Flyers Backcheck: Bolts Complete Calendar Year Sweep

Mark another one off the checklist. The Flyers mustered up one goal on Tuesday night, dropping their sixth straight loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a final of 3-1. Although it was only Tampa Bay’s second straight win at the Wells Fargo Center, the Bolts have now completed the 2014 calendar year sweep against the Flyers. You don’t say!

Calendar Year Sweep

The normal fan philosophy yearns for a championship. For a team that won its last in 1975, it would make sense for the younger generations – such as my own – to even want just one. After all, droughts aren’t synonymous with gluttony. But as the ongoing results against teams like, the Lightning, Rangers, and Blue Jackets continue, it may be more suitable to lower those wants to simply living to see the day the Flyers finally beat Tampa Bay again.

The last time the Flyers beat the Lightning, Tom Sestito, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Max Talbot collected points in a 2-1 win at home. That was on Feb. 5th, 2013, and oh yeah, Vinny Lecavalier was playing for the Bolts. Just so everyone’s on the same page, that was two seasons ago. Who didn’t see this coming?

Despite Tampa’s status at the top of the Atlantic Division, the Lightning were tired, and it showed. Jon Cooper’s squad was coming off of a loss in Pittsburgh the night before, and they were rolling out a rookie goalie – Andrei Vasilevskiy – who was making his first career NHL start. Who better to break him in against than the Flyers? The evidence now shows five losses to backup goalies this season.

Vasilevskiy was tested very little on 24 shots thrown his way. The 20-year-old Russian did catch a couple breaks with pucks sliding under his padding, but just off the mark of going in. And although Steve Mason was terrific in yet another losing effort, his own post was his best friend tonight, at least in the first period.

The Bolts drilled the post twice in the first period as they swarmed their own offensive zone, much like they did the entire night. Somehow, however, the Flyers ended up outshooting the Lightning by a mark of 24-23. Did I mention Steven Stamkos scored a goal? Crazy, I know.

The Flyers have now lost six out of seven games to Tampa Bay since defenseman Matt Carle bolted to the Lightning in 2012 during free agency. They have been outscored by a 30-17 margin during that span. — Frank Seravalli, Philly.com

Call it the Curse of Matt Carle, or just the curse of not possessing the skating speed and depth to beat the teams of Tampa Bay’s caliber. With Tuesday’s loss in the digestion process, the Flyers have won just three of their last 15 games. Two of those teams, New Jersey and Carolina, are nowhere near being considered good, while their other win was against a team that’s 4-4-2 in their last 10 – the Los Angeles Kings.

“Sloppy at times and we didn’t have the urgency we needed,” said Nick Schultz of the Flyers’ performance. “We had an opportunity to win this game on a back-to-back nights where we’ve been sitting a couple of days. We needed more energy, a little more desperation in our game and we didn’t have it at times.”

How does that even happen? How can a team that has a steep uphill climb to get back into any kind of contention lack urgency and energy against a team that’s now clowned them in six straight? It’s understandable that the other guys get paid too, and that they’re even a top tier team. But even the best teams in the league lose from time to time. And given the circumstances, this was not only a game the Flyers needed to win, it was a game that was very winnable.

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“I think overall there wasn’t a whole lot of scoring chances both sides,” Mason said after dropping to 6-10-4. “There was a lot of good defensive play on our part, but at the end of the day we missed an opportunity of taking advantage of a tired hockey club there. I don’t think we generated enough in order to win.”

Even with Tampa Bay’s ongoing dominance over the Flyers, though, it was a loss that hurts more than the average one – and believe me, there have been plenty to draw emotion from this season. Philly was in the midst of a five-game point streak, and had recently tied the Devils in the Metropolitan Division standings. Well, for two days anyway.

Tidbits from Friendly Territory

Home is Still Cozy

Despite the disappointing loss, the Flyers’ special teams play was a moral victory to hold onto. Wayne Simmonds’ 14th goal of the season came on the first of three power play opportunities for the league’s top home power play unit (29.6 percent). And even though Tyler Johnson’s second period goal was notched while Brayden Schenn was coming out of the penalty box, the Flyers managed to kill off all four Tampa Bay power plays – on paper anyway.

Jake Voracek Watch

After depositing a goal and an assist in Oct. 30th’s loss in Tampa, Jake Voracek was held scoreless on one registered shot attempt. Voracek’s three-game point streak is now in the rear view mirror, but he did see an increase in ice time from Saturday’s time of 13:16, to Tuesday’s 19:37 of ice time. The 26-year-old’s 37 points remains tied for second in the NHL’s point scoring race with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin – one back of Dallas’ Tyler Seguin.

Peter Forsberg Honored

For the second time this season, the Flyers paid tribute to a former member before puck drop of a home game. Back in November, the Flyers inducted Eric Lindros and John LeClair into the Flyers Hall of Fame. On Tuesday, the organization acknowledged Peter Forsberg’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame with the former Flyer dropping the pre-game ceremonial first puck. Philly is now 0-2-0 when honoring skaters who played for better Flyers teams than this one.

Unlucky Number Seven

With New Jersey’s shootout loss to the Islanders on Monday, and Columbus’ shootout win over Detroit on Tuesday, the Flyers now have seventh place in the Metropolitan Division to call their own. Tuesday’s win for the Jackets was their seventh straight, pushing them ahead of both the Flyers and the Devils, with 28 points. With the Capitals losing in a shootout to Florida, and the Rangers dominating the Flames, Philadelphia was the only Metropolitan team who played on Tuesday that didn’t earn at least a single point.

Sticking with the Floridian Theme

The Flyers will wrap up their four-game homestand on Thursday against the 13-8-8 Florida Panthers. The two teams traded wins in their previous two meetings this season, but the Cats will come to town with a 6-4-6 road record, and a 6-2-2 showing in their last 10 games. The Panthers haven’t won in Philadelphia since Feb. 21st, 2013, but currently hold the Eastern Conference’s final Wild Card spot.

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Hopefully the Flyers team that dominated that Stanley Cup caliber Carolina team will show up on Thursday. Don’t correct me. I’m entitled to see it however I want.