Shutout Loss to Devils a Lesson Learned the Hard Way for Flyers
Alain Vigneault stood at the podium following the Flyers worst loss on home ice to date this season -- arguably the ugliest loss of the entire season at that -- and said again what he believes about his team.
“I will reaffirm that we are getting in. We’re going to get into the playoffs,” Vigneault said.
The Flyers season, then, is at a crossroads. On one hand, they are right in the thick of the race already. There is no frantic chase. They are in a tie for the final playoff spot. So you can look at the 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils and chalk it up as one game and move to the next one.
That said, the other side of the crossroads is a lesson learned the hard way by the Flyers. Every game matters, even the ones against teams in the bottom third of the standings. If you don’t take care of business in those, you have to make that up somehow, usually against the best teams in the league.
Where did this game go wrong?
“13 seconds in,” Matt Niskanen said. “It is a tough way to start the game. You get behind the eight ball and we did not have our best stuff tonight, so it is an uphill climb. The style that they played tonight is like the Devils of old, where they clogged up the middle of the ice and fed off of our turnovers.”
Blake Coleman scored what proved to be the deciding goal just 13 seconds into the game. The Devils ended up with a goal in the opening two minutes of each period.
“I think the lesson tonight is let’s be ready to go right at the start, but you have to move past it,” Niskanen said. “Short memory. Learn your lesson quick and look forward to Saturday.”
Perhaps the bigger lesson is that facing opponents like this aren’t going to happen much in the remaining 28 games on the schedule. The Flyers had an opportunity to do what they did on Monday in Detroit and take advantage of a team with no playoff hopes and gain two critical points in the running.
While they suffered one of their worst defeats of the season, the New York Islanders rallied back from a two-goal deficit for four unanswered goals to beat Los Angeles. Carolina handled the Arizona Coyotes later that night. Columbus, who was idle on Thursday, will get last-place Detroit, playing in a back-to-back, on Friday night. The three teams the Flyers are chasing in the Metro either gained more separation or leap-frogged over them. The Flyers are back to being on the outside looking in, due to tiebreakers, on the playoff picture.
Again, it’s a lesson learned the hard way. It’s not simply a game that you can chalk up as a bad loss. It’s a loss that knocked the Flyers out of the playoff picture again. They may not need to chase their way into the running, but they do need to maintain, especially with games like Thursday’s.
It hasn’t been an uncommon theme over the years, the Flyers coming out flat and disorganized in a game against one of the NHL’s bottom-feeders when they need the points the most. But it is an opportunity to once again prove it is the exception and not the rule.
In the middle of a successful November, the Flyers lost in regulation to Ottawa during what became a four-game losing streak. They responded with wins in six of the next seven games after that. Following a three-game losing streak on the road in mid-December, the Flyers won the next four games before the holiday break. Even following a 1-4-1 road trip, the Flyers had gone on a 7-2-1 run before Thursday’s loss to New Jersey that included a 4-1 loss to Montreal.
There have been bad games before and there figure to be again down the stretch. It’s about isolating them that will make the difference for the Flyers.
So for Alain Vigneault’s affirmation to become reality, a rebound needs to begin immediately. The Flyers next seven games come against teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Maybe that’s just what is needed to put some urgency into the Flyers push.
“In an 82-game schedule, there's no excuses, but some nights you're going to get games like this,” Vigneault said. “We got a bad one tonight. What we need to do is go home, get some sleep, come to work tomorrow, have a good practice and get ready for one of the top teams in the league.”