Having fans back in the stands at Wells Fargo Center should have been cause for celebration on Sunday.
Instead, the Philadelphia Flyers failed to build off Joel Farabee’s 11th goal of the season. They dropped a 3-1 decision to the Washington Capitals in front of an announced crowd of 3,023.
Fatigue Causing Blown Leads?
It was the second loss in as many days for the team, which finished out its three-game series in Pittsburgh with a 4-3 loss on Saturday. In that game, Philadelphia led 3-2 midway through the second period, but couldn’t hold on.
It’s rare to see Alain Vigneault’s Flyers lose two games in a row in regulation. Last time it happened was in Games 3 and 4 of their series against the New York Islanders in the Toronto bubble back in August. In the regular season, you have to go all the way back to the three-game road losing streak that rang in 2020.
Did the club overextend itself in rebounding from that awful start in Pittsburgh last Thursday by coming back to win 4-3 in regulation? The defensive effort to make sure the Penguins didn’t add to their lead was just as important as the scoring. The goals stretched from Sean Couturier’s opening marker midway through the first period to Claude Giroux’s game winner with just 2:08 left in the third period, his second of the game.
Mounting a comeback like that takes work. Then, add in the fact that the club was playing six games in nine nights, something coach Alain Vigneault said he’d never had to prepare for before in his career. Plus, the team has eight key who had recently returned from the Covid protocol list, where most of them had been dealing with symptoms as well as being off the ice and out of their training routine.
More Heavy Lifting Ahead
Monday, the team got a much-needed day off. But then it’s right back to the grind. The Flyers will play their next six games over a span of 10 nights.
Perhaps the club can gain some confidence and pick up two much-needed points when it hosts the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. The organization is reeling: 0-6-1 in its last seven games and now in last place in the NHL standings. The Flyers are 3-1-0 against the Sabres so far this season, with the last three wins all coming by identical 3-0 scores.
Philadephia’s homestand will wrap up with two more games against the Capitals. They’ve returned home to host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday before coming back to Wells Fargo Center for games on Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.
After Sunday’s loss, the Flyers are now 1-1-0 against Washington this year.
The Caps had a bumpy start to the season which was made worse by the Covid protocol violation that saw them lose their Russian Four for two weeks. But they’ve started to dial things back in, as Flyers fans saw on Sunday. Since Feb. 21, Washington is 6-1-1 in its last eight games. And while Alexander Ovechkin is still sitting at a low-for-him eight goals in 20 games, three of those goals have come against the Flyers.
Has one of the greatest scorers in the history of the game committed to being more of a playmaker? With 10 assists, he has more helpers than goals so far this year.
Washington is now healthy, but will continue to be without Tom Wilson for this week’s games. He’s in the midst of serving his seven-game suspension for boarding Boston’s Brandon Carlo last week.
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East Division Is Tight
The Capitals aren’t the only team in the MassMutual East Division that is currently playing well. Like Washington, the New York Islanders also boast a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games.
They’ve ridden a five-game winning streak all the way to top spot in the division, with 34 points and a .680 points percentage. The Capitals sit second, two points back with one game in hand. Then, Boston and Pittsburgh hold down third and fourth with 29 points each.
Philadelphia is currently fifth with 27 points. But with two fewer games played than Pittsburgh, the Flyers still hold the better points percentage — .614 for the Flyers compared to .604 for the Penguins.
The halfway point of the 56-game season is approaching, and it looks like it’ll be a five-horse race for four playoff spots in the East.
The Flyers need to get back onto the winning side of the ledger in a hurry if they don’t want to be left behind.