With only 31 games left in the season, we've reached the point where results may be more important than process. The Flyers are chasing a playoff spot, however fruitless the pursuit may seem, and they need wins to get there. Whether those wins come from dominating possession or their goaltender standing on his head, it doesn't really matter.
Tonight, the Flyers lacked the right process AND the ideal result.
The New York Islanders are one of the best teams in the league for a reason. They're a team built on constant puck pressure, whether that be in the neutral zone or the defensive zone. Teams need to be decisive and skilled to make their way down the ice, particularly on the back end.
Unfortunately, that's not the Flyers. As a result, they've been blown out on multiple occasions by this Islanders team, and deserved the outcome every time. Things weren't much different tonight, except for Steve Mason, who was fantastic with the single exception of a bad rebound in the second that tied the game. But aside from that, he was nearly impenetrable.
Except for the "fourth" line, the rest of the team didn't support him. Even the usually-dominant top unit had an off night, as they struggled to move the puck through the neutral zone effectively.
But they still had a chance, especially after Wayne Simmonds tied the shootout with the Flyers down to their last attempt. Painfully, it was noted MVP candidate Cal Clutterbuck who potted the game winning goal in the skills competition, and Sean Couturier was unable to respond.
In a game this lopsided on the possession charts, you can say that the Flyers got a little lucky to skate out of here with a point in hand. But Philadelphia can't just be a little lucky if they want to make the playoffs. There's almost no margin for error, and you can't help but feel like this one was a missed opportunity.
A few more observations on the game:
- The Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Vincent Lecavalier line was the only group that was able to tilt the ice in the Flyers' direction for the entirety of the contest. Bizarre to think that they've been one of the team's best lines for almost a month now. Take an Edmonton castoff, a 29-year old rookie from France and a former superstar who had been given up for dead, and somehow, you have a unit that drives play. Who knew?
- It's gone a bit under-the-radar, but Craig Berube deserves a ton of credit for placing Lecavalier in favorable situations over the past few months. You'd still love to see the Flyers get out from under that monstrosity of a contract, but he hasn't been a real liability this season now that he's being used in a situational role.
- The Flyers' real fourth line tonight was the Ryan White-Scott Laughton-Wayne Simmonds group. They were throttled in terms of possession, and aside from White's early game fight against Matt Martin, were far too easy to knock off the puck. For a line constructed for its "toughness," it was disappointing to see them look so weak on the puck.
- Simmonds to me looked like the weak link on the line tonight (although Laughton wasn't very good either). But he redeemed himself in the shootout, again using his deliberate approach to great effect.
- By the third period, Berube had broken up the Grossmann-MacDonald pairing (yay!) and created a Grossmann-Schenn pairing (why...). Curious to see if he reunites the usual Streit-Grossmann tandem over the weekend.
- Nick Schultz scored again, so add another year to his inevitable contract extension.
- Braydon Coburn is on his way back, and you have to assume that Luke Schenn is the most likely candidate to be replaced. Grossmann is teflon, Schultz is beloved by the coaching staff and Michael Del Zotto is on a scoring streak, so that basically leaves Luke. A few more games like this, and Schenn will make the decision easy. His turnover right in front of Mason to cause the Isles' first goal was only one of many terrible plays tonight.
- It will be nice to get Michael Raffl back soon. Brayden Schenn has been pretty underwhelming recently on that top line, so I'd put Raffl back up there immediately.