Flyers Backcheck: Everyone Gets a Medal for Trying Hard

Is it April yet? The Flyers dropped their fourth straight on Thursday night in what can be labeled their best effort of the season. In what has become typical Flyers fashion, the orange and black erased a late third period equalizer from Claude Giroux by coughing up the puck, and the game, with 46 seconds on the clock. At least everyone gets an award for trying hard, though.

Lindros & LeClair Honored

Before Thursday’s game, the Flyers inducted two-thirds of the Legion of Doom line from the 1990’s in Eric Lindros and John LeClair into the Flyers Hall of Fame. As the current roster looked on from the bench, fans cheered the Flyer greats as their families looked on in pride. A tribute video, which included a magnitude of highlights from both iconic Flyers, honored the newest inductees.

“It was great,” said LeClair, reflecting on his time in Philadelphia. “They always made you feel welcome, especially here. The support was second to none. We always felt that support. They always believed in us. It was great.”

Unlike Lindros, LeClair began his career with another organization – the Montreal Canadiens, to be exact. But after being traded to the Flyers in Feb. of the 1994-95 season, LeClair quickly established himself in Philadelphia by scoring 49 points in 37 games. The five-time All-Star would go onto collect 643 points in his decade tenure with the Flyers, earning him the right to be inducted on Thursday.

Lindros, on the other hand, brought forth a completely unique situation. The freakish combination of size, speed, and skill catapulted Lindros to a Hart Trophy in 1995 – the season LeClair joined the team – seven All-Star Games, and a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1997.

“We felt you and played for you,” Lindros told the Wells Fargo Center crowd on Thursday. “It was fantastic. Flyers fans are one of a kind. Thank you for the memories and support.”

Despite his dominance in Philadelphia, 659 points in 486 games, Lindros’ career with the Flyers ended in the manner of a nasty, drawn-out divorce. Injuries began to plague the player nicknamed, “Big E.” And after sitting out the entire 2000-01 season due to another concussion, he was shipped off to Philly’s rivals on Broadway just before the beginning of the 2001-02 season.

The bitter break-up left many wondering if Lindros and the Flyers would ever kiss and make up. And although it’s been a process that only time could conjure, Thursday night’s induction did just that.

“So much of what occurred was so long ago,” added Lindros. “We’re looking at 14 almost 15 years now. It was what it was, and it is what it is. I’ve been going to the alumni game for a while now and the golf outing in the summers. It’s a great group to be around.

“The fans in Philadelphia are extremely passionate, very few like them in the world. They get it, they want their teams to do well, and I’m sure that [tonight] will be an example of that. I’m just proud to be back in that rink.”

Spoiled Party

The Flyers commemorated the inductions of Lindros and LeClair by wearing patches with the numbers “88” and “10” on their sweaters as they welcomed an unfamiliar foe in the Minnesota Wild.

Losers of their last three, the Flyers shot out of the gate as if they were fired out of a cannon. Whether it was inspired by the pre-game ceremony, or Ron Hextall’s tongue-lashing from the night before, the Flyers outplayed Minnesota in every phase of the game. But when things are going as badly as they’ve been for the Flyers, even games with an effort such as Thursday’s end in a loss.

“We didn’t let our guard down,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube of his team’s effort. “We played well. We took the play to them most of the game.

“We made two mistakes in the third period we shouldn’t make and it cost us two goals. But if we play like that we’ll win a lot of hockey games. That’s got to be the focus.

“It’s not good enough, we lost. But that’s the way we got to play. That’s the competitiveness we are looking for.”

Despite taking an empty score into the dressing room for the first intermission, the Flyers swarmed the Wild, outshooting them by a margin of 14-6. The line featuring Scott Laughton, Vinny Lecavalier, and R.J. Umberger skated as if their livelihood depended on the outcome of the game, while the rest of the team mirrored their playoff-like hockey.

The low-scoring affair featured goals from Nino Niederreiter, Mark Streit, and Marco Scandella before Claude Giroux’s third period power play goal evened the tilt at two with under five minutes left in regulation. But after finally solving the puzzle that was Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 37 of Philadelphia’s 39 shots thrown his way, another late period goal solidified Philly’s fourth straight loss.

“We played the right way the whole game, and it’s a tough way to lose,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux.

Before Andrew MacDonald’s brutal turnover behind his own net, which led to Jason Zucker’s game-winning goal with under a minute to play, the Flyers appeared to be on their way to getting at least gaining a single point in the increasingly competitive Metropolitan Division. But Berube’s squad couldn’t execute when it mattered most, as they shot themselves in the foot once again.

Over time, hopefully we’ll be able to look back at this game as an example of how the Flyers can compete with the contenders of the league without relying on puck luck or a fantastic goaltending performance.

But for now, this one hurts. Bad. — Charlie O’Connor, Broad Street Hockey

The Flyers won’t have much time to lick their wounds and feel sorry for themselves. With the Columbus Blue Jackets coming back to town Saturday, the Flyers need to do whatever it takes to stop the bleeding – even if it includes sacrificing a goat, or taking a pre-game shot of Patron.

Tidbits for Trying Hard

Had it not been for the atrocious ending, there was actually an array of positives the Flyers can bring to Saturday’s second date with the Blue Jackets. After being held scoreless on Wednesday against New York, The top line of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Brayden Schenn picked up right where they left off.

Giroux’s power play goal was his sixth of the season, which leads the NHL. Giroux’s seven shots in Thursday’s contest was enough to push him over Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in shots with 86. Surprisingly enough, Giroux has still yet to find the back of the net at even-strength.

The latest mark for Giroux leaves him one point shy of career point number 400. R.J. Umberger, on the other hand, has been sitting on career assist number 199 for the last 12 games.

Voracek’s assist was his 27th point on the season, extending his NHL leading number of assists to 20. Voracek continues to lead the league in even-strength points with 18, although Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson is now tied with him in that department.

Because of a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, the Carolina Hurricanes will remain one point behind the Flyers in the Metro standings. On the flip side, the Flyers remain only two points behind New Jersey, and four points behind the Rangers. At 7-9-2, the Flyers are 4-6-0 in their last ten, and now carry a goal differential of minus-five.

With plenty of hockey left on the schedule, there’s plenty of time to either skate past this current drought, or fall in the hole even further. And if anyone thinks a turnaround such as last season’s is on the menu should they, in fact, fall into a hole, I have a car I’d love to sell you.

Thursday night’s effort was a step in the right direction. But points in the NHL aren’t distributed for trying hard. Simply put, the Flyers need a win and soon.