Flyers Frustrated in Game Four Loss to Devils.
Maybe you figured the Flyers were poached before Game 4. Maybe you didn’t.
But whether you leaned “Cold, Hard Realist” or “Unabated Optimist” coming in, you also tilted toward getting something reputable, conciliatory, acceptable in the closing act -- whatever way that went. You had to. It's your nature. As a sports fan in this city, if not a win, your standard called for class.
Maybe the best way to put it? You’d figure more than you got, a 4-2 loss in what’s become all but a formality of a Devils win in these Eastern Conference Semis.
Maybe the best way to put it? You'd figure something more Philly.
That's not what you got. Not even close.
Out-shot 43-22? Giving away the puck like the Salvation Army? (Philly had 20 giveaways, New Jersey had 5.) Five penalties in a row? (For, essentially, 33 hockey minutes, spanning Andres Lilja’s two minutes for tripping Adam Henrique, to Kimmo Timonen’s two minutes for holding the same, slippery No. 14, whose back-to-back mention for the crosshairs he wore Sunday speaks to the guy’s influence on the game, even if he only logged only one point, for assisting on Dainus Zubrus’ go-ahead goal just two minutes and change into the second – that’s right, the score was sealed with 37 still to skate.)
Less Orange and Black and proud, more black and blue and bashful.
Worst, and least conscionable? Claude Giroux going all goon – or Aaron Asham/James Neal – on Zubrus at the end of the second, mashing his face into the boards like an apple. Yeah, Giroux (finally) gamed Sunday, assisting on Scott Hartnell’s power play goal early in the first and netting a shorthanded goal later that period to jump Philly out to a 2-0 lead that you figured emblematic of the team’s kindling hope and sparking (however sputtering) vitality, both of which they’d need – and neither of which they got. But whatever tact and skill he packed for Game 4 was matched by the integrity he checked at the door at the Prudential Center.
Call it fortune cookie wisdom. (Call me a bum.) Turn to whatever coping mechanism and pull whatever lever you please. Fact remains, that’s not how champions go out.
Almost makes you wonder: Maybe that’s not who this team is. Not yet.
Which, while its mention here – in almost the same breath as what has to go down as fiery criticism – follows a totally negative and entirely disappointed tone, this shouldn’t be taken like that. Not entirely.
Remember: The foremost bullet point on the team’s scouting report is (was?) its youth, and that it overcame it – rode it all the way, even – was its most outstanding charm.
That has a flip-side. This is it.
No, the loss wasn’t on the Formative Flyers. (Though Sean Couturier only being able to go for seven minutes, eight seconds on 14 shifts, which, you’d figure, the backlash of a lower-leg cut that essentially scratched him from Game 3 Thursday, didn’t help.) And, truthfully, that's not what this is about.
Now? We’re turning and looking forward, to Year Two of Couturier (19 years old), Brayden Schenn (20), Wayne Simmonds (23) with the rest of the wily vets and new arrivals of 2013. Have to figure them – and get started thinking this way now –a tougher out than, frankly, this.
Kind of stings to go there, already a handful of acts into the Five Stages Of Grief with a Game 5 still on the slate (for Tuesday) and armfuls of rationalizing that there’s still a chance.
Hate to say it, but that’s all you’ve got to work with.
The utility belt is all out of toys. The Flyers might’ve proven too physically drained and emotionally spent in Game 3. They furthered the point Sunday. Danny Briere’s burlap sac of pixie dust? Fresh out. (He didn’t have a shot on goal, in 17 minutes, 28 seconds of ice time on 23 shifts, and finished minus-two.) Peter Laviolette’s inner Tony Robbins? Dried up.
And if you think that’s too zany to tag to these Flyers, brace yourself for this: Ilya Bryzgalov – awkward and clumsy and skittish as he was (and, perpetually, you have to believe, will be) – finished the game with a 92.9 save percentage. That’s right, he batted and gloved and gobbled 39-of-42 shots, again rounding out the Untouchables for the last two games of the series himself.
Because, if this wasn’t already abundantly clear, no one else earned that distinction.
Not after that. Not after tonight.
(This article was written by Matt Hammond, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)