Lethargic Play Dooms Flyers

Coming into Monday night’s home contest at Wells Fargo Center, the Philadelphia Flyers led the NHL in points and looked like arguably the best team in the league. Monday night, the Florida Panthers made them look like arguably the worst team in the league.

Five different Panthers scored goals and Tomas Vokoun threw a shutout as Florida pummeled the Flyers, 5-0.

If the Flyers can take anything positive away from Monday’s loss, it may only be that the game is behind them. After a grueling five-game winning streak against some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the team let one of the cellar dwellers beat them handily.

It should serve as a valuable lesson to the Flyers; that any given team can be beaten on any night.

Sean O’Donnell, who ended the game with a -2 rating and one of the team’s four penalties summed up the game pretty well.

“We deserved to lose,” the veteran said.

Clearly the boo-birds in Philadelphia and head coach Peter Laviolette felt the same way. Laviolette didn’t mince words when addressing the game as an “ass-kicking.” If there was anyone in the Wells Fargo Center that disagreed, they didn’t see the game.

The error of the Flyers ways was quite evident after the first few minutes. After missing a couple of opportunities including a James van Riemsdyk shot that deflected off the crossbar, the Panthers dominated play. They outworked the Flyers significantly. Every ounce of rhythm that the home team found was immediately snuffed out not long after.

On the score sheet, the story remained the same. Florida outshot the Flyers, 34-26, and the latter shot total wasn’t indicative of genuine scoring opportunities. Many times the Flyers would wrist a shot to the goal any time they had an opening and Vokoun would freeze the puck. However, the Panthers finished the game having won 56% of face-offs, and in doing so they thwarted the Flyers offensive prowess.  The lack of quality scoring chances made Vokoun’s path to his fourth shutout much easier than it should have been.

Throughout the season, the Flyers have managed to find offensive contributions from pretty much everyone on the team. At times, their great puck movement into the zone looks incredibly easy, almost mechanical. Monday night, the machine broke down in a big way. Every pass seemed to be a foot out of reach of whoever it was intended.  After a five-game winning streak that saw the Flyers average over 3.5 goals per game, clearly chemistry was not the problem.

Instead, it was an all around lethargic effort that ruined whatever chances the Flyers had of extending their winning streak.

O’Donnell said the team, “got outworked”, and nothing could be closer to the truth.

Florida played like they wanted to make a statement against the Flyers and they did just that. They made the statement that anyone can beat anyone in today’s NHL, regardless of record or household names on the roster. Rarely was a loose puck found by an orange sweater. The Panthers dominated every inch of the Flyers’ home ice and it showed.

Philadelphia will have a week off before their five game road trip begins in Vancouver next Tuesday.

“We’re disappointed obviously, especially [losing] at home where we’ve played so well lately,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards.

Although despite his frustration, the captain quickly dismissed any ideas of underlying problems with the team overall.

“When you start accepting losing” Richards said, “…that’s when you’re in trouble.”

Only time will tell if the Flyers  are in trouble after Monday’s humiliating loss to a team that entered the game tied for the Eastern Conference’s third-lowest point total. With the talent and chemistry the team has shown in the first 35 games this season, long-term problems should seem doubtful.

However, if the Flyers think that they don’t have to give their best effort every night, they’ll find trouble quickly.

Monday’s lesson should help them learn to avoid it.

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