The Philadelphia Flyers and the Eventual Melancholy of Consistency

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Eventual Melancholy of Consistency

The following is a guest post from Ryan of Flyers Goal Scored By fame. The FGSB guys had a fantastic and original blog for years, but decided to call it quits this season. Part of the story is that blogging in addition to a day job and all of life's other demands is more challenging every year you do it. But the other part is more complicated and gets to the root of being a fan in this day and age, in this case, a Flyers fan. Ryan's words:

This was always going to be the day of our last post anyway. That it can
appear on such a prestigious website, well, that just brings a love
spot to my pants.

Our little blog that you probably never heard
of started in the Fall of 2007, to absolutely no fanfare. After 4 full
seasons of developing a love/hate relationship with the organization,
the writers, the fans, and Chris Therien we announced, to possibly less
fanfare, that the 2011-12 season would be our final foray into the
treacherous yet predictable world of hockey blogging.

As it turns out, we couldn't even make it that far, disappearing in
the middle of the night during a long stretch of W-L-W-L-W in November.
Maybe December. Who knows.

We rode the typical blog Change Curve -
new and energetic, growing and entitled, too good for the game, burnt
out and lost at sea.

During those five years the Flyers have taken a similar ride.

When
we set sail on this Italian cruise ship in 2007 the addition of Danny
Briere, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, and Marty Biron gave Flyers fans
reason for cautious optimism. We had just been molested by someone we
trusted - a close uncle or a distant parent - and Fin Tutuola wasn't
there to tell us everything was going to be ok. We were skeptical - of
the Curse of Billy Penn, of losing the NHL Draft Lottery, of rooting for
a team that finished so far in last place that they had packed the
finish line up in a truck before we even got there. But John Stevens
coached the crew - led up front by the future of the franchise, the
Bobby Clarke of the new millennium, Mike Richards, and Jeff "I'm going
to score 40 one day" Carter, and in the back by the gritty Jason Smith,
the surprising Randy Jones and Braydon Coburn - to a 95 point season.
Lupul scored the Game 7 overtime winner, Umberger single-handedly
Klumped the Canadiens, and then with our defense depleted, the Penguins
made us the star of their prison movie in the Conference Finals.

THE CONFERENCE FINALS!!

And despite a 0-3-3 start the next
season under new captain Mike Richards, we finished with 99 points. The
Phillies won the World Series and a new sense of true optimism swept the
city. The Flyers got their act together after Brad Lidge and Carlos
Ruiz awkwardly knee-hugged just in front the CBP's pitcher's mound, and
of course Scottie Upshall cried when he left. Not only was he leaving
his besties, but he was leaving a team that was obviously snow-balling
into a Stanley Cup champ. Jeff Carter got his 46 goals. Vets like Simon
Gagne and Mike Knuble did exactly what they were expected to do, and a
faster and younger defense had been carved out of traffic cones Jason
Smith and Derian Hatcher. We were on our way. Until the Penguins got us
again. First round. Shhhhhh. What time do we tee off tomorrow?

But no worries, right? Last in the league to the Conference Finals
to a better regular season with a playoff blip on the radar? That
happens - you lose hard-fought playoff series when you're not supposed
to. Overall, the season was a success. Please proceed to the off-season
like any other team. Draft some kids. Have a rookie camp. See you in
September for training camp.

Hold Up, heeeyyyyy (RIP Nate Dog) Oh. Oh, okay. The Flyers drafted
Chris Pronger. Wait? Wait what?!? Is that a good thing? I thought he was
too old. To be drafted for sure but even to still be effective in the
league. I've heard a lot about him but he hasn't been in the East since
he was a Whaler and I only really know the Whalers from NHL '94 and
Mitchell & Ness gear. Are we going to win the Cup? We're going to
win the Cup! We're going to win the Cup!

