A year ago it was different. A year ago there were three hotly contested games, a goaltender the Flyers appeared able to score on, and a certain will and determination cast after months of scrapping their way into the playoffs.
Last night, after two goals before the ice had a chance to start melting, we're left with a different impression. The Philadelphia Flyers are a team defeated. They appear to have no more will. That mythical "switch" people were waiting to be switched, well, appears to have shorted out.
As a Philadelphia sports fan, it makes you appreciate the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies that much more. There are certain times when the stars align for a team, and that magical fall was it for the Phils. Things fell into place and the team seized the moment, took care of business, and walked away as world champions.
There have been other teams (many others) in Philadelphia with seemingly the same recipe, but that sense of the moment, the true killer instinct has left them short. We remember them as great teams that didn't have what it took when it mattered, that just couldn't get it done.
The 2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers will be the latest in a list way too long. For three-quarters of a season, the team dominated and appeared poised to at least play for the Cup again. But it was built with a fatal flaw that has since been exposed, and the players feel too much of a challenge to overcome.
For two decades, the Flyers have contended with goaltending questions. This year is no exception. This is not to pick on Brian Boucher or Sergei Bobrovsky. In Boucher, he is what he is, a serviceable goaltender who will never be a star. In Bobrovsky, well, he is an unknown. He was yanked after one poor period in the playoffs, never to return (until, possibly, Game 4, also known as "too late"
. Maybe he's the answer, but we apparently won't find out for at least another year.
The Flyers built this team in a way where, if it was working, it didn't matter who was between the pipes. Their forwards were without a true "superstar" goal scorer, instead built with three, deep lines of quality players who could score goals. Shut down one line, but there are two others coming right after you.
Their blue line is where the true money is at. The Flyers went big, the belief being last year's shortcomings fell with the third pairing. They addressed that and added Andres Mezaros, Matt Walker, Sean O'Donnell, etc., to shore things up, and added to Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, build a wall in front of the net that wouldn't allow a flawed goalie to be exposed.
For much of the season, that worked. Now, it doesn't. The Flyers aren't right, and haven't been for some time. I don't think it's some deep, underlying issue. They're simply in a slump. It happens.
It happened to Boston in Game 2. For the third period and much of overtime, the Bruins were overmatched. The Flyers out-skated, out-shot, out-chanced and out-classed them. But they didn't out-score them for one reason.
In Thomas, the Bruins have a goaltender who can stand on his head when the team is in a slump. He can rebuild a wall when the one in front of him cracks and, while not always, can often times get his team to the finish line, even if they're being dragged kicking and screaming.
He can win games. He can steal games.
They Flyers don't have that. They haven't in a long time. Instead they have another lost season. Another season stolen. Another season without a Stanley Cup.