Even given the way things have gone for the Flyers of late, it’s rare that you already know what the outcome of a hockey game is going to be after 23 seconds of game time, the way it kind of felt like you did in tonight’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Tonight’s Flyers game began in a strange way: with the team in orange scoring a goal. With Dale Weise, of all people, negating an icing en route to Jakub Voracek scoring on a post-rebound scrum in front of Braden Holtby. It was a shocking way for the Flyers to start the game — not only because it involved them, y’know, scoring, but because it came against a Capitals team that, a couple of recent losses notwithstanding, has been putting every team it faces in the shredder for almost two months now.
Of course, then, Capitals coach Barry Trotz challenged the goal, and it turns out that he was on to something: Weise nudged Holtby a second or two before Voracek’s shot, and in the eyes of the officials, this was enough to overturn the goal and bring the score back to zeroes.
I’m not here to tell you that this was a bad call. It probably wasn’t. Even though I’m pretty sure the Flyers have still never, in the 50-year history of their franchise, been on the side that benefits from an official’s call on a borderline goaltender interference situation, I’ll gladly whine about that at some other time.
No, the shame about this situation is that, if you’ve watched the Flyers since the calendar flipped over to 2017, you knew that the game had basically just ended the second that goal was called. Sure — they got a few solid chances in the minutes after that goal and really controlled play for a good portion of the first period. Did the Flyers play well enough to beat the Washington Capitals tonight? I wouldn’t say so, no — but they certainly didn’t look that far outclassed, the way you’d think they maybe would against the team that’s atop the standings in the NHL right now.
But when that goal was overturned 23 seconds into the game, every Flyers fan got a quick reminder: good things don’t happen to the Flyers in 2017. It’s been this way for several weeks now. If something happens that seems too good to be true (i.e. the Flyers scoring a goal, early in a game, to take a lead, against a good team — the kind of thing that the Flyers need to happen in order for them to win a friggin’ hockey game nowadays), that’s probably because it is. And the corollary here, of course, is that if something good almost happens to the Flyers, something good will happen for their opponents fairly soon.
Surely enough, as I spent the remainder of the period taking my frustrations out on a box of Caramel Delites, a very Flyers scene would unfold. First, Nick Backstrom wired an absolutely perfect shot into the top corner to beat Michal Neuvirth, giving the Capitals the early lead that the Flyers thought they had. Then, with a few minutes left in the first period, an Evgeny Kuznetsov snipe from an impossibly short angle made it over Neuvirth and popped off the inside crossbar and out of the net so quick that no one except a few guys on the ice realized it had even been a goal.
Good things. They don’t happen.
Yet while, again, most of us knew the Flyers were not going to win this game by the time the beginning of the second period started, that wouldn’t stop us from getting one more reminder. Early in the second period, Ivan Provorov had appeared to have scored to cut the Flyers’ deficit in half. The goal horn went on, the Flyers celebrated, etc. And then, of course, we all actually took a closer look at the goal and found that it was ... not a goal. Really, not even that close to one.
Off the crossbar and out. No goal for Provorov. pic.twitter.com/Np5SMq4Ogd— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) February 23, 2017
Good things. They still don’t happen.
So that was that. Brayden Schenn scored a goal (at even strength!) which was kind of nice, and that did get the Flyers within a goal. But Washington would bounce back late in the second, on a Kuznetsov attempt at a pass that bounced off of Radko Gudas’ stick and through Neuvirth’s five-hole. (Good things. Do they happen? You know.)
And this is where we stand in this season, one which had so much promise at the start and again in December and yet one that swirls the drain now. The Flyers are capable of playing better hockey than they are right now, not that that excuses their play of late. They’re capable of better coaching than they’ve shown right now, not that that excuses the coaching staff’s job of late. But we’re simply in a spell right now in which the Flyers need damn near every break to go their way for them to get a point or two in the standings, and as much as we can think that we’re due for some of those breaks and can hope that they’re gonna come back around soon ... it’s tough to really believe that, isn’t it?
Oh well. Outside in Pittsburgh this weekend. Have some fun out there. Go Flyers.