February 19, 2015
The Flyers played down to the level of their competition on Thursday night ... and then some.
Facing a Sabres team that is the worst in hockey and a goalie, Michal Neuvirth, that hadn't won in last his 12 tries, the Flyers did the one thing they couldn't do: lose the game.
Playing from behind twice -- a 1-0 deficit in the first period and 2-1 just 38 seconds into the second period -- the team was able to twice tie the game, thanks to goals from Ryan White and Jake Voracek. Unfortunately, they were never able to pull ahead and the game went into overtime, and eventually a shootout.
Need I go on?
In the end, it was lowly Sabres who came away with a 3-2 win (2-1 in the shootout) as the Flyers fell to 2-7 this season in shootouts. The Sabres, despite their league-worst 38 points, improved to 7-2 in shootouts.
After the game, goalie Ray Emery disagreed with the notion that the Flyers struggle against subpar teams because they play down to their opponent.
“I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case," Emery said. "If you look at [the Sabres] games, I know they don’t have very many wins but they aren't getting blown out. They are maybe losing 2-1 in a shootout against good teams. We respect every opponent. Like I said, I thought we played well, but we have to win.”
The Flyers got a point out of it, but against this team -- no matter how well Emery says their playing -- they needed to get two. Especially if they still have any hopes of making the postseason.
However, the goalie wasn't alone.
“They’ve been playing pretty good hockey. If you look all of their games were lost by one goal, they play a pretty tight game," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said after the loss, echoing Emery almost word-for-word. "But that isn’t an excuse. We need to find a way to get the two points.”
He's right. They're now six points behind Boston (65) for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot. They'd also need to pass the Panthers, who trail the Bruins by just a point. And with just fourteen games remaining for the Flyers -- Boston has a game in hand -- time is running for the coach Craig Berube and his team.
“Well, we’re definitely not happy about it," Berube said after the game when asked about his team only getting one point in its last two games, both at home. "With saying that, you know, tonight we have to find a way to score a goal. We couldn’t. We didn’t. But it’s over with. We have to think about the next game and scoring two points.
“Anybody can lose to anybody in this league. I don’t know what you want me to say. We didn’t find a way to get that next goal tonight. That’s what it boils down to.”
Here are some observations from a sloppy game at the Wells Fargo Center:
Before the game even began, former Flyers defenseman Eric Desjardins was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.
Earlier this season, Eric Lindros and John LeClair -- both on hand to see their former teammate honored -- went in together, but prior to that, the last player inducted was Dave Schultz in 2009.
"I played for the Flyers for 11 years and I experienced so many great things here," Desjardins said before the game. "There were so many good years. We had a chance to go in the playoffs every year."
I'll have more later from Desjardins, as well as Lindros, LeClair, and other former Flyers.
But this quote from Lindros pretty much summed up Desjardins:
Eric was everything. He could skate, he could shoot, first pass to him if you needed a goal, he would score goals at clutch times. Meanwhile if you were in need of a goal scorer here and there absolutely. He was that quiet force. He was just amazing.
If only they had a guy like that on the team right now...
The team also wore special patches in his honor:
For what seemed like the longest time -- maybe because it was -- Jake Voracek had been mired in a scoring drought. Sure, he had an empty netter a few games ago, but he's failed to score an even-strength goal in nearly two months.
He got on the board Thursday, tying the game at 2-2 in the second period, and nearly scored later but hit the post.
In case you're wondering, both his goal and his near miss came on power play opportunities.
Voracek's goal first time he's beaten a goalie since Jan. 12 vs. Tampa. Goal vs. Washington on Feb. 8 was empty-netter— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) February 20, 2015
Voracek was the lone Flyer to score in the shootout, so there's that.
For the third game in a row since leaving to attend to a family matter, defenseman Andrew MacDonald was a healthy scratch. That's not exactly a good sign considering the team signed him to a six-year, $30 million deal in April.
#Flyers' MacDonald scratched for 4th straight game _ three when he was healthy, the other to attend his grandmother's funeral.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 20, 2015
Apparently it's nothing against MacDonald. As Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post wrote Thursday, it's more about numbers -- and not his plus-minus -- despite the fact that the defenseman thinks he's been playing pretty well:
"It's just a numbers game," coach Craig Berube said. "He took a leave of absence so I put somebody in the lineup and that's where we're at right now. I don't think it's anything he's done differently."
MacDonald, who came to the Flyers via trade last season, has been benched on two other occasions this season, both single-game stints.
"To be honest, I thought I was playing pretty good," MacDonald said. "Obviously I think the start of the year I didn't get the start I wanted and didn't play that great. Moving forward as the year went on, I felt like I was getting better and finding my groove." [via courierpostonline.com]
I highly recommend reading the full story, which can be found here.
Ray Emery -- making his sixth-straight start* in place of injured starter Steve Mason -- stopped 30 of the Sabres 32 shots, but that wasn't enough Thursday night.
After the game, Emery said he thought the team played well, but admitted they let one get away.
"It’s a game that we really want, especially at home," he said. "They got some weird bounces and their goalie made some saves and you end up in a position where you’re in a shootout.”
In that shootout, Emery made a great diving save with his stick, but his teammates were only able to score on one of their four chances. That shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has watched the Flyers play past the regular five-minute overtime period this season.
On Sunday, I was shocked when they said on the TV broadcast that over 18,000 people came out to watch the Sabres take on the Flyers in Buffalo.
Not because the Sabres have been out of playoff contention for as long as the website I write for has been live, but because they said the high in Buffalo that day was two degrees. The high.
Leaving the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night, the temperature was something like this:
In fact, record lows were expected in the Philly area, with wind chills dropping to 10-below and possibly worse. That sounds bad until you check the weather in Buffalo.