There was a time in today's game -- a 5-2 loss that further submarined the Flyers' already-miniscule playoff chances to the point where you'd need a microscope to see them -- where the Flyers, all things considered, were actually playing a decent hockey game. They trailed for much of that time thanks to a short-handed goal in the second period, but all in all they did a good job keeping a pretty crappy Devils team from generating much offense, and they were getting chances that were mostly just getting turned away by young goalie Keith Kinkaid.
Then we saw the kind of thing that reminded us why this team has pretty much fallen out of the playoff race.
From the 9:26 mark of the second period all the way to the 2:17 mark of the third period, the Flyers failed to send a single shot attempt towards the New Jersey net. That's 12:51 of game time, all but 2:27 of which was spent at even strength.
I know the New Jersey Devils have a tendency to slow the game down and suffocate offense. But in this kind of game -- with the Flyers, even after yesterday's heartbreaking loss to the team that holds down the final playoff spot in the East -- to see everything completely dry up like that for close to a quarter of the entire game is beyond inexcusable.
And yet that's what happened, and if we're looking for a point where we were officially able to mark the Flyers' playoff chances as dead, it was probably right there. Or it was here, in the third period, after the Flyers had kinda woken up and got the game to within two goals:
2-on-ohhhhh https://t.co/OQZR6tUB1B— NHL (@NHL) March 8, 2015
Yes, that's a 2-on-0. In an NHL game.
So yes, this -- coupled with the Boston Bruins' win today in Detroit -- is how the Flyers' playoff chances, for all intents and purposes, came to an end. It's hard to get too angry, because we all knew it was never likely this team was going to make a run. But this isn't how you want to go out.
MOSTLY ANGRY THOUGHTS:
* For the first time in a couple weeks, Craig Berube spent the majority of the game putting his two best forwards on the ice together, as Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek were put on the top line with Brayden Schenn on their left wing. The trio didn't get much going other than a shift early in the second period and none of the three of them had any points. I like Schenn more than most Flyers fans seem to at this point but it seems clear that he's not a fit on that line. I actually liked how the lines looked with Voracek and Giroux split up -- and with the way this game went, it wouldn't be too surprising if Berube went back to that setup next game.
* Mark Streit played what was quite possibly the worst game he's ever played in a Flyers uniform. Even beyond his possession numbers being the worst on the team, he was right in the middle of three different Devils goals, with the one shown above being the most egregious of the bunch. He looked totally out of sorts all game and couldn't control the puck on his stick at all. He didn't play for the final 6:29 of the game with the team down by three. Is that Craig Berube resting him or benching him? Who knows. But be assured, Streit's scapegoat application is now back under consideration. (Nick Schultz, who was of course Streit's partner, also had a pretty terrible day, albeit maybe not quite as noticeably as Streit did.)
* Steve Mason played today, on the second end of a back-to-back. With all we know about how poorly goalies perform when playing both ends of back-to-backs, and with all we heard a couple days ago about how Mason's handling led to the departure of the team's goalie coach, that certainly does seem like a ... questionable ... decision. And to be sure, while it's impossible to pin the game on Mason himself, it certainly wasn't his finest performance. No particularly bad goals allowed, other than a juicy rebound on the Devils' shorthanded goal in the second, but five goals on 21 shots against isn't good no matter how you slice it. Hard to get too upset with him, though, given all he's done this year, and given that he probably shouldn't have even been playing.
* Special teams were, for the second day in a row, a problem. The power play had some decent movement in its three chances, but saw a shorthanded goal end up as the only tally they saw while on the ice. The penalty kill had a number of solid efforts and scored a shortie in the third that briefly saw the Flyers get back into it, but the one goal it allowed helped the Devils jump ahead 3-1 in the second period. So many times in the past couple of years, when the Flyers were lagging at evens, special teams have picked them up. Today they ultimately weren't able to.
* So we don't focus entirely on the negatives here, some nice things: Ryan White was the Flyers' best player today, factoring in on both goals. He deflected a Luke Schenn shot past Keith Kinkaid for the team's first goal, and had some outstanding stickwork and a perfect setup to Michael Raffl while shorthanded for the other one. He is absolutely earning himself a spot on this roster next year ... The stats didn't love him, but I thought Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was fairly active today. Seemed to always be where the puck was. Unfortunately, in spite of this, the fourth line (with Zac Rinaldo in Vincent Lecavalier's place) wasn't able to generate much offense ... The defense pairings that weren't Mark Streit and Nick Schultz all seemed to be at least decent. In particular, I really liked how Carlo Colaiacovo played -- he did a decent job getting shots through and trying to generate offense from the blue line. Thought that Brandon Manning looked fine, too, other than one bad turnover in front of his net that fortunately didn't amount to anything. We'll see how those shape up for as long as Michael Del Zotto is out.
Dallas on Tuesday. Who knows what we'll see between now and then? Go Flyers.