Please fast forward your DVR until you reach December 5, 2009. Who
is that guy on the bench where John Stevens usually stands? Why did
Daniel Carcillo break that guy's face? Why are we losing to the Caps
8-2? I thought Pronger was going to win us the Cup. Why is everyone
sucking. Why does Pronger have the third most points on our team? Please
call your parents and ask if you can come to my Captain Controversy
Party! Richards can't handle it! Oh wait. Bouch made the save. We're the
7th seed! Wow, did we just mirk the Devils on a DANIEL CARCILLO
overtime goal! Who is this Leino guy? Did we just make history and come
back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the Bruins!! There's no way Richards
scored that goal. The was the best shift ever by a Flyer. Did we just
bend Carey Price over our knee and spank him to win the East!?! Grab
that trophy, Mike! Fuck superstition. We are the TEAM OF DESTN…ah shit
you JVR, I mean Patrick Kane. Asshole.

Still though. Pronger = Cup Finals. I was never good at math, but
that's something I can understand. Now if we could ever get a goalie…ah
forget about that. We're so good we don't need one.

2010-2011 is
it, baby. Mike Richards is the best captain in the NHL. This is his
team. This Giroux kid is pretty good too. No one is killing it this
season but we sure are winning a hell of a lot of games. And bam. There
it is. 106 points and 2nd in the conference. One point from winning the
entire conference. This guy can coach. This team can play. These goalies
can do what you need. Dry Island, Wet Island - who cares. We are headed
back to the Cup Finals and this this year we're going to…You know what
Boston? You sure know how to hold a grudge, sweeping us like that. It's
rude is what it is. Grow up. We at least let you play 7 games last year.
Ya jerks.

Ok but next season it all comes together. Our kids are growing into
vets. We have Pronger, Kimmo, Coburn, Carle, and Mesz on the back-end
and who knows what we'll add this off-season.

Ring, ring.

"Oh
hey Fran, Are you kidding! We got Wayne Simmonds, Braydon Schenn, Jakub
Voracek, Max Talbot, JAROMIR JAGR, a 1st rounder and Ilya Bryzgalov!!
Why don't they just hand over the Cup now? Wait what? Ha, yeah right.
There's no way. You're not kidding? Holy shit."

- - - -

If I'm being honest, I don't even know what this
season was. We had great rookies. Jagr was fun for a time. Bryzgalov was
a roller coaster. We finished with 103 points but did you ever think
"this is the team that's going to win it all?" No, you shouldn't have
anyway. At most maybe "this team could do something." Giroux emerged
into a superstar but on the flip side we lost Pronger, possibly to spend
the rest of his career in the front office. Without Pronger this team
is carnival side show - and you have no idea what to expect. Ever.

We had 457 rookies play this year - many in significant roles that
might be better filled by a Dowdian veteran. Without Pronger our defense
has been exposed. Kimmo is still a stud, but an aging stud. He's
incredible but he's not Lidstrom. These past few years were really the
club's opportunity to take advantage of all his skill. Now he's quickly
turning into the sexy woodshop teacher all the young ladies dream of
seeing on their schedule. Not old but not young. He's an overworked
Portuguese Water Dog.

The future is no clearer than it has ever been. They'll talk about
the rookies. They'll talk about Simmonds', Hartnell's, Talbot's, and
Giroux's career years. They'll talk, they'll talk, they'll talk. But
this might be the over-arching problem with trying to win every year,
from the perspective of a General Manager. We have a huge gap of talent.
So many young kids that are good in their own right and then so many
old dudes that are past their prime or nearing that point. Where is our
true core? Where is our compass?

The truth is that I'm tired of caring this much, and Billy Beane was
right about losing the last game of the season. I'll be there rooting
for the Flyers in my own way, but no longer climbing into bed on a
Thursday night thinking "why did I just waste 3 hours." No longer
staying in on a beautiful Saturday afternoon because "the boys are on."
It's not that I don't have the time, it's not that I don't have the
energy. It's that the opportunity cost is too high when I can read the
box score and watch the highlights any time I want. It's a different
world, Denise Huxtable.

