The Philadelphia Flyers have grown accustomed to digging out of holes this season.
They set a franchise record for third-period, come-from-behind wins in a season. They dug out of the worst start in franchise history to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They even came from behind for the two wins they’ve earned in their first-round series with the New York Rangers.
But the holes the Flyers continue to dig for themselves have finally caught up to them and are a big reason why they are currently teetering on the edge of 2014 playoff extinction.
And never was that issue more evident than in Sunday’s Game 5 loss to the Rangers in New York.
Just like they had done in the previous four games, they came out as flat as can be. To make matters worse, two absolutely miserable power-play efforts early in the first period sucked away any life the Flyers actually had.
Those two power plays were just wretched. Forget about shots on net during those power plays. The Flyers could barely get the puck into the zone. And on the off chance they did get the puck into the attacking zone, they couldn’t control the puck or make a clean pass to a wide-open teammate.
To say those power plays were out of sync is an understatement. Those power plays were equivalent to an early-afternoon walk of shame.
A team doesn’t have to score on the power play to get momentum. But power plays as bad as those two in Sunday’s first period can give the opposing team all the momentum in the world. And that’s exactly what the Rangers got.
The Flyers were basically DOA the rest of the contest as they never did get any sort of momentum going after those dismal power plays.
It’s frustrating because the Flyers had that chance to bury the Rangers early and failed miserably. And it’s more magnified because Game 5 was easily the biggest game of the Flyers’ season at that point.
With their backs now against the ultimate wall and their season now hanging in the balance, the Flyers have to get the early upper hand in Tuesday’s Game 6 and force the Rangers to fight back from that early deficit.
The Rangers have yet to be forced into that position in this series so we’ve yet to see how they’ll respond to that kind of situation.
Sure, the Flyers got the lead in Game 1 on a goal by Andrew MacDonald, but the Rangers still had almost every bit of momentum on their side and were still dominating almost every single aspect of the game.
It’s even more important for the Flyers to hop out early in Game 6 because of the pedigree of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
He’s one of the best goaltenders in the world but has yet to have that dominant game he’s more than capable of. Part of that is because he hasn’t had a ton of work with the amount of puck possession the Rangers have had. On the rare occasion he has been tested, he hasn’t been overly impressive.
But you still sort of get an eerie feeling that he’s due for one of those dominant games sometime soon. Nip that in the bud before it happens by coming out hot, forcing the Rangers to work deep in their own zone, wearing them down and getting traffic and pucks to Lundqvist.
If there was one positive to come out of the Game 5 debacle at the Garden, it was that Claude Giroux FINALLY got on the board with a late goal.
Is that what he needed to finally get some confidence and going in this series? We shall see on Tuesday but the Flyers sure hope so.
But here’s the thing: When their backs have been against the wall this season, those have been the times when the Giroux and the Flyers have played some of their best hockey of the season. Will Game 6 continue that trend.
The only thing that’s for sure is that Flyers fans still believe and the Wells Fargo Center crowd will be roaring and will bring that energy the Flyers will try to feed off of, especially early in the game.