Raise your hand if you thought we would see a better performance tonight in Atlanta. Well I see that there are more raised hands than there were people in attendance Thursday night.
Nonetheless, a fiesty Atlanta team got fired up over what would be a practice attendance for the orange and black. They used that momentum and a whole lot of speed to down the Flyers Thursday night, 4-3.
I 've heard a gambit of excuses over the past few weeks.
"They're in first, they have nothing to motivate them"
"They are playing down to their opponents"
Well I am calling shenanigans on this wide array of excuses. The team flat out doesn't care right now. Plain and simple. Save a few minutes at the beginning of the third period, the Flyers looked worse than a freshman doing his first keg stand. Now, before I lose all my readers, I better get into the game coverage.
The first period started out with the Flyers severely on their heels. It's understandable with such a raucous crowd. After some back and forth play Tim Stapleton, "Who?", streaked down the right wing. He fired a quick wrister that beat Boucher five hole to bring the score to 1-0 Atlanta.
Minutes later Claude Giroux would be the recipient of some nice tic-tac-toe passing. Claude took the puck into the slot and made some nifty moves, mixed with a little luck, to beat Pavelec tying the score at 1.
The first period continued with much of the same lackadaisical approach from the Flyers. The first ended with the score knotted at 1.
The second began much like the first and lacked hustle or good hockey from the orange and black. After one of the worst defensive shifts all season, where there were at least 6 failed clears, the Thrashers cashed in to make it 2-1. A shot from the point pinballed to Bryan Little who found himself ALL ALONE in front of Boucher. He out waited the Flyers netminder out and roofed a backhand past Brian. There wasn't a Flyers defender within 20 feet of Little. The closest to the scene were Powe and Betts. Not what you want to see defensively.
Not too much later Flyers agitator Dan Carcillo tried to get the team fired up. Unfortunately, it was to no avail. The Flyers continued to struggle mightily until a quick forray into the offensive zone struck. Danny Briere found the puck in his "office". He quickly darted to the front of the net and beat Pavelec to tie the score at 2. Just shortly after Danny tied it up, Nik Antropov put the Thrashers back on top. He took a feed from Chris Thorburn and found himself wide open in the slot. Antropov fired the puck past Boucher, 3-2 Atlanta.
The third stanza started out very promising. It was by far the hardest the Flyers had played in the last few games. Pavelec stood on his head and the Flyers were unable to pull even.
After that the tide certainly turned the way of the Hotlanta blue shirts. The Thrashers continued to carry the play late into the third. The Flyers were able to muster sporadic chances to no avail.
Finally with just over a minute remaining, and Boucher pulled, Briere struck again. After a scrum in front the diminutive forward found the puck and slid it past Pavelec to even the score.
Overtime. Again. For the second consecutive meeting the Flyers found themselves in the extra session with Atlanta. This time, however, was a little bit more sweet than the last. Neither team could gain an advantage in the overtime period and it concluded with the score still deadlocked at 3.
The Flyers would have a chance in the shootout. You have to figure Giroux or Briere would take the first shot for Philadelphia. Instead, after Bryan Little was stopped by Boucher, the Flyers sent out the captain. Mike Richards, to the surprise of everyone, tried something different. Although unsucessful, he is obviously expanding his repertoire to more than the deke to the backhand.
The next opportunity put Detlef, I'm sorry, Rob Schremp in on Boucher. After making what seemed like 50 moves he beat Brian who had backed almost into his net. The next shooter, Danny Briere, was unable to capitalize. Blake Wheeler finished the orange and black off with a weird goal. The puck rolled off his stick and Boucher seemed to quit on the play. Wheeler fired a wrister past Brian to sink Philadelphia. The Flyers fall again to Atlanta 4-3.
There were some extremely concerning things in this game. The most glaring was the Flyers inability to space themselves through the neutral zone. This left them very susceptible to being beaten by speed. Speed is what Atlanta thrives on. It is also what many of the Eastern conference teams thrive on as well. Except for maybe Boston, the "run and gun" style of play is utilized by most.
If this game is any indication of how the Flyers will handle the speed come postseason, it may be time to check out beach reservations for May.
The other was the lack of tenacity in the defensive and offensive zone. On more then a few occasions the Flyers were beaten to pucks, out hit, and just flat out outworked. Not exactly the effort you expect after being embarassed on home ice by the same team.
Now before you go all Gary Busey on me and fly off the handle, I'm not giving up on my team. I simply see far too many gaps right now in a team that has potential to go very, very deep in the postseason. The Flyers aren't just having delusions of grandeur. Philadelphia is a legitimate cup contender. I just hope they realize that before it's too late.
With all that said, I still LOVE MY FLYERS! I have faith that they can turn it around come playoff time. Let's just hope they believe in themselves as much as we all do.
Until next time, LETS GO FLYERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PS You've all been Rick Roll'd