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February 24, 2015

Flyers miss chance to gain on Bruins with 4-1 loss to Hurricanes

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022415_Flyers-lose-Hurricanes_AP Ellen Ozier/AP

Hurricanes players celebrate after scoring against Rob Zepp and the Flyers.

We are what we repeatedly do. At least that's what Aristotle said.*

*Actually, he didn't.

What, then, are we to make of the Flyers?

After a pair of wins this weekend over two of the NHL's best -- the Predators and the Capitals -- the Flyers came out flat Tuesday night in Carolina, falling 4-1 to a Hurricanes team that had just 49 points in 58 games this season. Prior to their big four-point weekend, the Flyers played four games* against the Blue Jackets and last-place Sabres. They went just 1-1-2 in those games, good for just four points.

*They lost to the Blue Jackets in overtime on the road, then beat the Sabres, barely, in Buffalo. They came for two games, and lost the first to the Blue Jackets in regulation and then fell to the Sabres in a shootout.

So what exactly is this team?

In a word: inconsistent.

The Flyers have as many wins (13) against the league's best teams -- that is, teams currently projected to make the playoffs -- as they do against the rest of the NHL.

And their unpredictable level of play has not been a recent revelation. The Flyers began the season 0-4 before winning seven of their next 10 games. After that, the Flyers lost 10 of their next 11 games. They then grabbed points in all but one of their next nine games, going 6-1-2 over that stretch.

They would go on to get just one point over their next five games. I think you get the point.

Most recently, they ran off a stretch of nine-straight games in which they got at least a point before they struggled against Buffalo and Columbus.

Tonight, the Flyers again played down to the level of their competition, perhaps even below it.

They got a goal from Nicklas Grossman, but the Hurricanes, who outshot the Flyers 35-24, moved ahead just two minutes into the second period thanks to a Jeff Skinner goal and never looked back.

Here are some observations, but first, an update on the Flyers pursuit of the final wild card spot:

I wrote more about what the Flyers need to do to catch the Bruins earlier on Tuesday. You can check that out here. But suffice it to say that this loss to the Hurricanes was not the kind they can afford, even if the Bruins also lost.


Special teams letdown

Over the weekend, I wrote about how great the Flyers special teams had been. That was not the case Tuesday night.

The Flyers, who have the third best power play unit in the NHL, failed on two opportunities against the Hurricanes, who have the top-ranked penalty kill in the league. But that wasn't what did the Flyers in Carolina.

They allowed the Hurricanes to convert on two of their four chances on the man advantage, and it didn't look all that hard.

Whole Lotta Love Shots

For the first time since being recalled last week, 33-year-old rookie goaltender Rob Zepp played like a 33-year-old rookie.

And it wasn't entirely his fault.

Being called upon to fill in for Ray Emery, who was already filling in for Steve Mason, as his team tries to make a playoff push could not have been easy for Zepp. Furthermore, his defense stepped up in the last two games, allowing a combined 45 shots. On Tuesday, the Flyers allowed 35 shots on Zepp.

Not only did the Hurricanes get a lot of shots, but they got quality shots. That was due in most part to sloppy play and poor positioning by the defense.

The four goals they allowed are not a testament to the Hurricanes, but rather an indictment of a Flyers blue line that had been playing well recently. 

Voracek back on top 

With his first period assist on Nicklas Grossmann's goal, Jake Voracek moved back into a tie for first place in the NHL with 64 points. Patrick Kane and Nicklas Backstrom also have 64 points.

Voracek, who had dropped off recently, now has four points in his last four games and is second in the league -- behind only Backstrom -- with 45 assists.

Well done, Flyers Twitter

Whoever is running the @NHLFlyers twitter account, stand up and be recognized. On Tuesday night, shortly after the Flyers-Hurricanes game ended, NBC aired the Parks and Recreation series finale. To celebrate, @NHLFlyers filled their timeline with GIFs from the show. 

It looked a little something like this:

Sure, you cynics out there will make the connection that Comcast owns the Flyers and NBC, which airs Parks and Rec, and say they used their platform to promote the show. 

What's your point?