Given the way things are going lately with our Philadelphia Flyers, I decided to do a quick trip down bad memory lane this morning. I went and peeked at our game recap from December 3, 2009 -- the final game of John Stevens' tenure as head coach. There are, uh ... similarities.
Buffalo Sabres (9-13-3, 21) at Philadelphia Flyers (11-14-1, 23)
7:30 p.m. | Wells Fargo Center | South Philadelphia
TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN 2 | Radio: 93.3 WMMR
Get the Buffalo perspective at Die By The Blade
Role players putting in the best performances. Top offensive talent non-existent. A long stretch of consecutive periods without scoring a goal. General dismay about every single aspect of the team's performance. And oh, hey, after that loss to the Vancouver Canucks that night, the Flyers held a closed-door meeting to discuss their issues. Guess what the Flyers did after yesterday's loss in Boston?
We get the general sense that the Flyers are at a breaking point. If things don't change ... well, almost immediately, there will be changes and those changes could be big ones. And because of that, every single game, period and shift feels like it could shape the Flyers future, rightly or wrongly, for the foreseeable future. It's unnerving for us, and it's undoubtedly even more unnerving for Paul Holmgren, Peter Laviolette and the team that at least for now still belongs to them.
The Sabres come into Wells Fargo Center tonight as a team that's already faced some of those big changes this year. This will be the first time since 1997 that the Flyers face Buffalo without Lindy Ruff behind the bench. If you want to know the kinds of changes that could face the Flyers in the near future if things don't turn around, we don't have to look much further than tonight's opponent. Head coach out, general manager on the hot seat, players feeling the heat. It's ugly.
And the scary truth is that, at least in terms of current standing, the Sabres and Flyers aren't much different. Buffalo can tie the Flyers in points with 23 if they win tonight, and they'll have played one fewer game. They're the worst power play team in hockey, 25th in 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio, and below average on the penalty kill. They allow more shots against per game than every other team in the league besides Edmonton. They are not good, and they're right there next to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings.
Tonight's a big game, which is the understatement of the century. The defense needs to be better by leaps and bounds, the power play needs to convert, and Zac Rinaldo needs to not be the best player in an orange sweater (no offense to Zac). After three straight losses to big rivals, the Flyers are on home ice against a bad team tonight. They need to win.
The Flyers called up Michael Leighton from the AHL last night and sent down Brian Boucher, which is a completely lateral move that will make no tangible difference, but comes off as a clear sign that Laviolette is beginning to panic. A backup starting tonight wouldn't be surprising given Ilya Bryzgalov's apparent fatigue and the back-to-back situation at hand, but there's something about calling up Leighton to perhaps play tonight that just stinks of desperation.
Then again, maybe desperation is necessary. There's a lot at stake tonight and over the next couple of games. A must-win game. No questions to answer section tonight because we already know what's at stake.