Saturday night in Raleigh, NC a game was played that included an invitation by the home team Carolina Hurricanes to the visiting Philadelphia Flyers to leave the crisp air of the “made the playoffs” group and regress back to the ranks of those desperately trying to secure a wild-card spot. Ultimately the Flyers said ‘no’ to the invite and provoked another classic Hurricanes third-period meltdown instead. The Flyers won the game 4-2, but some of their fans’ social media posts gave off a vibe lacking confidence in their team’s legitimacy as playoff contenders.
Social media is often an engaging highlight to read during a game. For example, Friday night’s first-ever upset of a number one-seeded college basketball team, in this case, Virginia, by a 16-seeded team UMBC, was almost overshadowed by the goings on with the UMBC Twitter account. It garnered tens of thousands of followers during the upset because of the tweets posted during that game.
First Wave of Flyer Fan Reaction Wasn’t Pretty
In Saturday night’s contest between the Flyers and the Hurricanes, following along with the posts by fans of both teams was intriguing. When the Hurricanes were leading, the fans of the Flyers who were posting on social media were hammering their team for, “Not knowing there are 60 minutes in a game,” and “Constantly breaking my heart,” and “This team is laughable, the head coach needs to go!”
The first wave of Flyers social media posts was not pretty, nor did it show much confidence in the team. What made this interesting reading was that there was a sense that maybe Flyers fans don’t truly believe in the legitimacy of what their team has accomplished since the beginning of February.
Hurricanes fans were hopeful throughout the first two periods, grasping onto the fading notion that maybe the playoffs were still a possibility.
How the Game Unfolded
Both teams seemed a bit sluggish at the start of the game. At 6:17 to go in the first period, Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward made a “highlight reel save.” Shortly thereafter, Jaccob Slavin blasted a shot that Jordan Staal was able to redirect into the goal, putting the Hurricanes up 1-0. Flyers backup goaltender Alex Lyon was unable to find the long distance wrister launched by Slavin and subsequently tipped in by Staal.
Then and Now
The negativity coming from Flyers’ fans social media actually had me starting to wonder if something had gone wrong with a Flyers team that had previously disrupted the Hurricanes season. The two teams faced off for the first time this season in early February, and it was a game that propelled the Flyers into a run that saw them actually atop the Metropolitan Division for a couple of days. They were hot and becoming a team to take seriously in the playoffs.
The Hurricanes felt the painful consequence of losing that first game to the Flyers, with a ripple effect that they could not recover from. On the other side, the Flyers had a fantastic February that moved them out of the group of teams vying for a wild-card berth, and into the top three in the division.
In March the tide turned for the Flyers, starting with a 4-1 home loss to the Hurricanes. The ripple effect of that game saw the Flyers lose five games in a row, and now seven of their last nine games. Suddenly the Flyers had a chance to regress all the way back into that group desperately trying to get into the playoffs via the wild-card.
With the 1-0 lead through the first two periods, the Hurricanes were extending the Flyers a great big invitation to completely regress back into the ranks of the wild-card desperate.
It honestly felt from reading the social media of Flyers’ fans that they were resigned to believing their team would accept this invitation as it were, regress into mediocrity and ultimately struggle to make the playoffs:
We can’t beat anyone we’re already in the 1st wild card spot now . Devils 3rd place in the metro and Columbus is tied 1-1 after 1. We ain’t making the playoffs #PHIvsCAR
— zack taylor (@zacharytaylor28) March 18, 2018
But, this Hurricanes team that the Flyers were losing to had just shown last Tuesday that they were capable of melting down. Their 6-2 loss at home to the Boston Bruins was epic, an instant meltdown classic which left many speechless and some beyond angry.
More of How the Game Unfolded
The game was going along well for the Hurricanes who even had the great advantage of a four-minute minor penalty having been assessed against the Flyers due to a high-stick infraction called on Andrew Macdonald as the second period was winding down. All night long the Hurricanes’ power play was horrific. I posted on Twitter during one of their power plays that it looked like the five-on-five play was still going on, with the Flyers moving the puck as a unit in the Hurricanes’ zone.
This failure to score at the beginning of the third period during the continuation of the power play was the turning point of the game. Travis Konecny tied the game 1-1, and that feeling of, “Oh no” began to creep through the Hurricanes fans. But, Jaccob Slavin put the puck into the net to give the home team the 2-1 lead, and it seemed as if a disaster was averted. Then the second meltdown in five nights began.
Jakub Voracek got the puck in front of Ward on what was a glaring defensive breakdown by the Hurricanes. He was at the top of the crease and was even able to move the puck around with his stick before turning and lacing it into the net past an outstretched Ward. The goal tied the game, 2-2, and the sense of doom was heavy.
Another defensive lapse, this time by Slavin led to a breakaway goal scored by Valtteri Filppula, and the Flyers were ahead 3-2. Slavin did not lapse so much as he tried to crash the net to score, but when it did not work Filppula was all alone and ate Ward up. An empty-net goal sealed the meltdown and the Flyers left Raleigh with two points. The Hurricanes were left with no points and no answers.
Social Media Shifted
It’s amazing what a win will do to the tone of posts on Twitter. What previously was a team with a head coach that needed to go, was a team receiving adulation. “Good game, guys,” and “Way to go” tweets replaced the doom and gloom that had permeated the Flyers’ fans’ posts. This Tweet summed it up nicely:
— Ken Schott (@slapschotts) March 18, 2018
As for the Hurricanes, they are no longer in the group of “those desperately trying to earn a wild-card spot.” They will be golfing in April and enjoying a long summer. There will be plenty of nice beach pictures for their fans to post on social media.
The Flyers were lucky to get the win. They can’t play like they did against the Hurricanes and expect to keep their spot in the top three. They turned down the Hurricanes’ invitation to regress, but if they are not careful, their fans might be posting beach pics, too.