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Familiar theme plagues Flyers in loss to Capitals to close preseason action

Burst of energy in the middle of the second period not enough to overcome the other 50 minutes of the game.

Philadelphia Flyers v Washington Capitals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Alain Vigneault keeps insisting that his Flyers are getting closer — but a familiar theme keeps showing up despite those claims.

That theme? An inability to churn out a full 60 minutes of hockey. Not 10 or 20 minutes, or even 40 — but a full 60 minutes.

Sure it’s preseason, and the points don’t matter, but Vigneault’s Flyers turned in less than 20 minutes of quality in last night’s 5-3 loss to the Capitals. That effort, which might have been closer to the lower end of the spectrum, has followed a preseason full of half-empty efforts from the Flyers.

The only question is just how long the Flyers will last.

Since Vigneault took over behind the bench two years ago the Flyers have retained the same flat-out allergic reaction to playing a full 60 minutes of hockey. Before Vigneault arrived the Flyers could skate by on the heels of 20 or 40 minute bursts on talent and skill alone, but the issue has reminded as the veteran NHL bench boss has come to town.

The Flyers were badly outplayed in both the first and third period against the Capitals last night — outshot, out chanced, out scored, and outplayed.

But in-between, the Flyers turned on one of their near-patented bursts of energy to the tune of three goals in less than 10 minutes as Claude Giroux, and Cam Atkinson powered the Flyers to a sudden 3-2 lead at the second intermission.

Giroux’s opener was the result of a broken play as Sean Couturier feed from the corner boards careened off the side of the net and to the captain, who patiently out waited Ilya Samsonov for the goal.

Atkinson’s tying goal was also more of a broken play as he stripped John Carlson at the Flyers’ blue line and sped away for a late-developing 2-on-1, beating Samsonov with a surgical wrist shot.

The Flyers’ newest sniper then took advantage of another Capitals turnover — this time at their own blue line — with a hard slap shot past Samsonov from distance.

Suddenly armed with a 3-2 lead with 20 minutes to play, the Flyers faded right back into their comfort zone with familiar mistakes costing them games.

A bad penalty to open the third period put the Flyers’ still putrid penalty kill on the ice against an Alex Ovechkin-less unit (the Capitals’ captain left in the first period and did not return following an awkward hit from behind on Travis Konecny), and somehow managed to leave Tom Wilson wide open right in front of Martin Jones’ crease. Sound familiar?

Another familiar sight is the Flyers doubling-down on their mistakes by…making more! Less than two minutes after Wilson’s equalizer, newcomer Ryan Ellis muffed a puck at the Capitals blue line and sent the Caps away with a 2-on-1 where Anthony Mantha made no mistake against a rather helpless Jones. Unforced errors directly resulting in odd-man rushes and goals against, sound familiar?

Suddenly the Flyers had erased their lead within five minutes of the third period, something we’ve seen all too much in the last few years.

Despite keeping the Capitals within one until a Nic Dowd empty net goal, the Flyers were hardly the team pushing for the next goal during a third period that saw the Caps control the puck to the tune of a 63% Corsi For as well as a slight edge (6-5) in scoring chances to boot per NaturalStatTrick.

Vigneault said after the game during his media availability that he liked where his team was at systems wise, but said they still “have quite a ways to go…but trending in the right way.”

It’s a good thing he thinks they’re headed in the right direction, because watching last night’s action you wouldn’t know the Flyers are much different than they’ve been at all — even with all the new faces in the lineup.