Flyers' Nightmare Reaches Its Conclusion
The Philadelphia Flyers' season is likely over.
After dropping a 3-1 decision to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, they find themselves seven points back of the final playoff spot with eight games to go, needing a bevy of extremely unlikely circumstances to occur for them to even slide into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We have a game coming up," head coach Peter Laviolette said after the loss. "We need to win hockey games and focus on the next one."
That may be the only thing the Flyers can do—just try to win with what they have.
"We have to improve a lot of our game, and whatever happens, who knows?" Simon Gagne said. "We have to come prepared for every game, and play our best."
As it stands currently, the Flyers' patchwork defense contains players in uncomfortable situations. Bruno Gervais, Kent Huskins, Oliver Lauridsen and Kurtis Foster have all been thrust into important roles, playing big minutes to try and keep desperate teams off the scoreboard.
Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros and Nicklas Grossmann likely will not return this season, leaving this disastrous defense as it stands intact.
Scoring continues to falter as the season reaches its end. Forwards have only scored three goals overall in the last three games. One would imagine that the team that sent the most players overseas during the mundane work stoppage would be the most prepared. It seemingly accomplished the exact opposite to the Flyers.
"We've gotta find a way to get more pucks to the net, more traffic, and a little bit more hungry than we are right now," captain Claude Giroux said.
Giroux, playing nowhere close to the true impact player status he held last season, has garnered a fair amount of attention in this nightmarish shortened season. Missing Jaromir Jagr may be an excuse, but it's not good enough of one when all is said and done.
Additionally, what has been deemed "napgate" has thrown this season off the rails completely.
The polarizing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov started the season stopping numerous pucks for a Flyers team that fell asleep in the early going, falling to a 2-6-0 record in its first eight games of the year. Bryzgalov allowed 16 goals in his first seven games, and his offense gave him 14 goals—7 of them coming in one game alone.
Laviolette started him night-after-night because of zero trust in the backup position. Bryzgalov spoke frequently of his tiredness. He soldiered on with it as the shortened season pushed along.
This whole madness all came to a head after it was reported by 97.5 The Fanatic and the Philadelphia Daily News that he fell asleep during a team meeting, leading to his "benching" against the New York Islanders on April 9 in favor of newly acquired goalie Steve Mason.
Bryz fired back, calling the journalists in cahoots "unprofessional" and calling the coverage "embarrassing."
Just two years into his nine-year contract and Bryzgalov, thanks in part to several different factors, finds himself as the largest joke and biggest jester in the entire National Hockey League. Whether or not he receives a compliance buyout at the end of the season remains to be seen, but perhaps for his mental health it might be worth it.
The Flyers will split four home and road games to end the season. A lot of players have plenty to prove in the final stretch.
Will Gagne show that he deserves to stay after being acquired earlier this year? Will Bryzgalov play out of his mind, showing that he should stay? Will Danny Briere, who missed the last ten games with a concussion and has not scored since February 18, show that he should not be the victim of a buyout?
Spring hockey likely won't be a possibility at season's end, but at the same time, the lockout-shortened season may be the best time to be a subpar hockey team. General Manager Paul Holmgren hopefully will find a way for this team to be resurgent in a full season next year.
Anything less would be unacceptable.