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No more excuses: Flyers fall below .500 with loss in Montreal

[TSN Recap] - [Boxscore] - [Montreal Reaction]

Final - 12.7.2009 1 2 3 Total
Philadelphia Flyers 1 0 0 1
Montreal Canadiens 0 2 1 3

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13-13-1. This Philadelphia Flyers team, once with so many expectations, now sits below the .500 mark, a sad shell of their potential. Out of a playoff spot in the East, behind both New York teams in the division, and unspeakably behind the class of the Eastern Conference, a group they should be a part of.

Two wins in their last ten. 0 for their last 19 on the power play. Two goals or less in their last six games. These are the numbers of a hockey team in free fall. They've fired their coach and still can't seem to get out of this slump. But are there any signs of hope? Any at all?

It's tough to say. If Peter Laviolette can turn this team around, it's not going to happen over night. The Flyers did show more effort tonight, especially considering the work put in on Saturday against Washington. But the same old problems came back -- inconsistency.

In stretches, the Flyers established their fore-check and showed the teachings of their new coach while doing it. They were very aggressive on the puck, and defensemen routinely jumped up into the offensive zone. But they didn't keep the pressure on for the entire game. In the second period, for example, they completely fell on the heels for the latter 10 minutes. You're not going to get anywhere with a less-than-complete effort.

Montreal's second goal was an example of how Laviolette's style could go wrong. The puck was jammed along the side boards in the offensive zone, about five feet from the blueline. Several players fought for it along the wall, including Kimmo Timonen, who jumped into the play. When it bounced free to Maxim Lapierre, Kimmo was caught, leaving Braydon Coburn back to fend for himself on a two-on-one. Coburn played it miserably, allowing a pass to a wide-open Michael Cammalleri, who easily put it by Brian Boucher.

That play is a bit of an anomaly, though, considering there was a puck battle along the wall so close to the blueline. The defenseman is always going to jump up there, regardless of the system the coach has the team running. The key here, is that when defensemen pinch and nobody is there to cover, you can't afford to play the ensuing odd-man rush as haplessly as Coburn did.

You've gotta credit Montreal a bit in this one, too. They took advantage of their chances (3 goals on 13 shots), got solid goaltending, and most of all, they didn't allow the Flyers to get comfortable in the offensive zone. The Habs blocked 27 Philadelphia shots. Twenty-seven! Roman Hamrlik blocked 10 by himself. It's tough to win when more than half your shots don't get through to the net.

Regardless of the reasons, though, this is getting old. We're sick of the excuses. We're sick of trying to justify it. Pretty soon, if not already, we're going to start questioning if this team can really do anything this season.

After the jump, questions, lowlights, and the comment of the night.

Questions With Answers

  1. Elements of the slump bust: power play. Can they turn it around? 0-for-4, including a goose egg on a key PP in the third period while still only down a goal. Montreal took a dumb too many men penalty and the Flyers couldn't score on the ensuing PP. On the flip side, Montreal gets a PP minutes later and capitalizes. Turning point in the game.
  2. Element two: goaltending. How does Boucher perform? The stats look bad, but he was pretty solid tonight. The first two goals weren't really his fault, and the third was just a blistering shot nobody would've stopped.
  3. Element three: lifeless hockey. The Flyers have looked lazy for weeks. Does that stop? In stretches, yes. Need that full effort, though... *sigh*
  4. Element four: the system. Is it obvious that Laviolette has already put in some tweaks to the offense, and if said tweaks are obvious, do they seem to work? As mentioned above, some of the tweaks were clear. Defensemen pinching, forwards rotating back toward the blueline to cover, aggressive toward the puck carrier in the offensive, defensive, and neutral zones.

Comment Of The Night

Carter couldn’t make the Egyptian team right now.

>> JpH89