With only 19 games remaining in the Philadelphia Flyers season, they’ve developed an extremely problematic pattern.
Despite leading the Eastern Conference standings, the team has lacked the ability to put opponents away when they have the opportunity. Sometimes, the games end in overtime or with late game-winning goals for the Flyers.
Thursday, neither of those outcomes rang true as the Flyers lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Many that have observed the Flyers this season have noticed their lethargic play at times in the second half of the season. With a deep and talented roster, the team usually finds a way to win and the matter of how they won is forgotten. But, when the playoff-starved Maple Leafs handed the Flyers their second consecutive loss, it showed cause for concern.
Before Thursday, Philadelphia hadn’t lost back to back games since December 20th and 28th when they dropped decisions to Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks respectively. This time around, it was the lowly Ottawa Senators that started the Flyers woes and Toronto that extended them.
Although the Flyers may have a leg up on the top seed in the East, 11 of their next 14 opponents are in the playoffs or fighting to get there. Lately, it’s been quite clear that the team doesn’t quite have the”‘jump” that their opponents have. That’s been the biggest problem for the Flyers, and the players are noticing it.
“[Playing desperate teams] is probably good for us,” Defenseman Chris Pronger said afterwards. “Like I said, we have to match their desperation and intensity. We haven’t done that yet, and until we do, we are going to wind up on the wrong end of the spectrum, like we did today.”
The only goal scorer for the Flyers on Thursday was playing for the Leafs less than three weeks ago. Forward Kris Versteeg, the game’s first star played extremely well in the loss against his former team.
Despite the tough loss, he found some silver lining.
“[The Maple Leafs] are ramped up and ready to go every night, they have to be because they are only a few points out,” the forward explained in the locker room. “Sometimes you do need to go out and match the intensity as best you can and I think we did a good job tonight.”
Whether or not the Flyers played well at times really makes no difference at this point. For a team that has their sights set on winning the Stanley Cup, losses like the one Thursday prove that they have to shape up before the playoffs begin. The team will have to find some type of motivation to face their upcoming opponents, or they’ll find themselves in a less than enviable position when mid-April rolls around.
For 39-year old defenseman Sean O’Donnell, he’s been around long enough to understand the Flyers plight right now.
“For these teams every game, every two points, and every point is huge,” he said after the loss. “We have to look in the mirror and find a way to bring that 60 minute effort. We’re not as committed to it as we were the first 40 games and you’re seeing what can happen against teams that have their back against the wall.”
Luckily for the Flyers, they have given themselves some space to breathe in the standings through 63 games. The team is currently three points ahead of Boston with a game-in-hand at the top of the Eastern Conference. However, that breathing room can easily disappear if the team doesn’t recapture their impressive play from earlier in the season.
After two consecutive losses to lesser teams, that should be quite apparent.