Well, at least we got almost a full week to enjoy having a true 0.500 record.
Back at the Wells Fargo Center after five days off, the Flyers carried over their sloppy play from the second half of Saturday's win over the Colorado Avalanche and fell 4-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The narrative for this one is likely going to revolve around the layoff. But there were quite a few Flyers who played strong games. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek were their usual dominant selves, particularly on the power play. Sean Couturier had a great second period. Michael Del Zotto was active in the offensive zone all night long. Even the fourth line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Zac Rinaldo put together a number of really solid shifts.
But others struggled. The Lecavalier line could not get anything going, as the addition of Jason Akeson really did nothing to spark them. Steve Mason, after a strong recent stretch, was fighting the puck all night long and gave up a number of juicy rebounds. And the defense consistently had serious trouble getting the puck out of their own zone.
The big problem, though, was the penalty kill. Long a strength of the team, the Flyers allowed Columbus to score three power play goals on four opportunities. The return of Braydon Coburn to the lineup was supposed to help at 4v5, but Coburn has been invisible on the PK and the team continues to fail at both shot prevention and goal prevention while shorthanded.
While the layoff will most likely be the big storyline, the collapse of the penalty kill in the early season is the more worrisome issue for the Philadelphia Flyers. Hopefully the loss of Kimmo Timonen isn't the beginning of the end of the Flyers' stellar shorthanded unit.
Ten more observations on the game:
- In his first return trip to Philadelphia, the fans gave Scott Hartnell a pretty warm welcome. Cheered him during the introductions, gave him a great round of applause during a highlight video played during a break in the action, and generally kept the booing to minimum. There were quite a few shouts and jeers for him at the second intermission when Sheena Parveen showed up on the Jumbotron to give weather updates, though.
- R.J. Umberger's big moment tonight was blowing a tire on a rush where he actually showed some speed. He finished a -5 in Corsi while Hartnell led the Blue Jackets with a +15. Sigh.
- You have to assume that the Flyers' penalty kill will get better - it's been a top-tier unit for so long, and so many of the personnel remains the same. But it's been painful to watch a historic strength of this team be a real weakness in the early going. Hopefully as Coburn rounds back into form, things will improve.
- Even in an all-around poor effort by the team, Jakub Voracek finds a way to get a goal and an assist. Teams just can't stop this guy.
- James Wisniewski got the first star and seemingly all of the praise from the Columbus media on Twitter, but I actually thought Nick Foligno was the best player on the ice tonight. His goal in the second period that made the score 3-2 halted what to that point had been a stretch completely dominated by the Flyers, and he was strong on the puck all game long.
- Claude Giroux now has 20 points (five goals & 15 assists) in 15 games. Seems like we're not talking about him as much due to Voracek's monster season, but the captain is having a heck of a start as well.
- Sean Couturier is carrying the puck into the offensive zone a lot more this season, and it was on full display in the second period. He needs to get his penalty killing game back to where it was last season, but his confidence at 5v5 seems to be improved as opposed to 2013/14.
- Jason Akeson was given a shot with Umberger and Lecavalier tonight, but the experiment did not prove successful. Akeson wasn't necessarily terrible, but he was unable to be the "playmaker" that Craig Berube said that the two veterans need. It's a thankless job, trying to lug two declining players around the ice, but by the end of the game, Akeson was back on the fourth line and Bellemare was given some shifts with the team's two slowest forwards.
- Even by his standards, tonight was a really bad Nicklas Grossmann game. By the third period, he was even making Andrew MacDonald look good at preventing zone entries.
- Craig Berube was not at all happy with the Lecavalier line in his press conference, and understandably so. But may it be better just to put Vinny and Umberger together rather than split them up and potentially drag down two separate lines at even strength? It's a painful question to ask, but both look like fourth liners right now.
Comment of the Night
_laude Giroux dogging it with another cheap power play goal. Way to be a captain.