Flyers-Blue Jackets 10 observations: Strong effort not enough to overcome Sergei Bobrovsky

Flyers-Blue Jackets 10 observations: Strong effort not enough to overcome Sergei Bobrovsky

From Winnipeg to Minnesota to Columbus, the Flyers' final long road trip made its third stop Saturday afternoon in Ohio against a rather imposing Blue Jackets team.

The Blue Jackets clinched a playoff berth earlier in the week and in this one, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky earned his seventh shutout with a 1-0 victory -- his 40th this season, which is a career-high and a Columbus franchise record (see game story).

Dave Hakstol's team played a ferocious game -- two in succession now -- and demonstrated the urgency needed, even though its playoff odds took another turn for the worse.

The overall impact on the wild card remained temporarily unknown because of the Bruins-Islanders game to be played later Saturday night, but regardless of who wins, the Flyers will fall eight points out of the wild card.

The Flyers end their four-game road trip Sunday night in Pittsburgh in the back end of the back-to-back, where Steve Mason is expected to start in net.

Here are 10 things I think, I think.
 
1. Nationwide Arena hasn't been kind to the Flyers, who are now 0-5-5 in the building since December 2008. To say the Blue Jackets own the Flyers would be an understatement given they've won 13 of the last 15 games going back to Dec. 21, 2013.
 
2. Hakstol dusted off Michal Neuvirth for the front end of this back-to-back. Neuvirth's only start before Saturday was March 9 in Toronto, when Hakstol came under criticism for using him instead of riding Mason, who was on a 3-0-1 hot streak at the time. Saturday was just Neuvirth's third appearance in March, including in relief at New Jersey on March 16. He's been understandably rusty, yet he was very good in this game.
 
3. Hakstol, as he often does after a win, stuck with the same lineup he used during Thursday's 3-1 victory in Minnesota, which meant that rookie Travis Konecny -- who played less than 10 minutes against the Wild -- was again buried on the fourth line. He finished with 12:17 against the Blue Jackets.
 
4. Hakstol has pulled his goalie many times in the past with almost two minutes left on the clock. Why did he wait until the final 48 seconds Saturday to pull Neuvirth? What did he have to lose with a playoff berth on the line?
 
5. There is little question the Flyers' trading of Bobrovsky ranks among their top five worst trades in club history orchestrated just because of the team's enormous monetary commitment to Ilya Bryzgalov, who is chasing bears in the woods of South Jersey these days. All "Bob" has done in Columbus is win a Vezina Trophy and is the favorite for the award again this season. He is also among the candidates this season for the Hart Trophy. Bobrovsky came into the game 7-1 against the Flyers all-time with a 1.85 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Bobrovsky had three saves on Wayne Simmonds alone in a scoreless first period and finished with 36 overall.
 
6. Nick Foligno has always been a Flyers killer over his career. The talented winger came into play with 21 points (14 goals) in 28 career games against the orange and black. The flyers shut him down Saturday, as Foligno had just two shots in the game.
 
7. The Flyers' penalty kill units were active with their sticks and attacking the puck on Columbus from all sides -- not allowing the Jackets a good setup. Ian Laperriere's PK units improved toward the end of this trip. The Blue Jackets were 0 for 2.
 
8. An unfortunate break of the stick for Simmonds led to Columbus' only goal late in the second period off an Alex Wennberg redirection. If Simmonds had his stick, Kyle Quincey doesn't outreach him for the puck near the blue line. Instead, it's a shot on net that's deflected for the eventual game-winner.
 
9. The Flyers' second power-play unit with Jordan Weal and Konecny produced four shots in the closing minutes of that second period, but again Bobrovsky was the ultimate difference then and in the final eight seconds with a save on Jakub Voracek and subsequent rebound scrum in front. Joey Mullen's power play has collapsed at the end -- 3 for 43 during the month of March. It was 0 for 3 in this game.
 
10. No criticism of the Flyers in this one. They did everything they could to win. That's all you can ask against a goalie that outright owns you. Again, however, the level of desperation they showed in this and the Wild loss should have been exhibited over a month ago.

Flyers 'couldn't let this one get away' -- and they didn't in huge win over Hurricanes

Flyers 'couldn't let this one get away' -- and they didn't in huge win over Hurricanes

They could have very easily gone quietly into the night at the end of regulation. They could have lost and remained seven points out of a wild card spot.

Instead, the Flyers fought back late in the third period to tie the game and then won it in overtime, 4-3, over Carolina on Brayden Schenn's 22nd goal of the season (see game story).

That stunning finish left Dave Hakstol's club five points out of the wild card with a four-game road trip starting Tuesday in Winnipeg.

 "We couldn't let this one get away from us," said goalie Steve Mason, who had a 2-0 lead at one point and then trailed 3-2 late. "That would have been a devastating loss. We crawled back and found a way."
 
Sean Couturier had a hand in three of the four goals and was a plus-3. Rookie Travis Konecny tied the game with 43 seconds left in regulation, which gave the Flyers new life in which they capitalized upon as soon as overtime began.
 
From a morale standpoint, this was a shot of bourbon after the Flyers were listless and beaten down following a 6-2 loss in New Jersey on Thursday. If they lost this game, no way they could begin their four-game trip with any sign of positive thinking.
 
"Full credit to our guys for staying in it," said Dale Weise, who notched his second goal in three games. "We found a way to tie it up late there with a lucky goal. Those are the bounces you need to win hockey games."
 
Too many times this season the Flyers have won the game of statistics or intangibles -- shots, quality scoring chances and overall solid play -- only to lose the game because they could only squeeze out a goal or two.
 
"We need to get streaky here and make a push and see what happens," Couturier said. "We needed these two points."
 
