As is the Flyers’ custom, with winning streaks come losing streaks. After winning three games in a row before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Flyers have now dropped three in a row. In each game, they’ve had bright moments and moments where they looked like the team that deserved to lose. But in each game, they’ve remained close.
Last night’s effort against the Bruins was no exception. The Flyers had the initial jump, and generated offense throughout the contest, but in the end, their chances were no match to the red hot play of goaltender Tim Thomas, whose league-leading goals against average makes him the stingiest goalie to step between the pipes this season, and his 41 save, 3-0 shutout just goes to prove that.
That was bad news for the Flyers when, following a Nikolay Zherdev penalty, the Bruins’ Milan Lucic danced into the zone and to the net, where his chance left the defense scrambling and Sergei Bobrovsky sprawling following an impressive save. After Sean O’Donnell failed to clear the puck, it ended up on the stick of Patrice Bergeron for a shot past Bobrovsky – who had less of a chance of stopping the puck than the mess of bodies piled in front of him.
The Flyers worked to make up the lost ground, but they faced a tenacious Bruins team who seemed to be playing with more fire than they. It seemed the more shots the Flyers took, the better Tim Thomas got, and his team took advantage of the lead they afforded him.
Coach Laviolette recognized this after the game.
“They fought for the ice. I don’t think that we backed down, but we made a couple of mistakes in the first period … they ended up in the net and that was the difference,” Laviolette said.
The difference Laviolette’s talking about is capitalization. Earlier this season, I was praising the Flyers for their inhuman ability to cover up their own mistakes and expose their opponents’, but now that’s turned around. They’re not playing that differently, but the results aren’t there. Whether they need to bear down more, simplify the game, or simply redouble their efforts, it’s hard to say.
The first step to right this ship was taken tonight, as Laviolette mixed up some of the lines. He’s not committed to anything new, yet, but the plan is to try out some of these new combinations in the future.
Danny Briere commented on the team’s recent struggles following the game.
“Hockey is a cycle. It’s up and down. It works, it doesn’t work. I’m not too worried about that. I know that it’s going to start clicking again.”
Some might say he seems a bit too complacent, that there’s more to it than just showing up and letting the talent generate a win – and there’s no doubt this team has the talent – but sometimes it’s necessary to step back and take a look at what’s going wrong in order to fix it. And that’s just what this team needs to do, sooner rather than later.
It gets tough to solve a team’s problems once they go on a slide. If the team starts to fall down the standings, they start the panic, and worry too much about manufacturing wins. Luckily for the Flyers, they have a slight cushion to work with, tied for the division lead and highly ranked in the East. So here’s hoping they find that groove again before the standings start to get turned around.