The Flyers continue to struggle to play a complete game
Matt Read (left), Andrej Meszaros and Luke Schenn watched in frustration as the Flyers fell to the Ducks after a lackluster third period. (USA Today Images)
Once upon a time, Mike Richards stood at the end of the tunnel leading from the Flyers’ dressing room, fist bumping teammates as they passed while saying emphatically: “This is our period.”
That would be the third period.
No one is suggesting Claude Giroux needs to do that, but the sad reality is the Flyers are no longer a team you’d bet the house on to win in the third period of hockey games.
It’s not a recent trend, either. It’s been going on for more than two seasons now.
They’ve already been outscored 14-5 this season in the third period. What is mind blowing here is that the Flyers have been competitive during all 11 games this season.
Going into the third period, they were either tied, behind by a goal or ahead by a goal in every game.
So why is it that they can’t come out ahead on a consistent basis? Why are they so jittery in tight games? And why don’t they exhibit more of an authoritative response when the opposition makes a push?
No one really has an answer, but it’s pretty obvious their overall confidence is lacking.
“Yeah, I thought maybe we were past that, but we weren’t [Tuesday] obviously,” said coach Craig Berube. “I mean we didn’t do much in the third until the power play and we got the goalie out.
“It’s something we’ll definitely have to work on, but you can’t be that sloppy with the puck and expect to win.”
The Flyers appeared to have turned a corner with their previous two victories against the Rangers and Islanders.
Then Anaheim came in during a 15-day road trip. The Ducks were a far better opponent than any the Flyers have faced this season. They took the game to the Flyers fairly hard in the final period. Moreso than the 3-2 final score would indicate.
“Good teams know how to win in the third period and the teams that struggle are the ones who lose games in the third period,” said Matt Read, who has a three-game goal scoring streak. I think we’ve got to learn how to win those games and once you learn how to win those games in the third period, you’re going to be a good team, and make the playoffs.”
There continues to be a feeling that when teams tie games in the third, the Flyers start playing overly cautious and begin making fatal mistakes.
Is it a confidence thing?
“I think our attitudes are positive on the bench in the third, even when they scored a goal,” Read said. “I don’t know how much time was still on the clock, but we still had a positive vibe, we stopped moving our feet and started watching them move the puck around and didn’t play our game.”
Just about every Flyer interviewed said following the loss that the Flyers stopped skating and became spectators -- instead of participants, to quote Ken Hitchcock’s old phrase.
“It’s frustrating,” Read said. “It’s one of those games where the first period was probably one of our best periods of the year, and then we shut down and stopped playing Flyers hockey. Not playing to our systems, not moving our feet, it’s something that we’ve got to get better at and learn as a group; to take advantage of teams when we have the lead.”
Instead of making some headway in what appears to be a very average Metropolitan Division, the Flyers lost ground and are now five points out of a playoff spot.
They also wasted another very fine effort in goal from Steve Mason, who has been the team’s MVP to this point.
“We came out and played our best period of the season and we just didn’t follow it up for the next two,” Mason said. “It’s disappointing all around.”
Three Flyer turnovers resulted in three Anaheim goals.
“I think it’s just the guys need confidence and not over thinking,” Mason said. “I think when you’re second guessing yourself sometimes that’s when your mistakes happen. Thinking too much and not reacting.”