It wasn’t the result that Flyers fans hoped for, but last night’s overtime loss to the New York Islanders could very much act as a turning-point that the team desperately needed.
The month of March has been unkind to Philadelphia thus far. Through 10 games in March they allowed a whopping 51 goals. This was the first game since the beginning of the month in which the team allowed less than three. Defensively, the Flyers started out hot. The Islanders were held to a total of 10 shots on goal after the opening two periods, with the Flyers notching all of the first 8 that were registered. There was a real sense of urgency that had been previously lacking.
For a team that has struggled immensely to create shooting opportunities this season, outshooting the Islanders to the tune of 37-20 is impressive. The offense looked like it was playing with nothing to lose and a sense of reckless abandon that was frankly needed to jolt some life back into a team that was losing all signs of it.
Maybe it was the fact that going into the game, the Flyers had a mental advantage, knowing that they had won three of their four encounters this season. Perhaps it was simply frustrations boiling over and the team taking out their anger on the traveling Islanders. Whatever it was, it may have finally given the team a platform to launch from.
“It’s tough. We played a pretty good game.” Said the returning Sean Couturier, who also had quite the night at the office. “We out shot them. Got our chances and couldn’t capitalize and then they get 2 bounces their way and cash in. It’s tough, but we have to play more like that tomorrow. Bring that same kind of game and start capitalizing on our chances and get some results.”
Coots went 12-for-13 on faceoffs last night, his second-best career performance so far, embodying the effort also exhibited by players like Oskar Lindblom and Justin Braun, who were relentless last night while AV switched up the shift-patterns to give his lines shorter bursts of energy.
There isn’t much that Vigneault can do at this point. After some frankly embarrassing results, it became clear that a trade for someone like Matias Ekholm wouldn’t act as a magic band-aid. A coaching staff change might help but to what end? There was no secret recipe to saving the season. All he could do was try and keep his players engaged and their heads above the quicksand.
“Our guys want to win. They want to play well, and they want to be responsible.” The Head coach said. “They got themselves ready today to play and have a good game, which I thought we did. In my estimation, we should have scored more than one. We had some outnumber situations where we didn’t quite execute. We had some real good looks. At the end of the night, their goaltender was the difference tonight.”
A spirited effort from the Flyers even earned the praise of Barry Trotz, the Head Coach of the New York Islanders.
“The Flyers are a good hockey team. They’ve got good leadership. They’re well coached and we knew that they were going to come out and they did. They made it real hard for us to get going. They were on top of us a little bit. We survived it. Even in the offensive zone, they’re strong, blocking shots. They’re a premier group tonight. When you run into that, you need someone to rise and tonight Illya did that.”
Back in action against the Devils tonight, the Flyers will be hoping that they can pick up where they left off and use last night’s near-miss as a new foundation to build on when it comes to standard and style of play.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre