For the Flyers, Christmas came early this year. Unfortunately, instead of presents under the tree, all they got was coal in their stockings. The Florida Panthers – Southeast division dead weights – handed the league’s top team a 5 goal drubbing in front of their home crowd.
With their holiday break right around the corner – no game in sight for the next eight days – the Flyers looked listless and coasted through this game as if they would win just by showing up.
“Any team can beat any team on any given night,” said Scott Hartnell. “We can’t go out there before Christmas, they give us an early Christmas present with the two points – obviously they were hungry.”
It’s easy to talk about showing up every night and playing every team the same, but the difficulty is in turning those words into actions. Whether you’re playing the Pittsburgh Penguins or Florida Panthers, the drive and desire has to be there – last night, it simply wasn’t.
“It’s no excuse, but we’ve had some tough games lately – with the Rangers, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Montreal, and we did well,” said veteran defenseman Sean O’Donnell. “We weren’t able to get up for this game. It shouldn’t happen, but we’re human beings.”
“When you win, you celebrate for a few minutes and put it behind you, we’re going to do the same thing here.”
And as human beings, the Flyers were caught looking forward towards their holiday break and eventual road trip – their next five games are on the road – and the Panthers made them pay.
It started with an unlucky goal as Bill Thomas threw a puck out front and had it bounce in off the side of defenseman Oskars Bartulis. Minutes later, with barely 30 seconds left in the first period, Matt Carle lost his man and Evgeny Dadunov stepped alone on Bobrovsky, beating him with ease.
In the second, a shot that sneaked behind Bobrovsky led to a scramble in the crease and a wide open Shawn Matthias – who should have been covered by Braydon Coburn – stepped in and buried the puck. Later in the second, Sean O’Donnell lost an edge while skating back for a puck, leaving it free for Steve Bernier, who fed a streaking Mike Santorelli for the tip-in and 4th goal of the night.
Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled in favor of Brian Boucher following that goal. This was not an indictment of his play, however, but rather a wake up call from coach Peter Laviolette that the team needed to play better in front of him.
Boucher stopped 11 of 12 shots in his brief appearance, giving up a weak goal on a high slot wrister from Dmitry Kulikov.
The most remarkable thing about the five goals that Florida scored against the Flyers is that all of them came during even strength play. The Flyers were previously a +36 in goal differential during even strength play – the next best team had half that. Today was an anomaly, though, and showed what happens when these 18 men show up and skate around instead of play hockey.
“Maybe our confidence was too high – where we got cocky instead of just being confident,” said captain Mike Richards. “We took an extremely good Florida Panthers team for granted. We got outworked in our building. It’s disappointing.”
Now the Flyers can finally take that Christmas break they’ve apparently been looking forward to since Saturday, enjoy the company of friends and family, put this game behind them, and start fresh with a December 28th contest in Vancouver.