers Winless Streak Hits Eight Games

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Look, it’s Thanksgiving morning. It’s so early that only I am awake at the moment. Not even the sun is up yet, although I can see daylight starting to stir. The girls are home from college. visiting, asleep on an air mattress behind me because they wanted to stay up late drinking red wine and watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy.

Maria is still in La La Land, although she will be up soon making her traditional Thanksgiving breakfast before everyone gets themselves prepared for a full day of eating and football at my parents’ house.

The silence here is so intense, and wonderful, that I decided to type this post on my computer that needs a wireless keyboard because these keys are so much more quiet than any others.

I tell you all this because I cherish this morning, more than any others. I cherish this day. It’s the one day of the year where we are all guaranteed to be together. The food is great. The company, while fleeting, is perfect. And the small things that surround the day – like this hour of the morning, is, in fact, serenity now.

And yet, amidst all of this perfection, lies a flaw. I’m up this early not to enjoy the silence or to smell the aromatic French vanilla coffee that’s brewing, but to instead write about another loss for the hockey team.

Yep, the Flyers did it again, snapping defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a late lead and losing in overtime, 3-2 to the Washington Capitals, running their winless streak to eight games (0-5-3).

It’s the third time in the last calendar year they’ve had a winless streak of eight games or longer. As a reminder, they set the franchise record for the longest losing streak last season at 13 games. Not to say they are going to match it or break it, but the next six games are against Pittsburgh, the New York Islanders twice, Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Colorado – all winning teams.

This is getting ugly quickly – and again it’s a simple mistake that costs them the game.

Never mind losing in overtime. With their roster depleted by injury as much as it is, their chances of winning get even worse once you reach 3-on-3 because the talent and skill level just aren’t there for wide open hockey:

(Just an FYI, it was also the 164th different goalie scored against by Ovi (tied for third all-time) and his 123rd career game-winning goal. Dude is just special. … OK… back to the post,) 

No, the coups de grace occurred in the third period, at a time when the Flyers were playing well and looked like they were finally going to hang on and snap this skid. Until one small breakdown kills the team:

The mistake occurs in the neutral zone. It’s really evident on the slow motion replay when they are looking for the offside. Watch Joel Farabee step up from the blue line to challenge the puck carrier. While his intention is to cut off a pass, its a real low-percentage play, because all the puck carrier has to do is be patient for a second, skate past Farabee, who is going the opposite direction, and then make the pass to an open winger to set up what becomes a 3-on-2 rush from the blue line.

Evgeni Kuznetsov finds T.J. Oshie with that pass and it becomes a give-and-go because Farabee gave Oshie time and space to let the play develop, and Kuznetsov then sprints past Morgan Frost, who while not the initial bad actor, gets caught watching the play a little, and leaves Tony DeAngelo stuck trying to defend both Kuznetsov and Sonny Milano on the back door, which is impossible. Two nice passes. Goal. It’s easy.

“It’s a coverage that we have gone over time and time again and we just do not do it correctly and it cost us the second goal,” said coach John Tortorella. “A coverage – and not from a young guy – a coverage cost us the second goal. What I deem a very simple coverage, we turn into a mess.”

Speaking of messes, the Flyers power play is that and more.

They are 2-for-27 (7.4%)in the last nine games. Against Washington it was 0-for-4, and in the third period, with a chance to add on an insurance goal, the Flyers had successive power plays and got zero shots on goal.

They probably should have relinquished possession of the puck when the second penalty was called, but they tried to score instead and missed an extended opportunity at 5-on-3. Making it worse, Zack MacEwen went off the ice after the second penalty was called as it was his stick that was slashed to bits. Noah Cates came on the ice, but at the same time, Felix Sandstrom was coming off he ice as well for the delayed penalty, and no second player hopped over the boards, meaning the Flyers were trying to score on a delayed penalty with just five skaters instead of six.

“We’re stagnant, we’re way to stagnant,” Torts said. “We’re so deliberate. And with some pretty good offensive players too. So deliberate. We just can’t make the next play. It is what it is.”

He sounds exasperated with the power play – and he should be. The Flyers struggles have plummeted them to 29th in the NHL on the power play, scoring just 14.9% of the time with a man advantage.

Once again the Flyers are quickly turning themselves into a team that doesn’t know how to win.

And it’s why Bundy and I were so close with our August projections of the Flyers success, or lack thereof. Because it’s not always about talent or coaching. It’s about a desire to win, and there isn’t enough here. Hasn’t been in quite some time.

“Some guys are not able to think that way where they are wanting to win but are waiting to lose,” Tortorella said. “I think that happens with some guys.”

Whoever those guys are, they’re a bunch of turkeys.

Which reminds me. The sun is up. The girls are awakening. Maria is ready to start the French toast. It’s Thanksgiving. We can talk more hockey tomorrow.

Until then, I hope your Thanksgiving is happy, safe, and full of memories to be made for a lifetime.