The last time the Flyers and Capitals played, the Flyers put on what was probably the most embarrassing show they've had all season long. Bad defense, no goals, unnecessary fights, goalies jumping other goalies ... it was the worst game they've played all season long. No questions asked.
Today's Flyers game against the Capitals wasn't quite that bad. Hell, they even managed to score four goals and get a point in the standings out of it. But in some ways, doesn't that kind of make it worse?
This season has seen its fair share of gut-punches, blown leads, poor efforts, lazy play in the third period, etc. It's just that usually we don't see ALL of those things happening AT THE SAME TIME IN THE SAME GAME, y'know? And against a division rival? One that you more or less walked all over for the first three-quarters-or-so of the game?
Up 4-1 in the third period against a team that has lived and died this year on winning games with late comebacks and overtime and the shootout. And what we saw was the latter half of the third period tonight. "Being too passive" is not an option against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, and one that made a similar comeback to this one ... all of four days ago. It's pathetic.
It makes this all that much more difficult -- because on the whole, this was a pretty solid game for the Flyers. As a team, they largely controlled the play up until that hellish third period stretch. Michael Raffl continued the tear that he's been on lately, with three very nice primary assists, and if the past couple of games is any sort of long-term indication then he may work out well on that top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. They killed four out of five penalties against a Capitals power play that's very, very good. And you wouldn't guess it based on his final line, but for most of the game, Steve Mason actually looked pretty solid, making some big saves to help keep the Flyers ahead.
And if I'm being honest, it probably wasn't even that bad from the Flyers. Two of those three third-period goals came on shots from the point, at least one of them bounced off of a Flyer, and the game-tying goal was scored by the best goal-scorer in hockey off of a bad puckhandling moment from the goalie with an extra skater on the ice. Despite my anger and complaining here, I know that the Flyers probably did deserve to win this game.
But losers don't get to talk much about the positives and the things they deserved when they give up a three-goal lead in the third period. So instead we're all angry and sad. Thanks a lot, the Flyers.
* As mentioned above, the biggest positive that you can take from today is that the top line is cooking right now. Michael Raffl always showed off some good speed, but the vision's been there from him lately, and you've seen in in the chances he's created both via pass and his own shots. Meanwhile, both of the other gingers scored again, and more and more with each game, they look like they're rounding back into form. So that's nice.
* Sean Couturier's third-period goal was uuuuugly and I loved it. Shot from the far-side boards below the goal line. Is it just me, or are 99% of the goals he scores either highlight-reel dandies or ugly goals like that one? Whatever. I'll take the results.
* Shootouts are terrible and I would take back at least 80% of the mean things I've ever said about Gary Bettman if he got rid of them tomorrow.
* Last week Travis wrote about Steve Mason and adversity. As he said, this is the first time all year that he's struggled for a multiple-game stretch, and how he bounces back will probably go a long way towards figuring out if he can be a solution in net. He looked solid on Thursday night, and he was good through 50 minutes today. And he was a bit unlucky, with at least one or two goals (if not three?) bouncing in off of Flyers players. But allowing three goals in the last ten minutes of a game, no matter the situation, is not the kind of thing that's going to lead to much long-term confidence from the fanbase. Especially when two of those goals were on shots from the point, and the game-tying goal came after a failed clearing attempt by the goalie himself. That's not to say it's all over for him and that we should start writing out Steve Mason obituaries now. It isn't, and we shouldn't. But we need some more October/November Mason, and we need it soon.
* The Washington Capitals have as many wins in the shootout this year as they do wins in regulation. Eight apiece. That is equal parts ridiculous, hilarious, and sad. Where can we buy that kind of shootout luck?
Questions to Answer:
1. The Flyers were really really stupid and bad the last time they played the Capitals. They manage to find a way to not be really really stupid and bad today, right? Nothing stupid happens, right? Well, it's a different kind of stupid.
2. Alex Ovechkin has been really really good lately even by his high standards. Are the Flyers able to contain him today? He the game-tying goal and it kind of looked like he scored the first goal, even though it wasn't officially given to him. So I'm gonna say 'no'.
3. The Flyers controlled play pretty well on Thursday and the Caps aren't a particularly good possession team. Can they control the puck again today? They did for about 45 to 50 minutes. Let's just pretend the last 10 didn't happen.
4. Phillipp Grubauer's played in just six NHL games in his career, but he's been very good in them. Can the Flyers crack him? They can and did, in fact. Four goals on 25 shots, including an impossible-angle goal by Couturier early in the third period that has to be stopped. Didn't matter, though.
Comment of the Late Afternoon:
3 goals for Raffl? Looks like he's gonna get sent down.... :(
-- killagram, though fortunately Raffl's goal was given to Jakub Voracek, so he may live for another day.
Back at it against these guys again on Tuesday, this time in the Wells Fargo Center. Do better then, please. Go Flyers.