With a 1-0 lead after the first period, it looked like the Philadelphia Flyers had brought their ever-so-elusive ‘A game’ to the rink on Sunday.
Instead, their performance in the last two periods added more fuel to the fire that they may have peaked too soon this season.
The team’s recent struggles continued to come to the forefront and hurt them in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.
One of the Flyers’ biggest problems has been their penchant for blind passes and horrific turnovers. Offensive zone, defensive zone, or neutral zone; the sore thumb sticks out on every portion of the ice.
In a strong first period during Sunday’s game, the Flyers had four giveaways. In the remaining 40 minutes of the contest, the team quadrupled that total, turning the puck over 16 times. By the time the final horn sounded, the Flyers had given the puck to Boston 20 times, while the Bruins only turned the puck over just seven times.
For the Bruins, the giveaways were isolated to four skaters and their goalie, Tim Thomas. Philadelphia’s problems were much more widespread with 12 skaters and goalie Brian Boucher accounting for the turnovers. In fact, the amount of players in Black and Gold that turned the puck over equaled the amount in Orange and Black that turned it over more than once.
As the season turns into the playoffs, the emphasis is significantly placed on defense and the Flyers freewheeling style that consists of blind passes and passing in front of their own net has cost them dearly.
Head coach Peter Laviolette may have given the most accurate assessment of the team’s play.
We just kind of threw [the puck] and [were] hoping as opposed to going through that grind and that work and the movement for each other and support of each other,” he said. “We put the puck in bad areas, not bad areas, but areas that we didn’t check to see if they were safe yet or not.”
Another differentiating factor in Sunday’s game between the first period and the remainder of the contest was the faceoff circle. In the first 20 minutes, the Flyers were 12-for-23 on faceoffs and only 16-for-39 afterwards. Although the difference in percentage seems small at seven percent, the ineptitude of the team in the second period was a killer.
Boston’s first goal came immediately after the opening faceoff of the Bruins’ first power play. After the puck was cleanly won by David Krejci to defenseman Tomas Kaberle, the ex-Maple Leaf let a point shot fly towards Boucher. Boucher stopped the original shot, but left a rebound on the doorstep and Nathan Horton easily scored to knot the game at 1-1.
In the second stanza, the team went 3-for-16 on draws which equates to a win percentage of 18. 75% compared to 52.17% in the first. There’s simply no excuse for that in any game, nonetheless one of the importance of Sunday’s game.
Often times, the faceoff circle is indicative of a team’s effort, something that defenseman Kimmo Timonen thought was once again subpar.
“If you are not prepared to play it’s hard to ramp it up,” he plainly stated in the locker room. “It’s one of those things where you have to come to the rink ready to play.”
What makes the problems that the Flyers have so frustrating for so many is that they show glimpses of utter domination at times. The ability is present on the team. The talent is exceedingly high. But, when it comes down to consistent effort, physicality and playing smart hockey, the team often fails the test.
In a city like Philadelphia, that’s the opposite of what the fans expect. That much was clear when the team booed the team off the ice once the third period expired.
“I don’t think it’s time to start jumping ship but at the same time I think we can play better,” Boucher said after the loss. “Hopefully we can get that going here in the last seven games and feel really good about ourselves to start the playoffs.”
With the playoffs right around the corner, hope may not be enough.