The Philadelphia Flyers finished their week away from Wells Fargo Center with an important 6-2 victory over the cross state rival Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a game they had to win to finish off what could have been a disastrous road trip with a 2-2-0 record. A loss on Sunday night after getting shut out by ex-Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky on Saturday afternoon may have put an end to the Flyers playoff chances.
The Flyers showed some resilience this week. After each loss, they came back with a win. After losing in Winnipeg against the Jets on Tuesday, they came back to win in Minnesota against the Wild on Thursday. After losing in Columbus against the Blue Jackets on Saturday, they win in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere looks like the “Ghost” we are used to seeing playing one of his strongest games on Sunday including his 7th goal of the season. Steve Mason was strong again in net winning two of his three starts and was arguably the Flyers best player throughout the week.
The coaching decisions by Dave Hakstol are head scratching. Demoting rookie Travis Konecney to fourth line duties does nothing for the development, or for the confidence of the player who is the Flyers fastest and most dangerous forward. His slick assist to Dale Weiss on Sunday by gloving the puck out of mid air, and then sliding a perfect pass across to Weiss is just a snippet of what he can do. And putting him on a line with two offensively deficient players hurts more than it helps. All the while, Matt Read and his 10 goals on the year get bumped to the first line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.
The game on Tuesday to start the road trip is simply an unacceptable loss. Playing a team that is below .500, and missing five of their regular defenseman, that kind of loss cannot happen. The Flyers have a gift, or curse, of playing down to their competition. And in this game, they did not just play down to their competition, they were outplayed by a Jets team that wanted the game more. What should have been a springboard game turned into a nightmare against a goalie who had one win since December 22.
The Flyers are playing for their playoff lives, but on this night, they showed no heart, and no sense of urgency. And good on Mason for calling out his team after the game.
The Flyers are still mathematically alive in their playoff pursuit. A very important week is upon them as they return home for three straight before travelling to New York on Sunday night to face the Rangers. It starts with Ottawa on Tuesday night in yet another game that they have to have. The Senators are not fighting for their playoff lives, they are fighting for the Atlantic Division lead. The Flyers need to show the hunger and urgency they showed on Sunday night in Pittsburgh. Another .500 week will not be enough. They need at least six points this week to just keep their heads above water. If not, the Flyers playoff chances will sink.
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports