The Philadelphia Flyers, up until last week, were unable to consistently put together a good enough effort to string together more than two wins in a row at any time during the season. With the team struggling to get points earlier in the season, they put themselves in a very tough spot down the stretch while chasing a playoff spot. There simply is no room for error at this point, no matter the scheduling, travel or injuries. The team needs to win a good portion of their remaining games or the hopes of making the playoffs will quickly be gone.
Thursday in Toronto, the Flyers were able to take control of a much needed road game with goals by Brayden Schenn and Jay Rosehill in the second period that lead to a 5-3 Flyers victory. The Flyers lost veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen during the game to a wrist injury and were then led by Luke Schenn, who took a team high 28 shifts, had an empty net goal, five shots, four blocked shots and six hits in one of his better overall efforts in a Flyers uniform.
The win in Toronto was important because the Flyers have struggled on the road this season and the game against the Leafs started a three game swing away from home. Heading into the game the Flyers were 4-12-1 on the road, an area where the team has lost points this season and one where they need to play better to stay in playoff contention.
Following the victory in Toronto, the Flyers traveled to Winnipeg to play the third game in a four day stretch. The team would be looking for its fifth straight win and against a team that they are directly chasing for a playoff spot.
The effort in Winnipeg, more specifically in the second period, was not what this team needed and has become the calling card for a season on the brink of elimination. The Flyers came out strong in the first period, outshooting the Jets 13-4 and holding a 1-0 lead after a Ruslan Fedotenko goal.
The second period was a different story altogether from the first, with Winnipeg exploding for four goals and taking control the game in what looked like the Flyers of a month ago who couldn’t play sixty minutes a night.
Grant Clitsome and Kyle Wellwood scored just 27 seconds apart a little past the halfway point in the second period to give the Jets a 2-1 lead. Evander Kane added another goal 1:39 after the Wellwood goal and Bryan Little goal at the end of the period capped the scoring.
Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was pulled after two periods after allowing 4 goals on just sixteen shots. Newly acquired backup Steve Mason stopped all nine shots he faced in the final period of a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg.
Timonen suited up despite being a game time decision following the injury suffered the game prior in Toronto and the Flyers also lost Luke Schenn briefly after he took a puck to the face that required stiches in the locker room before returning to the game.
The Flyers are dealing with a ridiculous amount of injuries and are playing with a third line that features rookie Sean Couturier playing with Rosehill, the enforcer picked up from Anaheim and waiver wire pick-up Adam Hall. Rosehill was actually credited with a goal, the game winner, in the Toronto game when a Couts shot defelected off of his leg.
The defensive unit also has struggled with keeping players healthy, with Timonen and Schenn being the only defenseman left from the projected top six at the beginning of the season. Rookie Oliver Lauridsen struggled mightily against the Jets, playing to a -3 on the day in 22 shifts.
While the injuries can certainly play a role and the schedule is tough, it is getting tiresome watching a team that can’t or won’t play entire games and lose because of the lack of effort. The players know it and apparently have no problem admitting it following games where they just mail in an entire period or two and end losing points in the process.
It looked as though this team might have been coming together over the last week until you see the effort in Winnipeg where they regress back to a team that may or may not want to play an entire game of hockey.
With the loss on the road Saturday, the Flyers (17,18-3, 37 pts) find themselves 11th in the Eastern Conference standings and five points out of the final playoff spot. While a few of the teams in front do have games in hand, the Flyers really just need to concentrate on getting as many points as possible in the final ten games.
The Flyers have three games in the upcoming week, against the New York Islanders and Ottawa Sentators who are currently occupying two of the bottom three playoff spots and the Buffalo Sabres who are chasing the last playoff spot and currently sit a point behind Philadelphia.
I guess we get yet another make it or break it week filled with must win games. The team is running out of these opportunities and soon will be playing for a draft spot if they don’t play and compete from start to finish.Tags: Brayden Schenn, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jay Rosehill, Kimmo Timonen, Luke Schenn, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers, Steve Mason, Winnipeg Jets