The Philadelphia Flyers dropped a 2-0 decision to the Ottawa Senators last night in Ontario. The team put forth a mediocre effort, and was handed their third loss in as many tries.
It’s a troubling sign of late for the Flyers, something that isn’t really curable by anything but a complete overhaul of players, coaches, and management. However, there’s no justifiable reason to break up this group, as they truly are a Stanley Cup contender – when they feel like playing like one, of course. It’s hard to imagine a line-up with the names like Timonen, Richards, Pronger, Carter, Gagne, and Briere potentially missing out on a playoff spot, but suddenly it’s a very real reality.
There’s no denying that the Flyers have been subject to some bad luck this season. They started things off horribly, and got themselves in a hole from the get-go. Then, just as it appears they may be turning a corner, they lose their #1 goaltender for the remainder of the season with a high ankle sprain. To top everything off, the teams top scorer goes down for the rest of the regular season with a broken foot. How does a team cope with that? How does a team get back in the saddle at a time like the present, with all that adversity staring them in the face, 9 games to go in the regular season, and every team around them seemingly hitting their respective strides while the Flyers slowly begin to fall back? It starts and ends with the product on the ice. Once again, not necessarily the Flyers’ fault per-say, but it’s hard to compete when you’re constantly questioning your last line of defense and when your number one scorer is suddenly lost for the remainder of the season. It’s hard, but it’s still manageable.
Look at the Boston Bruins. This is a team that lost it’s top offensive playmaker in Marc Savard to a concussion. Savard is still seeing stars to this day, but the Bruins have neglected to be brought down by their teammate’s injury – instead they’ve rallied around it and rode the momentum into a firm grip on at least the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. Obviously, their goaltending is a little better than the Flyers’, so that certainly helps, but let’s be real here: at this stage of the game – at this stage of the season – it’s all about the mentality. If you go into a game even the slightest bit unsure of your team and your abilities as a group, you will lose ten times out of ten. It’s part of what makes the playoff season in the NHL so beautiful, but at the same time so cruel. Teams that no one saw coming (Atlanta) make a giant push with a collective group of no-names, while teams everyone expected to make the postseason (Flyers, New York Rangers) are barely hanging on at the present.
So, how do things shape up for the Flyers the rest of the way? Well, it’s difficult to get into a “one game at a time” state right now, but the Flyers are going to have to try their best. They know that Pittsburgh and New Jersey are awaiting them this weekend and both are licking their chops as they look at the Flyers now. However, the focus lies squarely with Minnesota tomorrow night. The Flyers NEED to beat the Wild, if for nothing else, to show this team that this group can win hockey games, and important one at that. Once that’s over – win or lose -the Flyers will have to completely set their sights on beating the rival Penguins in Pittsburgh. It isn’t going to be easy, but nothing is going to come easy for the Orange and Black at this point. Once the Pittsburgh game is over, regardless of the final score, the attention will then shift to New Jersey for Sunday. It sounds elementary, and it is, but it’s a mentality the Flyers need to adopt as fast as they can.
When the Flyers host the Wild on Thursday, they’ll be playing in front of a relatively quiet and tension-filled Wachovia Center. Everyone is slowly coming to the realization that there is a distinct possibility that this club may not make the playoffs this season. A team, picked by many in the preseason to WIN THE STANLEY CUP, is in danger of finishing off what would be a colossal choke-job if they miss the postseason. It’s all up to the Flyers now: if they stay the course and continue to swan dive, they can book their tee-times now. If they decide they want to be in the playoffs this season, they’ll need to rev-up their game, and fast. Time’s running out on this season, and potentially, on this Flyers core.