They won in overtime on a rare Couturier-led rush with Schenn scoring off a rebound on goalie Cam Ward. Couturier began the play by beating Sebastian Aho on a defensive zone faceoff.
 
"That's a huge 3-on-3," Couturier said. "We got puck control and came out with speed. Provy [Ivan Provorov] hit me with speed and I tried to attack the forward and put the puck on net and Schenner jumped on that loose puck. This time of year, the situation we are in, we need to get some dirty wins."
 
Couturier's determined effort from the faceoff to the finish allowed for the game-winning goal.
 
“He plays strong," team captain Claude Giroux said. "He was flying out there. That last goal doesn't happen if he doesn't take it to the net like that. So it was a great play.”

Flyers Weekly Observations: Fatal Jekyll and Hyde show continues

Flyers Weekly Observations: Fatal Jekyll and Hyde show continues

For all intents and purposes, we've reached the final curtain on this Flyers season.

While the Flyers are not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, their postseason hopes are just about cooked after another typically inconsistent week of action.

The Flyers fell to the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-3, Monday night, ran roughshod over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-0, Wednesday and finished up the week with a 6-2 blowout loss in New Jersey to the Devils on Thursday night in a game that wasn't even as close as the final score dictated.

After all that, the Flyers find themselves seven points back of the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs for the last wild-card spot with 12 games left heading into Sunday's contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Let's dive into the week that realistically ended the Flyers' playoff hopes.

• This week, in so many ways, was a microcosm of the inconsistency that has plagued this group of Flyers all season long, and for the past few years, for that matter. There's a long list of flaws to this Flyers team. Go ahead and take your pick. But the inconsistency has been the most pressing and fatal flaw. You just don't know which Flyers team is going to show up on which night. You could get the team that showed some fight but ultimately fell to the Jackets in a hard-fought loss Monday. Or you could get the team that hit on all cylinders and stifled the Penguins at every turn Wednesday. Or you could get the team that barely showed up and was pasted in embarrassing fashion Thursday by a conference-worst Devils team that entered the contest on a 10-game losing streak. That inconsistency is a huge anchor and a glaring sign a team isn't playoff-worthy. Every team has an off night every now and then. Look at the Penguins on Wednesday. But with a playoff-worthy team, you know the team and effort you're getting 99 percent of the time. Even with the inexperience of the young Maple Leafs, you know they're going to scratch and claw for points almost every night. Steve Mason summed it up nicely Saturday after the lousy effort vs. Devils. "We can't go from having one of our best games of the year against Pittsburgh and then come around the next night against Jersey with that kind of outcome and overall team game," he said. "That's what makes good teams and separates them. Consistency on any given night, what kind of effort they have." And that's also what separates a playoff team from a team sitting at home on the couch come mid-April.

• Travis Konecny had the best offensive showing of his very young NHL career Monday when he potted two goals against the Jackets. He ripped a wrister past Sergei Bobrovsky in the first period, then showed great patience in the second period as he held on to the puck and fired it past Bobrovsky short side in the second period. But he had a rookie learning moment when he made a crucial mistake in the third when he hit a Blue Jacket on the way to the bench and was whistled for a penalty. Brandon Dubinsky netted the winning goal on the ensuing power play. With the flashes he shows, it can be tough sometimes to remember Konecny is a rookie who just turned 20 years old. Monday's mistake is something to learn from. In his defense, though, I'll say this: At least he outwardly showed some grit this week.

• Another week of struggles for the Flyers' power play. The power play had a disheartening 1-for-8 showing Monday against the Jackets. The Flyers lost that game by a final of 5-3, and that was with a late empty-netter for Columbus. So if the Flyers had hit on just one more of those power plays, we could have been looking at a whole different story that game and a whole different story this week. So Dave Hakstol switched up the units Wednesday, putting Ivan Provorov on the top unit and dropping Jake Voracek down to the second unit. It worked once in four tries against the Pens as Wayne Simmonds picked up a power-play tally. But it floundered again in Jersey, getting zilch in three chances. Dating back to March 2, the Flyers are 3 for 33 with the man advantage in their last eight games. They're 3-4-1 in that span, with four of the five losses coming by two goals or less. That stings.

• Much like Konecny, Provorov experienced rookie ups and downs this week. On Wednesday, he made an excellent play when he kept a bouncing puck in at the blue line during a Flyers power play in the second period. Moments later, Simmonds potted his 15th power-play tally of the year. But he made a critical mistake Thursday in Jersey when he turned the puck over behind the goal line and it wound up in the net courtesy of Adam Henrique. Provorov has had a very good rookie season and has stepped into a tough top-pairing role on a struggling Flyers’ defense. And he’s excelled. In fact, heading into Sunday's matchup with Carolina, Provorov leads the Flyers in ice time with 21:50 per night. There's something to be said for that for a 20-year-old. It can be tough to remember he's a rookie, too. His play this year should give confidence that those bumps in his game will be smoothed out with more experience.

• If only Sean Couturier could play the Penguins every night. He was great Wednesday with a goal (just his third in 18 games) and a career-high eight shots on goal. He had those eight shots on goal through two periods, too. And, of course, he held Evgeni Malkin pointless and to just two shots on goal. In 25 regular-season games against Pittsburgh, Couturier has 13 points (two goals and 11 assists). And there was that hat trick in Game 2 of that ridiculous first-round playoff series in 2012. You just notice Couturier on the ice way more when he's playing against Pittsburgh.

Coming up this week: Sunday vs. Carolina (7:30 p.m./CSN), Tuesday at Winnipeg (8 p.m./CSN). Thursday at Minnesota (8 p.m./CSN), Saturday at Columbus (2 p.m./CSN).