A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-0 loss – their third straight and second straight shutout - to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center through the perspective of two players and one suddenly struggling special-teams unit.
Unlike the Flyers’ previous two losses when they hung with the NHL’s two best in the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues, this one was just a big, sloppy, jumbled mess of a game. The Flyers could never get anything going and were stuck in neutral the entire night. It was quite the uninspiring effort.
So much for that “huge game” mentality from earlier on in the day on Thursday.
3. James Wisniewski
The Blue Jackets defenseman finally opened the scoring when he slammed the puck through Flyers goalie Steve Mason from the side of the net with just over three minutes left in the second period for a power-play goal. It was Wisniewski’s third shot on the power play alone but, more importantly, it was one Mason definitely wanted back as it slipped through from a pretty bad angle.
Wisniewski later picked up an assist on center Brandon Dubinsky’s third-period deflection that slipped past Mason and, for all intensive purposes, ended the game due to the way the Flyers were playing.
Speaking of which, give Wisniewski and his Jackets teammates credit. Yes, the Flyers didn’t play well, but that was partly due to the Jackets’ smothering defense and hustle. They won the battles and races and played with that sense of urgency that the Flyers sorely lacked.
They were the team that played like it was a big game.
2. The Flyers’ power play
Both the Bruins and Blues have top-10 penalty kills so the fact the Flyers didn’t score on the power play in their last two games wasn’t all that surprising. But Thursday night wasn’t so much about not scoring on the power play. It was more about how disorganized the power play looked.
The Flyers got zilch on their four power-play opportunities and managed all of three measly shots. That’s probably because they could barely make a pass or carry the puck into the zone while on the power play. And when they did, they lost almost every single puck battle and the Jackets either dumped it or went the other way for a chance against Mason.
You could argue that Columbus was the more dangerous team while Philadelphia was on the power play. No wonder the boo birds were out at Wells Fargo Center.
The kinds of brutal power plays we saw on Thursday are even worse because they can give the other team all kinds of momentum. The Flyers blew three first-period power plays and gave the Jackets some confidence.
Combined with the previous two games, the Flyers’ power play is now fruitless in its last 12 attempts.
Let’s just assume there will be some power-play drills during practice on Friday.
1. Sergei Bobrovsky
Another Flyers game, another great performance by the opposing goaltender. And this time it may have stung a little bit more because of who the opposing goaltender was.
The man they call Bob made 37 saves against his former team for the shutout win in his first start back in Philadelphia since he was traded in the summer of 2012.
He was excellent, but especially in the second period when he stopped all 17 shots he faced. The Flyers poured it on in that second period and Bobrovsky stood tall. His kick save on a Wayne Simmonds wrister from the slot after a turnover was a particularly great save. He also made a really good stop on Michael Rafll from the slot in that period as well.
He kept the Jackets in the game in that period until they eventually cashed in with Wisniewski’s power-play goal.
Bobrovsky received the second star of the game from the media and was greeted with a nice little round of applause from those brave enough to stay at Wells Fargo Center for the entirety of that mess.
Good for Bob. But not so good for the Flyers, whom he shutout.
Three straight losses are never good, especially at this time of the year when a team is trying to sew up a playoff spot. Even worse, that’s also five losses in the last six games for the Flyers. And don’t look now, but by virtue of their win on Thursday night, the Blue Jackets are just two points behind the Flyers for third in the Metropolitan Division. Things are getting just a tad bit itchy.
And they won’t get much easier for the Flyers as a trip to Boston to meet the Bruins is next on the ledger on Saturday afternoon.