The Flyers entered Wednesday night's game in Detroit with one simple yet exciting proposition. Win tonight in Detroit, win tomorrow against Toronto, and they would have a playoff spot locked up before they headed into their season-ending back-to-back this weekend.
Of course, it's not that easy. It's never that easy. You know that by now.
In a crucial road game to kick off a four-games-in-five-days stretch to end the season, the Flyers fell behind early and never could get all the way back, losing to the Detroit Red Wings by a 3-0 score.
The loss guarantees that the Flyers cannot clinch a playoff berth on Thursday no matter what happens in their game against Toronto or in the Red Wings' game against the Bruins in Boston. Their "magic number" to clinch a playoff spot remains at five points gained by them/lost by the Bruins.
After an unevenful first few shifts, the Red Wings would strike first out of a stoppage about eight minutes into the first period. A center-ice faceoff was dumped deep by Darren Helm, and a failed Shayne Gostisbehere attempt at a clear down low ended up in front of the net. It bounced out to Helm, and deflected up and over Steve Mason to give the Wings a 1-0 lead.
The rest of the first period went without any scoring, though both teams had one power play to go along with it and some decent looks here and there. But all in all a pretty quiet first period saw the Red Wings go into the locker room with a one-goal lead.
It was the second period, though, where things started to unravel. Looking at a golden opportunity to tie the game early in the second period, a puck around the boards hopped past Jakub Voracek's stick and out of the zone. Andreas Athanasiou picked it up and went in all alone on Mason, deking the goalie out and scoring to double the Red Wings' lead.
The Flyers had their chances in the rest of the period, including a power play that saw them fail to score despite two Red Wings forwards lose their sticks. And Detroit nearly widened their lead to 3-0 a few times, and they'd have done so if not for some heroics by Steve Mason.
They didn't, though, and that 2-0 lead would stand into the second intermission.
The Flyers got some pressure going in the right direction in the third, as they out-attempted Detroit 20-10 in the frame and fired 12 shots on Jimmy Howard. But none of them would crack the long-time Red Wing backstop, and the game ended in rather fitting fashion as Kyle Quincey would bounce a clearing attempt from the walls in his own zone, only to see it go all the way down the ice and into the empty net and make it a 3-0 game.
Things would end moments later, as the Flyers -- for the first time since mid-February -- lost their second game in a row. It was a frustrating affair in which the Flyers just couldn't take advantage of any of the scant opportunities they had, and now they're left hoping for some things to fall their way elsewhere in the playoff race.
Questions to Answer:
- Does Medvedev play? If so, how's he look? If not, how's the defense as it's currently assembled perform? Medvedev did not play. The defense as a whole had some issues dealing with those speedy Detroit forwards.
- How's the bottom-6 do today? They're up against a young, quick, and talented Detroit bottom-6. They were adequate, I guess. Not particularly noteworthy. Some decent shifts on the forecheck but very little in the way of actual offense generated.
- Special teams have mostly been good lately. Can that continue tonight? Hmmmmmmmmno.
- Have to think the Flyers have the edge in net as Mason faces off with Jimmy Howard. Does it play out like that? Hmmmmmmmmmno. (Not that this loss, in the slightest, was Mason's fault. He played well. Credit to Howard, who also was good tonight.)
- What's the magic number when the night is done? The same thing as it was three stupid hours ago.
Comment of the Night:
Dear Jimmy Howard: Great job tonight. Suppose you could do that for 60 more minutes tomorrow? No really, if you could do that it would be great. Thanks.
Yes, of course, the cruelest part of this is that we're stuck rooting for this same Red Wings team again tomorrow night. But we'll worry about that later. Maple Leafs come to town tomorrow, and if the Flyers can't win that game then they've got a whole new set of problems to worry about. Regroup. Go Flyers.