If it’s one thing I’ve come to learn about the Flyers in the recent years it’s that you can never really gauge what kind of performance you’re going to witness. I’m glad I was at least able to predict that much.
This year’s Flyers squad came into last night’s performance as a team searching for its identity. There have been chemistry issues, concerns on defense, and, most frustratingly, scoring issues. Certain players were called out for their seeming inability to lead the team. Others were called out for not scoring. Some were called out for not contributing in other facets of the game.
Flyerland is in turmoil.
The Flyers (3-3-1) were looking to finally turn a corner against the Columbus Blue Jackets (4-3-0). In their previous contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs it seemed as if they had begun to do so, giving a sound defeat to a hockey club that’s been surprisingly successful so far this season.
That success would not continue last night. The Blue Jackets essentially dictated the pace of the entire game.
If I would have told you that with approximately five minutes left to go in the game the Flyers failed to score on the Jackets without telling you who was in net I’m sure you would have imagined that Steve Mason got the start. However, it was backup net minder Mathieu Garon who was in net for Columbus.
Speaking of good goaltending, Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher once again kept his team in the game. The final score of 2-1 wasn’t indicative of how badly the Flyers were beaten. The team has him to thank.
“You know, I felt good tonight,” said the Flyers net minder. “I think the first forty minutes we couldn't get much going and we didn't get a lot of chances―maybe a lot of traffic, so that can be frustrating. But personally I feel pretty good about my game.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters he thought Boosh was “solid”.
“There's not a lot you can do with the ones that they scored. He got us hanging around. We didn't respond very well but he let us hang around."
About twelve minutes into the first period, Chris Clark single-handedly got in and around the defensive pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle. His shot bounced off of Boosh and right back to him. Clark shot the rebound which deflected off of Kyle Wilson’s stick and into the net for Columbus’ first goal. Initially it was credited to Clark but later Wilson was given the goal. It was Wilson’s first in the NHL.
Derick Brassard scored halfway into the second period on a Blue Jackets PP which never left the Flyers’ zone. The PK unit became visibly tired, as did Boucher. Brassard received a swift east-west pass across the crease which he fired into the open net.
The Flyers’ top two lines of Powe/Richards/Giroux and Hartnell/Briere/Leino were able to put sporadic pressure on the Jackets, but Garon was a brick wall.
“We [Leino, Briere, Hartnell] didn't get going until after two periods ourselves,” said Ville Leino, the only Flyer who scored last night. “The last period was good and we gotta do it right away because it doesn't matter what team it's against. It [was] just too late.”
The other two lines of Shelley/Betts/Carcillo and, to a much greater degree, JVR/Carter/Zherdev, failed to show up altogether. The Betts line (which I had been praising all season) seemed to lack the energy which it usually possesses. The Carter line was an absolute abomination. There was no communication, no pressure, and no effort. It looked like each of them was playing as individuals and not as a line.
With the offseason work that JVR has put in, the fact that Carter is in a contract year, and Zherdev’s reputation, it is widely speculated that each of these players should have great seasons. It seems to me that they’re all well aware of it too―so much so that they’re all trying to be heroes instead of letting the flow of the game be their guide.
“I think we just couldn't get going,” said Leino. “After 40 minutes we got going and it was just way too late to win a hockey game, no matter what team it's against."
“The first 40 minutes―there was nothing there. There was no jam to our game,” Lavvy told reporters. “We played mindless hockey without any energy or any passion.”
Leino cut the Flyers’ deficit in half 14:59 into the third period. He received a pass from Danny Briere from the left side while setting up office in front of Garon. The puck landed at his skates and he was able to lift it up and over the Jackets’ goaltender.
Unfortunately, the momentum the Flyers received after the Leino goal was swiftly pulled away from them approximately a minute later after Darroll Powe received a two minute minor penalty for interference, his second of the night.
“It's completely frustrating and we got exactly what we deserved tonight. You don't show up and compete―you don't execute, you don't play the game with energy and emotion―you're going to lose, all the time. That's what happened tonight.”
“We keep going in the same direction and we support each other and we know what we can do when we put it all together. I mean, obviously it didn't happen tonight and that's frustrating. But, you know, you just gotta keep playing away.”
It’s becoming increasingly to stay positive here in Flyerland, Boosh.
The Flyers take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
* * *
Stars of the Game
1. Ville Leino
2. Brian Boucher
3. Danny Briere
* * *
Congratulations are in order for Sean O’Donnell. Last night was his 1,100th NHL game.
One hive, y’all.