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Flyers vs. Rangers recap: A familiar script revisited

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The Flyers controlled large portions of the game but saw every mistake end up in the back of their net en route to a loss against a good team. This is not a recording.

That kind of day.
Len Redkoles / Getty Images

It’s hard to ask for patience sometimes.

The Flyers lost their first game of the season against their division rival, the New York Rangers, by a score of 3-2 this afternoon. In and of itself, this is not terribly surprising. The Rangers entered today second in the NHL in standings points and first in goal differential, they have four lines with players who can score, and they have one of the two or three best goalies in hockey. They’ve won more than twice as many games as they’ve lost this year, and are now 10 standings points ahead of the Flyers.

But in a lot of ways, the 3-2 score that the Flyers lost by isn’t close to indicative of how this game went. The Flyers controlled large portions of the contest, taking advantage of a suspect Rangers defense that can’t really move the puck. They were stymied a number of times by Lundqvist, who of course is very good at his job. And through the first two periods of the game, due to a combination of poor defensive-zone puckhandling and a lack of saves from Steve Mason, it seemed like every occasional mistake by a guy in orange and black was ending up in the back of the net. The Flyers outshot the Rangers 42-23 on the day, and that advantage was befitting of how the Flyers played today.

Basically, it was a game the Flyers could have won on a different day.

But isn’t that what we’ve been saying for a month and a half now? Look at the recap of last week’s game against Tampa, swap out a couple of names here and there, and you’ve basically got a recap for today. The Flyers have probably lost half a dozen games like this one so far this year, and as easy as it is for us to say “things are going to get better” (which I’m still pretty sure they are; call me an optimist, I guess), a game like this forces you to ask yourself exactly when the hell that’ll happen.

To their credit, I suppose (maybe not everyone has to be happy about this), the players aren’t getting overly frustrated. Everyone who talked in the locker room postgame seemed to believe this was a game they easily could have, if not should have, won, and I’m not so sure they’re wrong. Dave Hakstol called it a good three-period performance, and again, he’s not exactly mistaken there. There are things to like about how this game went — such as the fact that the Flyers tallied 42 shots despite not once having a power play, or that the bottom-6 was pretty excellent save for one bad first-period turnover, or that the top line got going in the third period once Michael Raffl was moved up there. Or that the team as a whole turned on the jets in the third period to almost rally all the way back from a 3-0 hole, despite playing the final period in a 3-games-in-4-days ordeal.

(Also, Travis Konecny punched a guy a bunch of times. That was cool.)

But none of that matters when two defensive zone turnovers and a bad pinch-turned-odd-man break the other way all end up in the back of your net, and at this point you can basically set your watch to those mistakes in Flyers losses. Maybe this is a team that isn’t talented enough to get out of its own way, or maybe it’s a team that’s seeing mistakes show up on the scoreboard at a rate that can’t possibly continue to be this high. We’ve got 60 games to find out, so whichever you think it is, we’ll find out soon enough, and I’m not going to tell you which one it is because I’ve asked you to stay patient too many damn times already this season.

Whatever the case, the Flyers are slipping their way down the standings. While they’re only two points out of the final playoff spot, they’ve played more games than any team in the conference, and as much time as there is left in this season, it’s tough to dig your way out of a hole even this early in the season.

So we’re left waiting to hope that eventually we stop having to write recaps that can be summarized as “there was a lot to like, but...”, and that these kinds of losses start swinging the other way. So it goes.

Calgary on Sunday. Observations for this one in the morning. Go Flyers. Here are your highlights.