Heading into this past weekend’s double dose of games, the Philadelphia Flyers had won 10 of their last 13 overall and 10 straight home games in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center.
So, naturally, they laid total duds in both games and were left wondering why the bad, undisciplined Flyers from the beginning of the season suddenly reared their ugly heads again.
On Saturday afternoon in South Philly, the sloppy Flyers fell behind and then just couldn’t keep up with the Lightning in a 6-3 loss.
The turnovers came early and often and put the Flyers in a 2-0 hole Saturday afternoon. In fact, the Lightning’s first goal came after a brutal Nicklas Grossmann turnover on a pass attempt in the neutral zone that was basically right to a Lightning player and never even had a chance.
In the second period, the teams combined for seven goals and the Flyers tied the game at three at one point after a goal from Wayne Simmonds and two beautiful goals by Jake Voracek. Voracek’s second goal was especially pretty as he slithered between two Lightning defenders and slid the puck underneath Lightning goalie Anders Lindback.
But Tampa scored the last two of those seven second period goals, including a backbreaker by Marty St. Louis with 57 seconds left in the period, to take a 5-3 lead into the third and Philadelphia could never recover.
The fact is that the Flyers played well enough offensively to win on Saturday. They fired 38 shots on net. But Lindback stood on his head for his team when it needed him to and he made 35 saves.
It didn’t help that the Flyers basically played no defense the entire game. Steve Mason wasn’t his usual stellar self and was pulled in favor of Ray Emery to start the third period, but it’s not his fault when he has to face numerous odd-man rushes and opponents have clear, high-quality chances at almost every turn.
To make matters worse for the Flyers on Saturday, they played terribly in front of supermodel Kate Upton, who was in the crowd with maybe boyfriend and superstar pitcher Justin Verlander.
Verlander was in town to finalize his mega-deal with the Phillies. Scratch that, he’s under 35 and not in the tail end of his career.
He was actually in town for abdominal surgery.
The Flyers had a chance to redeem themselves on Sunday evening with a quick trip up to Madison Square Garden and a meeting with the New York Rangers.
Redeem themselves they did not as the Rangers hopped out to a 3-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the game and smothered the Flyers into submission by a score of 4-1.
Mark Streit potted the only goal for Philadelphia but by the time he scored in the third period it was already way too late as New York was holding a four-goal lead.
Emery got the start and wasn’t terrible by any means – he had 34 saves on the night - but now he knows how Mason felt on Saturday afternoon. His teammates broke down way too often defensively in front of him and allowed the Rangers way too good looks at the net.
For example, on the Rangers’ second goal, what do you think happened when Rick Nash was left wide open at the circle? Yep, a wicked wrist shot was in the back of the net within a matter of seconds. Emery had no chance.
Henrik Lundqvist dominated the Flyers with 37 saves and kept them winless in their last seven games at the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Rangers have outscored the Flyers 28-8 in that span. Yikes.
All tolled, what we saw this past weekend was the return of the October Flyers. Remember them? The no defense, turnover-prone, offensively challenged Flyers that couldn’t back up their goalie and had trouble skating without tripping over their own feet.
Hopefully it was nothing but an aberration.
Despite the lost weekend, good news could be on the way.
First and foremost, the Flyers next game is Tuesday night in Buffalo against the NHL’s version of an uncontrollable tire fire, the terrible Sabres.
Also, Tye McGinn was sent down to the Phantoms today. Read between the lines and that could very well mean Matt Read is ready to return after missing the last six games with a concussion.
Sorry, the pun in that last sentence was absolutely terrible.