The Philadelphia Flyers entered their first round series against the Washington Capitals almost on an even playing field despite their respective seedings. After all, from January 5th on the Flyers were playing at a similar clip (26-12-7) to the mighty Capitals (27-11-5) and looked to be a team coming into their own.
However, three games into the series the Flyers have certainly met their match. It’s become obvious why the Capitals were a team that finished with six more wins and nine more points than the next team behind them, running away with the President’s Trophy (given to the league’s best record).
What Happened to the Flyers?
One of the issues the Flyers had to overcome heading down the stretch in the final games of the regular season were an unusual amount a of games in a short period of time.
To put things into perspective, from February till the end of the season on April 10th, the Flyers would find themselves competing in 35 games over a 70 day span.
That’s essentially a game every other day with all the traveling and road trips to go with it. To top it off, once April hit, they played six games in 10 days, with each set of games played on back-to-backs.
Riding Steve Mason
Once Michal Neuvirth went down with a knee injury in warm-ups prior to a March 19th matinee against archrival Pittsburgh Penguins, the team handed the goalie reins to Steve Mason.
Mason would go onto start the final 13 games of the season.
Totaling it all up, that accounts for 13 starts in 23 days, including four sets of back-to-backs. That’s a taxing amount for any goaltender to play in the NHL without having the benefit of taking at least one night off.
Mason played at an elite level throughout the final 13 games. However, it looks the cost of carrying the Flyers into the playoffs was being completely worn out for the first round matchup against the Capitals.
Couple of notes. Steve Mason raised the level of his game down the stretch. He is legit #1 NHL goalie. Played tough and battled.
— Jason Myrtetus (@jasonmyrt) April 10, 2016
@PayntDries Also, goalies usually don't have to play all the b2bs Flyers had late in season & every min of month's worth of must-win games,
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) April 20, 2016
The End Result
The bottom line is a team would never use exhaustion as excuse, let alone a player. However, the eye-test has certainly determined that not only Steve Mason, but the team in general, looks flat-out gassed.
It could possibly be not only the taxing number of games the team had to play in such a short period of time, but also the pressure and intensity in which the games were being played.
The Flyers were fighting for their playoff lives from February on, virtually every game was a must-win.
They also played some great hockey during that stretch too, but in the end, it just seems like the energy they spent clawing their way into the playoffs, just might be the reason they will be limping out of them licking their wounds.