The Flyers were pummeled in Steve Downie's debut, falling 7-0 to the Capitals on Friday night. (USA Today Images)
There’s no way to dance around it: In a season with plenty of ugly hockey to choose from, Friday night was the absolute worst the Flyers have looked.
The thing is, it didn’t start out that way. On their way to a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, the Flyers actually started out with some jump.
But when they lost it, they lost it entirely.
It’s hard to fathom, at the close of this one, that the Flyers actually held the Capitals to 15 minutes without so much as a shot on net to start the game. It seems like ancient history that Claude Giroux was working hard on the power play, that Steve Mason was his typically reliable self, that the newest Flyer Steve Downie led the way with the first shot of the game.
That’s because it was the Capitals who owned this one after fighting past their rocky start. Joel Ward had a hat trick. Nicklas Backstrom had two goals. Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer added goals of their own. And, by the way, Caps sniper Alexander Ovechkin wasn’t even in the lineup.
The Flyers, simply put, had no answer for a Capitals team that’s only in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and not even at .500.
There’s no excuse for the product the team put out on the ice.
How frustrated were fans at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night? Frustrated enough that a loud "FIRE HOLMGREN" chant broke out toward the end of the second period, in reference to the Flyers’ general manager, and that a chorus of boos kicked off the second intermission.
The building was half empty by the time the third period rolled around.
Shortly after the Capitals’ seventh goal, things deteriorated entirely: There was a total line brawl complete with a goalie fight. Caps netminder Braden Holtby wanted absolutely nothing to do with Ray Emery, who completely let loose on him.
The crowd went absolutely wild. At least the Flyers gave them something to cheer about.
Other notable fights: Downie lost a match to Caps winger Aaron Volpatti earlier in the game, and Wayne Simmonds, whose fight with Tom Wilson kicked off the line brawl, easily won his.
The turning point of this one was definitely the Caps’ first goal of the affair, a Backstrom one-timer that flew over Mason’s shoulder. After that goal, the floodgates opened. While the Flyers lead in shots at the end of the first, 8-4, by the time the end of the second period rolled around, they trailed 19-17. And it got worse from there.
What’s the best way to throw away more than 17 minutes of decent hockey? To make fans forget that your team kept the opponents without a shot on net for 15 minutes? The answer: Make sloppy plays and allow yourself to get outworked. Turnovers led to each of the Caps’ three goals -- and could have led to more, had the Flyers not experienced at least a little bit of luck.
Friday marked the first time all season the Flyers were not tied, down by a goal, or leading by a goal entering the third period. They were, of course, down by six goals.
You have to credit coach Craig Berube for trying something -- anything -- to get his Flyers going. Mid-game, he shuffled up the team’s lines, hoping to redirect the evening’s course.
Most notably, he took Downie and Vinny Lecavalier off the top line and replaced them with Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek, then moved Lecavalier to center the second line where he moved Brayden Schenn (who also had a particularly rough night) to the wing with Simmonds. Downie joined the third line with Matt Read and Sean Couturier.
Turns out, Mason is human after all.
After allowing the game’s third goal -- and on just eight shots -- Mason was pulled from the game and replaced with Emery. Mason, it must be noted, shouldn’t be blamed for what transpired Friday night. He received hardly any support from his teammates, and that’s putting it mildly.
Emery, who replaced Mason in the second period, didn’t fare any better. He allowed four goals on 15 shots. And then, following that aforementioned goalie fight, Emery was tossed from the game and Mason returned.
The new guy
Welcome to Philadelphia, Downie! The newest Flyer fought Volpatti late in the second period, and took a punch that cut his face dangerously close to his eye. That one will be black and blue in the morning.
Downie finished the game with two shots in 11:20 on the ice.
Adam Hall returned to the lineup after spending two games as a healthy scratch, so Jay Rosehill sat Friday night. On defense, Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill were also healthy scratches.
Interestingly, PA announcer Lou Nolan declared Tye McGinn, too, was a healthy scratch … but McGinn was in the Adirondack Phantoms’ lineup in Glens Falls, exactly where he was expected to be when the day began.
Thankfully, it’s a quick turnaround for the Flyers, who will take a trip up the New Jersey Turnpike on Saturday and face the New Jersey Devils in less than 24 hours.
In net for the Devils, coach Peter DeBoer confirms will be Martin Brodeur. Emery is finally expected to see some playing time with the Flyers.