There are some nights where you lose games, and just look like complete garbage in the process, not being able to get anything going or moving in any sort of rhythm and playing like crap in all three zones. There are also some nights where you lose games, but play pretty well, get chances, and maybe just don't see them hit the back of the net, and the other team ends up cashing in one or two more times than you.
The Flyers didn't play a perfect game tonight. They started out really sluggishly, they had a number of breakdowns in their own end, and they generally looked shoddy on special teams (not a great sign, given that special teams has arguably been the catalyst of the Flyers' success this season). But tonight's 4-2 loss was also just one of those nights where you kind of had the feeling things weren't going to go their way from pretty early on -- y'know, the way that basically every game this team has played against the Lightning has gone in the last four seasons.
It's frustrating when the guy who's 59th out of 60 in save percentage among goalies with at least 20 games this year stops you 34 out of 36 times, making some real fantastic saves along the way. It's frustrating when, after controlling a large portion of the play from around the midway mark of the first period into the early part of the third, a blown coverage or two make all that for naught. It's frustrating when your goalie, who made some outstanding saves through two periods, lets in probably two goals that he could have stopped with the game still close in the third period. Sometimes it happens.
The loss, coupled with the Rangers' last-minute 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, ensures that the Flyers cannot finish higher than third place in the Metropolitan Division. Meaning that when they begin the playoffs on Wednesday, they will either be in Manhattan, Pittsburgh, or Boston. Which one it is depends on how they and some other teams play in their final two games. We'll break all that down for you at another time in the near future.
Point is, the chances were there tonight, they didnt' end up going in, and now we're left in a somewhat unenviable position. Not the worst game the Flyers have played, but moral victories tend to not mean a ton at this time of the year.
* As mentioned above, it's a shame how this night had to go for Ray Emery, who really was excellent through the first two periods. He made some saves on good Tampa chances and stood tall with five stops on one Lightning power play in the second. Unfortunately, the goal that put the Lightning ahead in the third period was a backhander in the slot that he probably could have had, and the Stamkos power play goal that iced the game was one that he definitely should have had. Disappointing, given how well the past couple weeks have gone for him.
* Claude Giroux had an absolutely filthy pass to Wayne Simmonds to make the Flyers' power play goal at the end of the second period happen, as he made a no-look pass facing the boards to Simmonds at the front of the net, who jammed it past Lindback for his 15th power play goal of the year. The assist ensured that Giroux will finish the season with at least a point per game for the third straight season. He's very good.
* I still don't entirely understand the experiment of Michael Raffl, Second-Line Center, but he, Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn all seemed pretty active out there and it looked like they generated a few chances.
* The defense -- sans-Nicklas Grossmann and with Erik Gustafsson -- played about the way you'd probably expect it to with those guys swapped in and out of the lineup. The Flyers' breakouts looked a bit better than they did, say, last Tuesday against Florida, and the defense seemed to be more active in the offensive end -- Gus himself was down below the Tampa goal line trying to move the puck around a number of times. However, the drawback there takes place at the other end, where Tampa players were left wide open in dangerous areas a few too many times. See: Tampa's second goal (on which Luke Schenn missed a check along the boards to let Richard Panik skate free into the slot and then put two relatively uncontested shots on goal, eventually scoring on the second) and their third goal (which was a whole team failure defensively, as Downie let Eric Brewer just walk right past him and Coburn was just a step too late getting in front of the net to try and recover). Give a little, take a little, I guess. I don't mind the idea, given this team's breakout troubles -- but maybe they gave a little too much tonight.
* On that note, Steve Downie didn't quite do the best job of impressing his old teammates in Tampa, as he threw a pass right across center ice that let to an odd-man rush for Tampa's first goal and had the aforementioned coverage brainfart that helped give them the third one.
* Matt Carle and Radko Gudas basically laid down on the goal line to stop a flurry of probably four different good Flyers chances in the third period because of course he/they did. Missin u, Matt Carle.
* The goal mentioned above aside, the power play was generally unimpressive for what's something like the fifth or sixth straight game now, with both units having some trouble entering and regaining possession in their limited opportunities. Still not really worried about it, per se, but it's something that needs to be fixed, and soon.
* Also the fifth straight game where the Flyers played a third period that they'd probably like to forget. Again, maybe just a blip, but you'd like to see it not last a whole lot longer.
* Mentioned it above, but Anders Lindback was, well ... here, you tell us, Wayne:
#Flyers' Wayne Simmonds: "We had tons of chances, and it seemed he (Lindback) was pulling saves out of his butt."— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) April 11, 2014
* One win against Tampa in the last two seasons and it came thanks to Tom Sestito scoring two goals. Yikes.
* Hey, Shayne Gostisbehere had two assists in Philadelphia tonight! And won! Cool!
Pittsburgh on Saturday. Two games left before the real fun begins. Still got some things to do. Go Flyers.