As the 4-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers was the most disappointing win of the season, last night's fall to the Washington Capitals 5-4 in a shootout was definitely the most satisfying loss this year for the Philadelphia Flyers.
This entire week, with games against Washington, Pittsburgh, and Boston, is pivotal for playoff placement, and we will all see just how the Flyers stack up against the stiffest competition in the East.
After one game, here are some conclusions we can allow ourselves to make.
1) The Flyers CAN and WILL show up when it counts
There has been some concern lately that the Flyers were "coasting," not playing their best, allowing teams to come back against them, and were losing their chemistry as a group. There has been a lot of speculation as to what was going on, but after seeing the Flyers in their games against Dallas and Washington, I don't believe we need to worry. When the games are big and against top teams, you can count on the FlyGuys to bring their A game. The Flyers play much, much better when facing better teams, and I think it comes down to a motivation issue. It had to have been tough for the Flyers to become motivated during that tough stretch, when they were way up at first in the East and playing lower-tier teams. I expect the same effort on Thursday against Pittsburgh.
2) Laviolette has a plan. It's a good one.
Analysts are impressed by Bruce Boudreau's willingness to rest their superstar captain at this point in the season. It shows that he is thinking about the big picture and is more concerned with the playoffs and winning a Stanley Cup than he is about seeding and the regular season. Laviolette has had this mindset since the start of the season. For the majority of the year, he has kept the minutes rounded and near even throughout his lineup, with the intention that his players will have more jump come playoff time. He also has emphasized conditioning and fitness level moreso than your average coach to limit the fatigue his players feel after a long previous season and hopefully a long current one. I used to get frustrated with him when he would break up lines that were having success and put together combinations that seemed out of whack. I realized his reasoning was to get his players used to playing with different linemates, should the Flyers need to score a goal badly or prevent the other team from scoring in the last minute of a game in the playoffs. With the big game against Washington, he put his usual lines back together. Sometimes we have to trust that the coach DOES know what he's doing, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.
3) Goaltending could ruin the Flyers' Stanley Cup hopes
There's no question about it...Right now, the Flyers do not have average goaltending...they have WEAK goaltending. With at least average goaltending, the game against Washington would have had a different outcome. I have never played as a goaltender, so I cannot say that I fully understand what has happened. At the beginning of the year, Bob and Boosh were absolutely stellar, and both were playing so well that it was difficult to pick an actual starter. Now, we have the same dilemma, but it's because both are playing so poorly. This problem MUST go away, or there will be a lot of unhappy Philly fans come April.
- Britain K Roda