The thing is that they're just going to go out there and do it again
next season. There will be some new faces and some old. Some new
storylines (ha, yeah right), some new rules, some new banners, renewed
optimism.

But at the same time everything will be the same. There will be
injuries, suspensions, FA signings, a draft, trades, the Flyers will
win, lose and participate in shootouts. Their record will be 22-0-1 when
entering the 3rd period with the lead. They'll be 28-13 at home.
Whatever on the road. They'll go to Carolina. There will be fights,
goals, beautiful passes, horse shit penalties. This will all happen for 8
months. And then they'll come out and look, honest to God, like your
kid's Pee-wee team playing against the Selects and not even able to
break out of their own zone. Or they'll win the Cup and I'll celebrate
with everyone else. And then get up and go to work the next day. Just
like the day before.

Still a fan, still love the sport, but I just don't really care what
they do anymore. Not specifically anyway. Not in the "no no no no he's
our # 4 defenseman" kind of way. Hope to catch some games live next
year, but not as many as years before. And I'll definitely not feel like
any less of a fan when I have to text a friend or ask my buddy at the
bar "who is that No. 42 guy?"

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

VOORHEES, N.J. — As bad as things have been for the Flyers – just three wins in their last 14 games – there was no massive shakeup during their mandatory, five-day “bye” week.
 
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t make a trade, nor did he make any roster moves involving a call-up from the Phantoms.
 
Coach Dave Hakstol took one day off, then got back to watching video and live games, almost in a scout mode.
 
When the players hit the ice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone, Hakstol’s lineup was pretty much the same.
 
The only change saw Matt Read re-enter the lineup on the top line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl after missing two games with a skate cut.
 
The lines and defensive pairs remained the same. Goalie Michael Neuvirth will start Saturday against New Jersey at Wells Fargo Center.
 
“For me, the biggest thing is our overall performance,” Hakstol said. “Coming out of a break, that may be a tough thing to do -- to put it all together. But I think the energy will be there both mentally and physically. That’s important. The overall performance.
 
“The results are important on a different level when you start looking at the playoff picture and the race. At the end of the day, two points are going to be important, as well.”
 
The Flyers begin anew with back-to-back games against New Jersey here on Saturday and then the Islanders on Sunday in Brooklyn.
 
They will play four Eastern Conference opponents between Saturday and next Thursday before they begin the three-day All-Stark break.
 
Three of these games are against Metro Division opponents while the fourth is against Toronto. The Maple Leafs happen to hold the second wild card that the Flyers previously had going into the bye week.
 
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally ... Guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
 
“You were kinda scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”
 
Hakstol said after his one-day off, he went right back to work in evaluating where this team is. That the team remains intact without any kind of moves seems to send a message to the players.
 
That message is: it’s on you at this point. Don’t count on getting help from the outside. It has to come from within the current roster.
 
“Anything we’ve talked about is us as a group doing things we do well,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had a rough couple weeks where we haven’t been able to do the things we need to and want to consistently.
 
“I’m very confident in this group and this team. For us, what the players said is true. It was a real good time to have a mental and physical break. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
 
What has to improve right from the get-go is the Flyers' 5-on-5 play. Forget for a moment they have scored 75 goals and are 13th in the NHL averaging 2.76 goals a game.
 
The critical factor is 5-on-5 goals against. The Flyers have allowed 98 goals in that situation – only Colorado [100 GA] has allowed more. Their 3.13 goals against is 28th worst in the league.
 
Unless those number improve significantly, they won’t be in the playoffs.
 
“We have to stay within our system,” said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. “We give up too many odd-man rushes. Especially in those final games before the break. That’s a big thing.
 
“When we’re giving up that many, it’s not going to be in our favor. It’s not fair to judge our goalies in those games because we didn’t give them too much help out there.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays on a checking line, said the 5-on-5 goals against is a telling stat.
 
