Flyers Swallowed Up by Thomas in Loss
If the Boston Bruins were looking for revenge Wednesday night for last year’s playoff collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers, they certainly found it. Not only did they exact revenge, they did it pretty convincingly, 3-0. Tim Thomas saved everything that was thrown in his direction, and the Flyers continued to sleepwalk for long stretches at a time.
After back to back shootout losses on Friday and Saturday, the Flyers had three days off to get ready for the Bruins. Many fans assumed they would right the wrongs of the previous two games. Most specifically, those wrongs included without energy for long stretches at a time and inability to score on the power play. Well, guess what? Those two things in conjunction with Tim Thomas beat the Flyers again on Wednesday night. It’s safe to say that it isn’t safe to make assumptions about this Flyers team.
The game wasn’t terrible at the start; in fact it was far from it. The Flyers had a couple of quality opportunities off the initial faceoff and it seemed like they were determined to overcome their recent struggles. However, once Patrice Bergeron netted the game’s first goal on a failed power play clear by the Flyers defense less than six minutes into the game, everything seemed to go downhill.
For the record, the Bruins played a fantastic hockey game. Let there be no debate about it, Thomas saved all 41 shots he saw. They didn’t turn the puck over in the neutral zone. Every time they tried to enter the Flyers zone, they found a way to do it with ease. They fore-checked. They back-checked. Boston was determined to win the game and it showed.
That’s not to say the Flyers didn’t have their opportunities to win the game. They did. In fact, they had many opportunities. However, don’t look at the shot totals in order to understand how the game went. The Flyers outshot the Bruins 41-32, but Boston probably had a slight advantage in scoring chances. As Flyers fans know, the shot total is misleading with this team. When the opposing goaltender makes some crucial saves early in the game, it’s almost as if the team takes on a mindset of ‘let’s just throw everything at the net, forget about creating quality chances’.
Of course, to me that’s what it looks like. That may not necessarily be the case. But, there was a sequence that truly blew my mind in the middle of the third period. With the team trailing 2-0, the Flyers put on an onslaught of offensive pressure. They had the Bruins trapped in their own zone for a couple of solid shifts.
On one particular shift, they scrambled with shot after shot and a rebound came right to Matt Carle out front, and he walked in on one defender and Thomas. With Nik Zherdev on one side of the crease, and Jeff Carter on the other (I think it was Carter, although it may have been another winger), it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the Flyers to finally beat Thomas.
Instead of passing to one of the two scoring options, Carle seemed to rush himself and shot right into Thomas’ glove. Chance over. Frozen puck. Now, Carle is an offensive-minded defenseman with a pretty decent wrist shot, but the play was the game in a snapshot. Thomas not only blocked the team’s shots, he blocked their minds. The example isn’t intended to take a shot at Matt Carle, because it seemed apparent to me that many of the Flyers had the same mindset. But as was the case in Carey Price’s 41 save shutout against the team earlier this season, they simply settled for shots without traffic or puck movement.
The lethargy in the team’s game that has been seen at stretches this year also reappeared Wednesday, but there were times when they turned it on. That’s the problem. There shouldn’t be an on and off switch. The frustration level probably added to the problem. There were times when I saw players simply quit as the Bruins skated out to odd man rushes. Sloppy passes were intercepted all over the ice. It was troubling to watch.
When teams get into a funk offensively, usually the power play helps them get back on track. Well, the Flyers also managed to dismiss that theory, as they went scoreless on four power plays. I’ve wondered aloud for a few games now why Peter Laviolette refuses to keep the Leino/Briere/Hartnell line intact on the power play, and I continue to wonder. Instead of placing Carter with Briere and Hartnell, I would simply switch him with Leino on the second unit. The second unit has Leino, Giroux and Richards, and having a shooter on both lines (Briere,Carter) would probably help things. Well, after going two for their last 38 on the power play, how could it hurt?
If the power play continues to suffer and the Flyers continue to bring lackluster efforts to the ice, they’ll be handed losses like Wednesday’s every night out. I hope that Laviolette skates them hard for the next couple days before they face off against the Devils on Saturday. I would assume that they’ll bring their best game to the ice. But, as I’ve said before, assumptions with this team probably aren’t the best idea.