If the Philadelphia Flyers could only win one game this weekend, they picked the right one.
Hanging on to get a 3-2 regulation win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday was crucial for whatever playoff hope this team has left. A loss would have left them eight points behind the Bruins in the East Division standings on Sunday morning. After the win, the margin was cut to four, with the Bruins still holding two games in hand.
But despite a strong start on Sunday, and a good effort through 55 minutes, the Flyers left Wells Fargo Center with nothing to show for their efforts. They were stunned by two goals in 25 seconds by the Buffalo Sabres, who erased a 3-2 deficit with three minutes left in regulation. With the win, the 31st-ranked team in the NHL improved its record to 4-2-2 in its last eight games.
Chuck Fletcher won’t know exactly where his team stands until the Bruins and the New York Rangers complete their games on Sunday night. The Rangers, sitting one point behind the Flyers, play their second game in three nights on Long Island, while the Bruins host the Washington Capitals.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the Flyers couldn’t run the table this weekend. If there’s one thing they’ve been consistent about, it’s their inconsistency.
Since they came back from their Covid shutdown on February 18, they’ve only managed two — brief — winning streaks. They closed out February with a win over the Rangers and two over the Sabres, then beat the Rangers and Buffalo back-to-back again near the end of March.
But they haven’t gone on long losing skids, either. They’ve only suffered back-to-back regulation losses on two occasions, and they were close together: March 6-7 against Pittsburgh and Washington, then a pair of losses to the Caps on March 11 and 13.
Interestingly, a pattern actually has developed over the last eight games:
- Mar. 29 – Apr. 3: Win-Loss – OT Loss
- Apr. 5 – 8: Win-Loss – Shootout Loss
- Apr. 10-11: Win-Loss
Does that mean we should expect another one-point result when the Flyers visit Washington on Tuesday? Or will the trade deadline cause a re-set of sorts?
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A Schedule Loss?
It’s easy to see why a third-period collapse could have happened on Sunday. Just take a look at the schedule page.
Ep 13: Vigneault Canned, Canucks Make Moves, Latest Headlinesby Full Press Coverage on December 8, 2021 at 5:03 pm
Mike, Jim, and Chris […]
The game against Buffalo was the Flyers’ fifth in the last seven days, and sixth in nine. That’s tough for any team.
Asked after the game if it was fatigue or mental lapses that hurt his team on Sunday, coach Alain Vigneault said, “I think a combination of both.
“We made some mistakes that we just gave them goals. Three of them. That faceoff goal and obviously the third and fourth goal. Things that you can’t do in this league and things that we did tonight with some of our most experienced players.”
Joel Farabee, who scored his club-leading 15th goal of the year on Sunday, would not accept the excuse.
“I think we came out with a really good start to the third,” he said. “We had some good energy, we were making plays. Some bounces didn’t go our way tonight.”
Farabee is also aware that it’s hard to make up ground in the standings when a team is playing .500 hockey.
“Overall, we’d like to string some wins together and get on a little heater, but sometimes it just doesn’t go that way,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for us is how we respond in our next game.”
Which players will be on the roster when that happens?
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At this point, it seems wildly unlikely that Fletcher is going to pay a high price for a rental player. Impending unrestricted free agents David Savard and Nick Foligno have now both generated first-round draft picks for the Columbus Blue Jackets — although those could be some very late first-rounders if Toronto or Tampa Bay have playoff success, and significant salary retention is also baked into those price tags.
Fletcher likely wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger if he can deal a pending free agent like Erik Gustafsson or Michael Raffl. But two pretty significant questions still loom before Monday’s deadline at 3 p.m. ET.
- Will the club come to terms on an extension with impending UFA Scott Laughton to keep him in the fold? If not, will he be dealt?
- Can Fletcher make a hockey trade that would shake up his team’s chemistry for the better, possibly helping to ignite a strong finish and push for that elusive playoff positioning?
No matter how many people say a quiet deadline is expected, you never know what might happen. And even small trades can sometimes end up having big impacts.
That’s what keeps the fans paying attention.