Where do the Flyers go from here?
The Philadelphia Flyers entered the Thanksgiving holiday with a 6-game winning streak, and they had not lost a game in regulation since November 8. They leave this weekend with two losses, a few shoulder bruises, and some seriously questionable decision-making.
I appreciate that the Flyers aren’t upset with their play after last night’s loss in Toronto. After going 9-0-2 in their last ten games, it’s hard to get angry about a single loss in regulation. What does bother me, however, is the nonchalant “they just were the better team” attitude. (Which would irritate me far less if it wasn’t the exact same attitude we heard when the Flyers in the latter half of a 6-game losing streak to start the season.)
The Toronto Maple Leafs were the motivated squad. They needed to impress brand-spanking new GM Brian Burke, especially given their 0-3-2 record over the past five games. The entire team came out with a commitment to playing an uptempo, hard-hitting game. At every opportunity, they sent the puck careening towards Martin Biron. They clogged up the neutral zone and forced any Flyer who wanted a peek at Vesa Toskala to pay a heavy physical price.
So where was the Flyers’ response to this? The boys in Orange and Black are equally capable of producing strong forechecking pressure. Time and again, we’ve watched them force the opposition to the outside corners, stopping them at the blueline and winning every puck battle along the boards. They know how to combine energy and force to generate offense. And speaking of motivation, can anyone say Hockey Night in Canada?
The test for these Flyers arrives on Tuesday. If what happened in Toronto was just a story of overall fatigue for the Flyers or an extremely desperate team in the Leafs, then those reasons should dissipate when facing Tampa Bay at the Wachovia Center.
The low-scoring team from Tampa is returning from a road trip to the Western Conference. The coaching change there already occurred and appears to have had little impact on the Lightning’s performance.
Are these Flyers just another streaky team, like the 07-08 version? Or are they really a group that is, as the slogan goes, hungry for more? We’ll have to wait until Tuesday.