Comeback Identity Plagues the Flyers
Rewind to the Spring of 2010. The Philadelphia Flyers, down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup semifinal round, came back to take the series against the Boston Bruins while down 3-0 in game seven. The comeback mentality of the Flyers started then, and it hasn't let go.
That moment in Flyers history may be a fond one, but it may have ruined the current cast of players. Expecting comebacks every night takes a lot of stamina and endurance to pull off. It shouldn't be expected on a nightly basis.
Here's some food for thought—the Flyers allowed the first goal of the game 46 times last season. Of those 46 games, they won an astounding 20—a mark that led the league, tied with the Minnesota Wild. The Flyers won 27 games of which they scored first.
This season, the Flyers are 3-11-1 after allowing the first goal. If this were a full season, they would get nowhere close to that 20 win mark that they attained last season. Not to mention, the Flyers are winless when trailing after the first period (0-11-1), compounding this already existent problem.
In last year's playoffs, the Flyers went 1-6-0 when scoring first. When being scored against? 4-0-0. Wrap your head around that one. It makes close to zero sense.
Clear mindset problems and lacking jump at the beginning of the games plague this team. Sarah Baicker of Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia posed a theory that the team now expects comeback wins. That may not be far off.
"I mean, everybody has been around for a long time," Jakub Voracek said after the game when asked that very question. "Some guys have been around for a second year but we played hockey for a long time. Every guy knows how to prepare for the game. We weren’t ready to play. We got outraced on the pucks. We got beaten in the battles. It just can’t happen, you know?"
The Flyers almost pulled it off by coming within a goal against the Rangers. They had to be down three to make an effort.
"The last 30 minutes we started skating better and we were kind of a better team than them. If they didn’t score that fourth goal, I think we could have easily won that game, not easily, but we could have won that game," Voracek said. "In the beginning we were slow and by the second half it was too late to come back. Obviously it’s a tough one if you’re down 3-0 against the Rangers. They are a very good team. They’re physical and they play a very tight system. It’s tough to fall back 3-0 and try to come back. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of luck to get back."
Too bad it didn't work. Statistically speaking, it shouldn't. Scoring first is paramount in games to set a tempo. Scoring second might be the most important thing in a hockey game, because the game moves to 1-1, or 2-0. Teams fall right back into a 1-2-2 neutral zone trap and wait out the final periods of play.
Of the games the Flyers have tabbed must-wins, they have a record of 2-6-1. No time in those games did they ever "come back" from any deficits, or come anywhere close.
Fingers can be pointed to many different problems with the organization from top to bottom this year. Much of it will be validated at season's end. The team's personnel may be the worst it has had in many seasons, but the prevailing mindset of winning-by-comebacks must cease.
It will not be an easy fix.
It may come down to a coaching change to implement a system where the team is ready at the outset. It may come down to player personnel changes to get players that want to play when 20:00 shows on the game clock in the first period. Right now, the players do indeed show up at the rink to get ready, but they continue to show us they are not ready when the puck is dropped.
At this point, fans might be happy just to see better efforts in the first five minutes of the hockey game. This humble writer would love to see the tempo dictated from the outset. If that happens this season remains to be seen.