We all thought -- perhaps hoped -- that the story coming out of tonight's game vs. the Islanders would be the play of Steve Mason. We hoped that he'd come in and back stop the Flyers to victory, boosting their playoffs hopes in the process, and the ensuing goalie controversy would just be collateral damage.
Mason wasn't the story at all tonight, and we probably don't actually have that goalie controversy, because the Flyers can't win consistently no matter who is in between the pipes this year. They lost to the Islanders, 4-1, in a must-win game at Nassau Coliseum tonight, and the final nail is all but hammered into their coffin. They will not be a playoff team -- not when they sit seven points back of eighth place with just nine games to play.
It was a must win game. It was very clearly the most important game they've played this year. And yet, for lengthy stretches of the action, the Islanders were the team beating them to the puck. The Isles were the ones capitalizing on their scoring chances. The Isles were the team controlling the play. The Flyers were spectators, and whether that's because they don't give a shit or because they just aren't good enough to compete is frankly irrelevant at this point.
Barring an utter miracle, they're going to be playoff spectators for just the second time since the 1994-95 lockout shortened season, and that's the deserved outcome in this awful, embarrassing, can't-end-soon-enough 2013 hockey season.
Some random bullet points on the loss:
Stats and stuff:Game summary | Event summary
Ice time: Flyers | Islanders | H2H
Shots: Differential | Full report
Shift charts | Zone starts | Faceoffs
* The Isles first goal was, well, ugly on all accounts. Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes worked over Kent Huskins and Bruno Gervais (not particularly surprising!) and then Mason was beaten short-side by Boyes on a puck he probably should've stopped.
* Claude Giroux's pass on Jake Voracek's opening goal .... man. Hockey can be pretty this year.
* The Flyers had two shots on goal in the first 6:28 of the game, including Voracek's goal. They then went 8:39 without a shot on goal and finished the period with five shots on goal total, and on a first period power play during that shotless span they registered zero shots and two giveaways. In a nutshell, they let the Islanders completely dictate the majority of the first period, and in what amounts to a playoff game, that seems pretty inexcusable.
* Resident Isles goon Matt Martin clipped Mason in the second period and it was up to Brayden Schenn to have a few words with Martin and ultimately dropped the gloves. Reason No. 1 an enforcer is irrelevant in today's NHL: Guess where Jay Rosehill was when this all went down?
* In all seriousness, there's that awkwardly delicate balance between being scared shitless that Schenn was going to get beat down by Martin (he lost the fight but held his own, by the way) and being super proud that he stepped in to protect his goalie like that. Didn't even hesitate (mouse over the GIF to animate):
* New York's second goal was really frustrating. The Flyers had iced the puck after a long shift in their own end, so Peter Laviolette used his timeout to get his guys some rest. They did what they had to do, winning the defensive zone draw and getting the puck up ice, but then Baby Schenn over-skated the puck in the offensive end and the Isles turned it into a rush the other way. Hard to tell if it was coasting back into their own end or just an inability to get back in time that left Michael Grabner wide open for a quick snap shot, but it wasn't pretty.
* Not nearly as frustrating as their third goal, though. Steve Mason bailed out his defense with a great save on the initial Isles shot -- which came from right in the damned slot, of course -- and then instead of clearing the loose rebound away and out f danger, Erik Gustafsson came sliding in from the middle of nowhere and pushed it into the open net. Because the 2013 Flyers.
* The NHL has the Flyers at 13 missed shots on the evening. Has to be wrong. I think Bruno Gervais had 13 by himself.
* Remember the other day when Luke Schenn got a puck to the face and there was blood everywhere? Happened again tonight, minus the blood. The puck even stuck around as a souvenir. (Again, mouse over the GIF to animate):
* Things A Desperate Hockey Coach Does In Order To Keep His Job, Part I: Plays defenseman Kent Huskins, who a week ago was described as having "no trade value" by his fans of his former club before the Flyers then traded for him, more than just one other defenseman on his team. That one defenseman is not Kimmo Timonen, but Erik Gustafsson.
* Things A Desperate Hockey Coach Does In Order To Keep His Job, Part II: Sits one of the NHL's best defensive forwards for all but 10 minutes of ice time in a must-win game when half of his roster is otherwise injured.
* Things A Desperate Hockey Coach Does In Order To Keep His Job, Part III: Plays 40-year-old oft-healthy scratched Mike Knuble more than aforementioned strong, capable defensive forward.
* Things A Desperate Hockey Coach Does In Order To Keep His Job, Part IV: Plays Matt Read for just eight and a half minutes for the first two periods combined and then suddenly, in need of a jump, plays him for six-plus minutes in the third period.
* Things That Should Get A Hockey Coach Fired: see above. It's one thing to coach a bad hockey team. It's another entirely to make decisions that exaggerate how bad the team is. Playing bad players over good players doesn't help.
Questions with Answers
1. How does Steve Mason perform in his first start for the Flyers? Mason was actually fine. Yeah, maybe he could've stopped the first two goals, but they certainly weren't his *fault* and he made a number of big saves at key points.
2. Do we see the first-period-vs.-Winnipeg version of the Flyers at all tonight? Maybe for a stretch at the beginning of the first period, but other than that, no, not really. The Isles were the better team throughout.
3. The defense collapsed in the second period Saturday. Can they hold water for 60 minutes vs. NYI? haha of course not
4. Are the Flyers still in the playoff conversation at the end of the night? haha of course not
Comment of the Night
>> Dan M.