“You have it right there,” he said. “You don’t have to say much more than that. You cannot be a consistently, good team in the league if you are that low in goals against. It’s something we have to all work together at, as players.”
 
Hakstol said the Flyers enjoyed success 5-on-5 when they were winning because their team play was “consistent” game-to-game.
 
That hasn’t been the case during this 3-8-3 stretch.
 
“Our 5-on-5 game hasn’t necessarily regressed, but the consistency of it has,” Hakstol said. “That’s when you see the holes defensively. That’s when you see some of the problems you run into.
 
“We’ve got to get back to it. Back to a full 60-minutes of good 5-on-5 play. That’s up to each and every one of us, taking that responsibility and making the push to do that.”

In different spot after bye week, Flyers ready for playoff push with 'new perspective'

In different spot after bye week, Flyers ready for playoff push with 'new perspective'

VOORHEES, N.J. — When we last left the Flyers on Sunday evening, they were picking up pieces of themselves all over the ice at the Verizon Center after a 5-0 beatdown by the Washington Capitals.

They have had to stew over that defeat all through their five-day NHL mandated bye week, which ended Friday afternoon when they reported to Skate Zone for a rare 4 p.m. practice.

They’ll host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

“You go into the break thinking about [hockey], but the whole point of it is to refresh mentally,” said Wayne Simmonds, who got engaged. “I didn’t drive myself crazy over it. This a little stretch here before the final playoff drive.”

When Claude Giroux became engaged in late November, the Flyers won eight straight as part of their 10-game streak.

“So to replicate that, we need everyone in here to get engaged,” Simmonds said. “We've got a lot of work to do. We know that. We got off to a good start compared to the past and then we faltered.

“We know we've got to be better. We all have to be accountable to each other. We’re not starting from scratch, but we need a new perspective here. Come out of the gate and do it the right way, again.”

A lot has happened since the loss in Washington. The Flyers remain fifth in the Metropolitan Division, but the layoff has seen them plummet to ninth overall in the Eastern Conference.

None of that, however, is as important as this: the Flyers no longer hold the second wild card. Toronto has it now with the same number of points as the Flyers — 50.

Difference is, the Maple Leafs also have two games in hand on Dave Hakstol’s club. Worse, the Carolina Hurricanes are snapping at the Flyers' skates with 49 points and they have three games in hand.

All of this is entirely the Flyers' fault as they’ve gone 3-8-3 since their 10-game win streak ended.

Yet they remain in striking distance of the wild card, although they are 11 points out of third, which is an automatic playoff spot.

They are fortunate they’re not farther behind in the wild-card standings.

“For sure, over those days there ... our division did lose a little bit,” Brayden Schenn said. “It’s going to happen. But at the end of the day, if we don’t win hockey games, it’s not going to matter what the other team will do.”

After Saturday’s game against the Devils, the Flyers head to Brooklyn for a Sunday night encounter with the Islanders. Sit five days, then play a back-to-back. Ah, the joys of the NHL schedule this season.

“We know we lost all that ground we gained with the 10-game winning streak,” said Jakub Voracek, who shaved off the beard he’s had for a year and a half during the break. “We are right there in a playoff spot. Now we keep pushing.

“We have 36 games left. We go game by game. I don’t remember how many points out we were last year with the playoffs, but we’re in a better position now.”

Last year after 46 games, the Flyers had 48 points, but were seven points out of a wild-card playoff spot. They have two more points now but are in better wild-card shape.

They know they have to get themselves going quickly but the harsh reality is, they seldom play well coming out of a four or five-day break.

Most of the players went away during the break and didn’t think about hockey. They said they wanted to come back refreshed with a new attitude and clean slate. It starts Saturday.

“We have to stop overthinking things,” Voracek said. “When we were winning, we just kept going. When you are losing, you begin to overthink things.

“You’re a half step slower thinking whether you should go or not. That’s our problem. We have to refocus. Everyone is excited to be back. Get back to work. Push this team to the playoffs.”