Maybe the team was starting to figure things out. Maybe the secondary scoring was finally starting to show up at even strength. Maybe the removal of Nicklas Grossmann from the lineup due to injury was just what the defense needed to start playing above-average hockey.
The last two nights have put a quick halt to that line of thinking.
Against Washington, the Flyers played well enough to win, but ran into a hot goalie in Braden Holtby. Tonight, Philadelphia started out strong led by a few great shifts from the Sean Couturier line, but were unable to convert on a few quality chances. Then it all went south.
Michael Del Zotto is probably thanking his stars that the Flyers are injury-ravaged on defense right now, or else he might be heading right back up to the press box after getting schooled by Nick Bonino to open the scoring. From there, it was all about the team's still-awful penalty kill, first allowing the Sedin twins to set up an unstoppable deflection, then giving Radim Vrbata all the space in the world to snipe one past Ray Emery.
After that, Emery left to the boos of the crowd and Rob Zepp entered as the conquering hero, at least until he too gave up a goal only seconds later, this time to Jannik Hansen on a breakaway. Then, the crowd didn't like him quite as much.
The rest of the game saw the Canucks slowing the game down in the neutral zone, with only occasional Flyers chances popping up, usually coming from the Couturier line. Never did the outcome really seem in doubt.
Basically, this back-to-back was a stark reminder that one great game does not a playoff contender make.
Seven more observations on tonight's game:
- Ray Emery got booed off the ice, but I'm not sure I'd really blame him on any of the goals. Bonino's shot maybe could have been stopped, but that one is primarily on Del Zotto. Sedin's deflection was a classic Wonder Twin powers play, and Vrbata's goal was a straight up snipe. Rob Zepp after the game agreed, saying he knew how it felt to be victimized by impossible-to-stop shots and felt bad for the man he replaced tonight.
- The Flyers actually started out this game playing great. The Bonino goal flipped everything, and then suddenly it was Vancouver controlling the neutral zone and pushing the play. Berube expressed frustration after the game with his team's lack of response to the single goal after the strong start, and you can't blame him. It was frustrating for the fans, too.
- The one player that stood out from start to finish (in a good way) for the Flyers was Sean Couturier. He led the team in Corsi For% at 73%, and the eyes backed up the stats. He was an absolute force in the offensive zone, winning puck battles and setting up chances. It's a crime he didn't leave tonight's game with at least one point.
- Despite his early mistake, Michael Del Zotto still received 21:43 minutes of ice time, second only to Mark Streit on the team. Credit to Berube for sticking with one of his better defensemen despite the type of mistake that could have easily put Del Zotto back in the doghouse.
- I understand why Berube moved R.J. Umberger up to the second line - he's been playing better recently and it was worth a shot to see if he could carry that over to a scoring role. Well, if tonight is any indication, he can't. Man, the 18-10-17 line was bad tonight.
- Andrew MacDonald certainly had his moments, and not in a good way. He had a hilarious crab walk defense in front of the net in the second period, and later lost an edge and crashed into the boards by himself when trying to jump into the play. Six years, $30 million dollars.
- Luca Sbisa was a -13 in Corsi tonight, so I guess there's that.