I keep thinking about this game...
I saw a few tweets from non-Flyers/Penguins fans after the game ended about the NHL evicting the Flyers from the playoffs, not deserving to have even gotten a berth in the first place... and based on how they've played lately -- not just yesterday, but over the past week or so -- maybe they're right.
This team has really been playing sub-par since the All-Star Break. They're just lucky enough that the rest of the Eastern Conference, save Pittsburgh and Carolina (and the Rangers for that week or so), has been playing nearly as sub-par.
My gut says that the Flyers' biggest issues -- let's call them consistency issues -- started during that Calgary game, where they were down 4-0 after the first period.
If I remember correctly, that was the first time this season that the Flyers were sent to the locker room down four goals after the first period. If you're a player in that kind of a position against a very solid Calgary team, I guess if you don't get any momentum or don't score early in the second, yeah, you're probably not going to come back. And while Knuble did bring the Flyers within three a little less than five minutes into the third, they never really attempted a comeback. Every single Flyer, whether it was consciously or subconsciously, except for maybe Dan Carcillo who was in his first game as a Flyer that night, realized that they weren't going to win the game, so why put up the effort physically?
You can argue about whether or not that's the appropriate thing to do, but it's going to happen in that type of blowout situation.
The next game they played, against Buffalo, was obviously a good game because they won 5-2. But there was something that bothered me that night -- late in the game, the Flyers gave up again... but this time when they were winning. It was 5-1 until very late in the game. They stopped playing, knowing they'd win, and gave Buffalo plenty of space to shoot at Biron. Biron's not the best goalie in the world, nor is he the worst, but when you give your opponents all that ice room, and aren't going after the puck, it doesn't matter if it's Martin Brodeur or Ken Wregget in goal -- eventually you're going to give up good opportunities and eventually your goaltender will be beat.
The Flyers did this exact same thing a week and a half later in Buffalo, when they gave up a goal with less than 12 seconds left in the game. It wasn't scored on an odd-man rush, but when Buffalo could pressure us offensively because our defense knew that with a three goal lead and 12 seconds left, we were going to win the game, so they gave up.
We won our next two games in Pittsburgh and against New Jersey, and we played until the very end of both games. No question the Flyers gave it their best, and it resulted in four huge points.
So here we come against the Panthers. Easy, right? And it's Scott Hartnell wig night. We lost because we gave up. Again.
I don't want to go through every game, but it seemed like by the end of the season, Flyers games had a script. Give up the first goal, try and come back in the second period, then stop playing in the third and hope the other team doesn't capitalize on whatever progress we made in the second.
They did this against the Islanders, against the Leafs (twice), against the Islanders again, and of course, against the Rangers.
This attitude went from virtually never being shown, to rarely being shown, to often being shown, and after Game 1, to always being shown.
The Flyers may have the deepest offensive threat in the league, but if the team doesn't even want to play, who cares? If this is how the rest of the series is going to go, hell, the Flyers may as well have not been in the playoffs.
I'm not one to jump on the whole 'we lost a game so let's fire John Stevens' bandwagon, but I'm definitely thinking of jumping onto the 'we haven't played like we cared in weeks so something needs to change' bandwagon. Does that mean replacing Stevens? I don't know. I think the lack of morale and the lack of interest is just as much the team leaders' fault (I'm looking at you specifically, Mike Richards, but also Kimmo, Knuble and Briere) as it is John's fault.
If they don't do something soon to improve the Flyers' attitude, the team will be reserving tee times for a week from now. And if they don't do something in the offseason, I worry that 2009-2010 won't be much different.