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Flyers at Devils recap: Poor first period sinks Giroux-less Flyers as road trip ends with a thud

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Five straight losses -- mostly to weak opponents such as tonight's -- have reminded us that every team the Flyers are playing now see them as a weak opponent as well.

Can't be mad at that face. Just can't.
Can't be mad at that face. Just can't.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Alright, let's just cut to the chase here. Allison said some similar things in her recap of last night's loss in Carolina, so I don't really want to bludgeon you all over the head with it again, but we're running out of options here.

There are a lot of reasons for the Flyers suffering a 5-2 loss to New Jersey tonight. Yes, some are out of their control. Claude Giroux, despite being "probable" as of last night, did not play. Nor did Scott Laughton, who is officially listed as "day-to-day with a lower-body injury". Any team suddenly finding itself without a top-10-in-the-league (at least) center as well as another top-9 center is going to have some trouble. We all know and are sympathetic to that fact, and know that things probably don't play out exactly like this if Claude Giroux is in the lineup.

But when you have games like this, there are issues that go beyond missing one or two key players. None of which, really, are too surprising at this point.

The faults that we've known to be evident in every game still are evident. Defensively, nothing is new. Players who have trouble moving the puck and covering in the defensive zone are still doing that. The penalty kill is still bad (see: the Devils' lone power play goal of the night, in which all four Flyers penalty killers slid over to the left side of the ice and left Patrik Elias unmarked at the left post). Even the guys with good, proven track record are having trouble keeping it together -- Braydon Coburn and Mark Streit, the Flyers' two best defensemen by almost any reasonable measure, both just looked bad tonight, with Streit in particular getting turned around a number of times.

And those issues moving the puck manifest themselves on offense. It leads to a lack of high-quality chances and really a lack of chances of any kinds at all. Those issues are how you get a team that only puts up four shots on goal in the third period of a game that it's trailing by three-plus goals. Again, this isn't anything new.

This is how you end up giving up three goals in the first period, and five goals in total, to a team that entered the night 28th in the NHL in goal scoring, and is so dysfunctional that it just fired its head coach and literally replaced him with three people. This is how you wrap up a five-game losing streak against teams that currently sit 3rd, 27th, 23rd, 29th, and 25th in the standings. This is how you lose to bad teams -- and when you keep losing to bad teams, suddenly you realize that you might just be joining them.

And again: this isn't an issue of effort. This isn't an issue of heart. This team was quite obviously trying as it fell behind. They got in four fights tonight (ENERGY!!!!!!) which hopefully shows people that they care and are trying and stuff. Are there guys who could be working harder? Probably. Could Craig Berube be doing better things with his lineup and scheming better? Almost certainly. But those are not the reasons this team is where it is. They're clearly limited in a number of areas and can't execute the things they need to execute to be successful.

There's no quick fix. Claude Giroux being healthy obviously makes a difference. And no, the Flyers aren't going to lose by three goals a night every night. We're a few days away from the halfway point of the season, and the second half could be a bit of a bumpy ride -- not one that's a whole lot different from what this first half has been.

Some more game-specific notes:

* There were 38 shots on goal (20 for the Flyers) in this entire game. Shots in the third period were 4-1 Flyers. Four to one. Yes, Devils games truly slow the earth's rotation.

* Lines were a total blender tonight. That's to no real fault of Berube -- with his top two centers both scratched right before the game and with the team rolling seven defensemen, there weren't a ton of good options -- but it was dizzying trying to keep track of all of it. I can't even tell you what they really were.

* Jaromir Jagr, who had a hat trick tonight, is still awesome.

* Brayden Schenn won a fight! It was a pointless one with 2:31 left in the game, but this still is worth noting. Not sure this has ever happened in his NHL career.

* This was Claude Giroux's first regular-season game missed since the final game of the 2011-12 regular season, in which he was more or less healthy scratched in a meaningless game in Pittsburgh the game before the playoffs started. 168 regular season games between that one and this one. He truly is missed.

* Ray Emery and Steve Mason are not going to be the story here, and they shouldn't be because the show in front of them is just a big, noticeable mess, but five goals allowed on eighteen shots against (three out of 10 for Emery before he was pulled, two out of eight for Mason after that) is still very bad and they need to be better than that. Both had at least one goal that they pretty easily could have stopped, and that doesn't even include the Devils' first goal, which came after a puckhandling gaffe by Emery behind his net.

* The Flyers are 0-4-1 since I wrote this a week ago today:

In fact, as the road trip resumes, it's worth noting that the Flyers -- excluding goals that are counted as a result of shootouts -- actually have scored one more goal than they've allowed this season. And with an all-situations PDO of just 100.5 (per war-on-ice.com), it's not like that result is a product of wildly unsustainable percentages. Is this team that's looked bad for most of the season to date actually a bit closer to average? Maybe we're finding out.

LOL good job idiot.

* Remember last week, when I got all mad because the Flyers lost a game where R.J. Umberger scored two goals? Today the Flyers got goals from Andrew MacDonald and Vincent Lecavalier and still lost. Come on now.

* On a related (and serious) note, Vincent Lecavalier really is playing legitimately good hockey right now. Some of the best in his time here. You feel for the guy -- shame that it's coming together for him at the same time everything else is falling apart.

***

Back to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday for the first time in a few weeks against Ottawa. True clash of the titans. Go Flyers.