The Flyers entered today's game on a three-game losing streak, while just getting into what might be the toughest strech of their schedule this season. For them to win today's game, they were going to have to do a much better job in multiple areas -- namely, displaying proper coverage in their own zone, connecting on their passes, spending stretches of time in the other team's end, and not taking dumb penalties.
They did not do that. Any of it, really.
Today's game became One Of Those Games within the first seven minutes, which saw the Flyers commit two penalties and give up a goal on the second of those. The next twelve minutes or so actually went a lot better than I expected them to -- despite not getting a ton of high-quality chances, the Flyers were actually sort of moving the puck out of their zone and putting it on Tuukka Rask when they had the chance. It wasn't showing up on the scoreboard, and it's hard to believe in retrospect, but there was actually a point in this game where the Flyers -- squaring off with what I think might be the best team in the conference -- didn't look like a complete turd that happens to move up and down an ice rink sometimes.
And then with 18 seconds left in the first period Jarome Iginla buried a shot from the top of the right circle over Steve Mason's glove, with some help from Nicklas Grossmann on a screen that obviously did much more for the opposition than it did for his own team.
You can guess how the rest went. The Flyers got railroaded for the large majority of the remaining 40 minutes. The Bruins got a goal off of a breakaway where Reilly Smith basically ran through Grossmann's attempt to hold him. Steve Mason left the game after he served up a bad-angle goal to Patrice Bergeron off of a rebound. After a nice little window-dressing goal by Claude Giroux on the power play to break the goose egg on the scoreboard, the Flyers almost immediately gave two back thanks to a double-minor penalty that allowed the Bruins to score two goals. And that was pretty much that.
The best stretch the Flyers had in today's final 40 minutes was on the power play where they scored their lone goal, where all five guys on the top unit were moving their feet around the offensive zone, trying to create openings, before Giroux lasered a shot past Tuukka Rask. It looked good. It really did. It also looked like something they were completely incapable of doing for the rest of the game -- y'know, moving your feet and making good passes. But what does it say about the current state of this team that the hardest it looks like they're working is when they're a man up in their own zone -- and almost nowhere else, in almost no other situation?
Right now there is basically almost nothing that the Philadelphia Flyers can do right. They are not moving the puck up ice. They appear incapable of connecting on any sort of pass that travels more than about five feet. They cannot play a simple game where they dump it deep and win battles, and they cannot play an up-tempo game where they can carry the puck in and create chances with skill.
On the other end, they do not cover nearly well enough in their own zone. They let guys get behind them far too easily and either create chances right away or go back and win a battle for the puck in the defensive zone. Guys who try to get in position to block shots end up missing the puck and screening their goaltender far too often. And even so, speaking of which, their goaltending -- recently extended or otherwise -- is currently not satisfactory.
They do not start games well. They do not end games well. After spending so much of December and early January showing resilience and bouncing back as they should from bad starts, they fold like a damn tent as soon as things take a turn for the worse. Couple all of this with a penchant for stupid penalties and a penalty kill that, while very good, cannot cover for everything happening around it, and you get a team that has one point in its last four games while being outscored 18-8, all while it is a couple of days away from heading out west and facing some of the most impressive teams in the league right now.
I'm not one who thinks this team is full of talentless losers. There are obviously some limits, but there's also obviously at least some good players on this team. And we saw them basically look this bad in October and they eventually pulled out of that, so this season is not over no matter how much it looks like it is right now.
But if the Flyers have any interest in being a team anywhere close to as good as its over-the-salary-cap payroll suggests it should be, they need to fix it. What's "it"? Basically everything. From the coaches who are clearly scrambling to the forwards who aren't scoring enough to make up for some bad habits in their own end to the defensemen who aren't doing much of anything right to the goaltenders who are not playing nearly well enough to cover what's happening in front of them. Everyone needs to do better. It's really that simple.
Because here's something else that's simple: if they don't, it might just get even uglier.
Comment of the Afternoon:
Bruins player off screen - "Are the Flyers even a real hockey team?"
Detroit on Tuesday night. Wonder if anything happens before then. Go Flyers.