When the best thing you can say about a game is "it wasn't as bad as yesterday," you know it's a rough time to be a Flyers fan.
Yesterday was maybe the low point of the Flyers season - a terrible performance on national television at home against one of the team's biggest rivals. They were bad in the neutral zone, bad in the defensive zone, bad in terms of goaltending, bad, bad, bad.
There really was nowhere to go but up today in a rematch against the very same New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and there were definitely some improvements.
For starters, Ray Emery kept the team in the game with a stellar first two periods. The Giroux and Voracek show was back on, as Jake finished with a goal and an assist and Claude added an assist as well. Luke Schenn also had a strong game in his return to the lineup.
But overall, we were reminded of just how far behind the Rangers the Flyers are right now. New York controlled play basically from start to finish and even though the game was tied entering the third period, it was almost 100% due to Emery's heroics. Eventually Emery stopped making incredible saves, and you can guess the rest.
The Flyers aren't a very good team, but it's clear that the Rangers are also a terrible matchup for Philadelphia. They struggle with New York's speed, and basically need to either dominate on special teams or get a fantastic goaltending performance to have a shot.
That's not what you want to say about a team's hated rival, but here we are.
More observations on the game:
- Luke Schenn got back in the lineup today because Andrew MacDonald(!) was a healthy scratch. On one hand, the benching is a damning indictment of the contract that Paul Holmgren handed out seven months ago. But on the other hand, it was great to see the coaching staff and/or management finally face reality and essentially admit that MacDonald has not been playing good hockey. Baby steps.
- But don't get too excited with the Flyers' roster decision-making - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was benched too, in favor of Chris VandeVelde. The fourth line responded with a whopping two 5v5 shot attempts all game. So that worked well.
- Nicklas Grossmann tied his personal record for most goals in a season by potting his second of the year in the first period. Really nice shot as well.
- I'm a big Mark Streit fan, but this very well may have been his worst game as a Flyer. He was a negative-16 in 5v5 shot differential, and his mistakes directly caused two goals (a bad pass to VandeVelde on the breakout and getting absolutely boat raced by JT Miller in the third). He wasn't very good yesterday, either. Considering he's one of this team's few competent defensemen, the Flyers can't afford for him to struggle for long.
- It was repeated ad nauseam during the broadcast, but the new Raffl-Laughton-Simmonds line really needs to score some goals and take advantage of the scoring chances that they've been creating for themselves. From a possession standpoint, the line seems to be working, but they need to start finishing in order to take some pressure off Giroux and Voracek.
- Vincent Lecavalier received 5:56 minutes of total ice time, the lowest on the team today. Have to wonder if he's going to be the next healthy scratch candidate.
Comment of the Night
So do we have to officially change Grossmanns name plate to Grossmannn now?