Last week, the Flyers came into New York City, face the very same Rangers team that they faced today. They looked bad, in the sense that the Rangers basically walked in and skated around them the entire game en route to a 2-0 win.
Today's game -- a 3-0 loss to those same Rangers, though on home ice -- was a similar result. But man, watching this team play today, they just seemed to be a whole different kind of hopeless.
There's very, very little good to take out of today's game. The Flyers spent stretches of time getting basically no offense going whatsoever, and it seemed like any time they did, all of the shots were either going into the netting or into a Ranger's shin pads. Cam Talbot got his second shutout of the Flyers in ten days, and this one seemed even easier for him than the previous one did.
You can make excuses. Every player who talked post-game made some reference to needing more effort, or needing to compete harder, or trying to execute better (hey, is there an echo in here?). Hextall and Berube, both of whom talked separately after the game, said they saw the effort in spurts but also thought that there was too much "frustration" and emotion that was being channeled in a counter-productive way. And hell, maybe both of those are true. And as we know, the Rangers are the Flyers' living nightmare at this point.
But this is not a good team right now. They're 1-6-1 in their last eight games. They're a team that isn't good enough at even strength to win games and can't rely on its special teams (in particular, its penalty kill) to bail them out the way it used to be able to. They are borderline incapable of moving the puck from any one zone to any other zone without looking like a circus act.
Maybe it's a systemic thing. Maybe it's a personnel choice issue. Maybe it is, as they all insist, an effort/emotion problem. And no matter how bad it looks now, they obviously are not going to only get three points every eight games moving forward, so it's not going to be quite this bad.
But there are obvious problems with this roster that don't look like they're going away any time soon. Again: this is a bad team right now. And here's the reality of it: we're getting pretty close to being able to take the "right now" qualifier out that sentence.
SOME QUICK THOUGHTS:
* The most impressive group of skaters today, by far, was the second forward line centered by Scott Laughton. Though he still hasn't managed to get his name on the score sheet, Laughton continues to look like he belongs at the NHL level. He was one of the only players who was strong on the puck, and he navigates into the offensive zone with control pretty easily. He has earned his ice time here and I can't see how they can send him back to Lehigh Valley any time soon.
* Obviously it's impossible to pin a 3-0 loss on your goaltender, but Steve Mason seemed real antsy today. A handful of rough rebounds left out there, including one that spit right back into the slot that led right to the Rangers' second goal. Berube didn't commit to a starter tomorrow, but have to think Ray Emery will play, especially with the quick turnaround.
* The power play was bad. Full stop. The Rangers had seven shots shorthanded today, including one goal. The Flyers? Five shots in their 12 minutes of power play time. I've seen that top unit of Giroux-Voracek-Simmonds-(whoever)-(whoever) work through enough slumps over the last three-plus seasons to know that they'll probably turn it around soon, so I'm not exactly worried, per se, but man, the way this team is going, it'd really help if "soon" was "now".
* The Flyers took six penalties today, and none of them were good ones (in the "they needed to take that penalty or something bad would have happened" kind of sense). They talked about frustration after the game, and obviously it boiled over a few too many times today. Zac Rinaldo got whistled twice in his 9 minutes of ice time -- it's a pipe dream, but for all the talk about accountability, you'd think Rinaldo would earn a trip up to the press box soon.
* Last note: Today is the third game I've ever attended in the press box for Broad Street Hockey/SBN. The Flyers are 0-2-1 in those three games and have been outscored 8-0. If anyone wants to pay me to not go to Flyers games, I'm listening.
COMMENT OF THE MID-AFTERNOON:
Flyers black Friday sale: free puck giveaway
Back at it tomorrow, same time, against ... oh good lord, seriously? These guys again? Whatever. Go Flyers.