It's tough to drum up heavy emotions about losses at this point. The Flyers lost their fourth straight contest tonight by a 1-0 loss, in a game that was virtually the exact same game that they played the last time they were in St. Louis. In that game, a year ago, the one point that they picked up all but clinched their spot in the playoffs; in this game, the one point they picked up really just represented fake hope about this season lasting any more than 13 additional games beyond this one.
But there was some fun to come from this game. Against a team rightfully sits towards the top of the NHL standings, the Flyers played a wide-open, back-and-forth game, that led to a lot of chances at both ends of the ice. Whether or not this was artfully played, up-tempo hockey by design, or if it was kinda-sloppy pond hockey -- players after the game seemed to think it was more of the latter -- it led to what was a pretty entertaining game.
After a slow start in the first period that saw the Flyers fail to cash in on three straight power plays, a sequence early in the second that saw both teams get a pair of odd-man rushes was largely a sign of what was to come for much of the rest of the game. And by the time we hit the third period, the puck was flying all around the ice, with chances all over the place that unfortunately never found their way into the net. (Granted, by that point the Blues -- who outshot the Flyers 17-9 in the third period -- were largely controlling things, but the Flyers managed to get their shots in.)
Unfortunately, it ended the only way we all knew it would end: in a 1-0 overtime shootout loss. It was Steve Mason's third shutout of the year ... and the second one that he's lost. Poor guy.
That said, players seemed to be a bit happier with how they played tonight than they have in their past few games, which is fair. It's just a shame that "better effort in a loss" is all we've got to hang our hats on at this point.
A FEW THINGS THAT HAPPENED:
* As you could guess from the 1-0 shootout loss thing, the Flyers' best player was their goaltender. Steve Mason stopped all 35 shots he faced during actual hockey (and neither of the ones he faced in the shootout, but shhhh that doesn't count) and he was truly the player more than any other on the ice who deserved a win tonight. As the Blues turned up their pressure as the game went on, Mason was more than up to the task, and he made two or three absolutely stunning saves in the third period. You can tell how much it's killing (a) him, to not be getting wins out of these games, and (b) this team, because they can't win these games for him. (On a semi-related note, when asked post-game whether or not he thought it was a good thing that he made the comments he did post-game on Tuesdayabout the team's effort, he offered up a no-comment. So that's interesting, I guess. But he did seem happier with how the Flyers played tonight.)
* Though a lot of people weren't happy with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek being put back on the same line (though, in fairness, a lot of people were), the first and second lines both seemed to do a solid job tonight cycling around and generating some offense, even if nothing hit the back of the net. The bottom-6 seemed to get its lunch eaten by St. Louis' depth guys, though -- hard to remember much of anything generated by them.
* The power play is officially back in a cold streak, which is no fun since it's usually one of the only reliable (and entertaining) parts of this team. Some chances, but it seemed like going 0 for 3 with the man advantage in the first period alone was a sign of bad things to come. They now sit at 1 of 19 in the last seven games -- an arbitrary sample, admittedly, but it'd still be nice if we saw more from them.
* Charlie mentioned this on Tuesday and I swear I didn't remember it until I wrote this point, but whatever: Prior to this past week, Michael Raffl and Ryan White have been two of the Flyers' more entertaining and impressive forwards in the past couple of weeks. So I have to admit, I don't understand why they're getting put with Zac Rinaldo (on what's become the de-facto fourth line) and seeing their minutes cut down the way they are. There does not exist a timeline in which Michael Raffl should be getting the fewest minutes of any Flyers player.
* Speaking of Raffl, rough night for him. He just got his dang doors blown off by David Backes early in the third period ... which I gotta admit was kinda cool. Though if Claude Giroux WAS A BETTER LEADER AND CAPTAIN maybe he'd have gone and fought Backes after it, am I right? (Please note that I do not actually believe this.)
* This is the Flyers' fifth losing streak of four or more games this year. Yuck, this season.
* Carlo Colaiacovo had the second-most ice time of any Flyers player. How did we get here, exactly? But seriously, none of the guys on D stuck out to me a whole lot in this one (other than a great block by Nick Schultz to save a goal in the third period). I feel like there's no reason for Brandon Manning to not be playing in place of at least one of these guys, if for no other reason then to maybe see what he's got.
* How does TJ Oshie do the dang shootout thing every time I don't get it why can't we have a guy who does that in shootouts.
* The win was Ken Hitchcock's 700th of his coaching career, so hey, good for him.
* Lastly: I had the pleasure of attending tonight's game for BSH. This is the fourth time I have done this. The Flyers did not score a goal in any one of those four games. I am a monster who must be stopped.
Officially less than one month until this season is over. Closing in. Detroit on Saturday afternoon. Go Flyers.