Jan 28, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT
Remember last month when the Philadelphia Flyers had won 10 of 13 games overall, a 10-game home winning streak, an impressive 5-1 Western road trip and had played their way back into playoff contention?
Good times, right?
Well, I hope you remember those good times since they are now ancient history because the Flyers have lost seven of their last 10 contests, gained a point in just two of those seven losses and played themselves right back out playoff positioning heading into Tuesday night’s games.
But why the major bump in the road? And where did it come from?
Here’s the simplest explanation: the Flyers have returned to playing the way they did in October.
I know you remember October when the Flyers got off to the worst start in franchise history due to shoddy defensive play, turnovers, poor puck decisions and mighty scoring struggles.
Well, that’s what has happened over the past few weeks as those bad habits have reared their ugly heads once again.
The Flyers’ recent poor play may have reached a crescendo this past Saturday afternoon when they were on the wrong end of 6-1 smackdown at the hands of the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins.
You know that old cliché, “it was like men against boys out there?”
It wasn’t a cliché on Saturday afternoon. It was a harsh reality.
To say the Bruins dominated the Flyers would be the understatement of the season. The Bruins downright outclassed the Flyers in an embarrassing way.
Seriously, the Bruins just toyed with the Flyers and showed them what an elite NHL team looks like. The Bruins did what they wanted at will.
Boston seemingly had the puck in the Philadelphia zone about 95% of the game and just poured it on relentlessly.
People in Philadelphia can blame the goaltender all they want, but when the puck is in the defensive zone that much it’s pretty damn hard on the goalie. Though Steve Mason has slipped a tad since signing his contract extension – he’s given up 11 goals in three starts since and was pulled from one of those starts – it’s not all on him, especially when you consider just how porous his defense has been in front of him.
Take for example, Boston’s third goal on Saturday afternoon. Forward Reilly Smith went one-on-two against two Flyer defensemen. Smith split the defensemen by flipping the puck over the stick of Nick Grossmann then blew right past Grossmann – who may have had his worst game as a Flyer – and left him wondering what just him after Smith beat Mason.
With soft defense like that, no wonder the team and the goaltender has struggled.
The good news is that the Flyers are home tonight and welcome a shorthanded Detroit Red Wings team to South Philly.
The Wings will be without three of their best offensive players in Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen due to various injuries. Also, the Wings’ top goalie and U.S. Olympian Jimmy Howard will be the back up this evening.
That doesn’t mean the Flyers can take the Wings lightly. While they aren’t the Red Wings of the past, they still have plenty of talent. Plus, they currently sit ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings as they are a point ahead of the Flyers for the last wild-card spot.
The teams have split the season’s previous two meetings, both of which were in Motown.
This is one the Flyers need to get tonight because a peek at the upcoming schedule shows an unforgiving West Coast swing through Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose over the next week. If you didn’t know, those are three of the best and well-oiled teams the NHL has to offer. If the Flyers keep up their recent play on that trip, things will get ugly and they’ll get ugly real fast.
But the focus needs to be on the Red Wings tonight and not what lies ahead.
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