Sloppy Effort Creates a Flyers Loss
For whatever reason, most of the Philadelphia Flyers decided to bring their D-game to St. Louis on Saturday night. Although they escaped with a point in a 2-1 overtime loss, their performance was lackluster at best. Starting the season in Pittsburgh and St. Louis achieving three out of four possible points is nothing to downplay, but there were clearly more negatives than positives on Saturday.
On the positive side of things, Brian Boucher played extremely well, saving 23 of 25 shots and he looked quite impressive in doing so. He had absolutely no chance on Carlo Colaiacovo’s game winning goal, a deflection which landed practically on the blade of his stick. After Sergei Bobrovsky’s performance in Pittsburgh Thursday night, some were surprised at Boucher being tabbed the starter on Saturday. However, Peter Laviolette has made it clear that both Boucher and Bobrovsky will get time in goal moving forward. With the franchise’s announcement that surgery is required for Michael Leighton yesterday, it’s obvious that both Bobrovsky and Boucher will need to be sharp. With Bobrovsky’s lack of experience, Boucher will be vital for the Flyers’ success this year. If he plays anything like he did on Saturday, the team should be just fine. I’m not so sure that the decision to start the season with Bobrovsky won’t motivate Boucher to be at his best. He certainly looked to be at his best Saturday night.
Another positive from Saturday’s loss was the fact that the Flyers close out their brief season-starting road trip earning three out of four possible points. In all honesty, I expected a loss in Pittsburgh and a win in St. Louis, I suppose I sold the team short. In the long run, every team will have games where they simply don’t have ‘it’. The difference between good teams and bad teams is the ability to gain a point when nothing’s going right. Understand, if the Flyers were playing a more experienced opponent, or perhaps a more talented group they probably wouldn’t have escaped with a point. But, they did. A point is a point, and three out of four is far from shabby.
Although it’s great that the Flyers gained the point, the manner of which they played was certainly disappointing. They looked beyond lethargic and sloppy for much of the game; they racked up 41 penalty minutes with undisciplined mistakes, and continued to have problems clearing the defensive zone. The referees did have a bit of a quick whistle for both sides throughout the game, which seems to be a common occurrence for the early season. However, the team didn’t show the ability to adjust to the way the game was being called. The only encouraging thing about the penalties was that the Flyers were able to kill all but one of the power plays. The penalty kill was impressive, maintaining pressure throughout. Another troubling aspect to the game was the inability to score on Jaroslav Halak. Although Halak was impressive, it seemed the team had forgotten that the focus with Halak must be on traffic in front of him, making him move laterally, as well as shooting high when there is a scoring chance. Any shot that is in the vicinity of Halak’s leg pads is usually a fruitless attempt. He was on his game Saturday night, although I don’t think the Flyers made it as hard on him as they could have.
All in all, the Flyers fell victim to their own sloppiness and lack of offensive rhythm, which was mostly the consequent of frequent penalties. I fully expect to see a much more disciplined effort on Monday night as the team takes home ice against Colorado. The 2009-10 Eastern Conference Champion banner will be raised, and I’m sure the team will give the fans in orange a much better performance than the one they tuned into on Saturday. Make no bones about it, the Flyers are as talented a team there is in the Eastern Conference, but without discipline and their best effort, the talent will be rendered useless. Saturday should provide a great early season learning experience for the Flyers moving forward. I hope they took notes.