It is often said that an embarrassing defeat can be just the fuel on the fire necessary to wake a team up from its slumber.
If that is the case for the Philadelphia Flyers, it will be in the aftermath of more than just fuel being dripped on the fire. Theirs is more on the level of a powder keg meeting a container of torch fluid and a lit match.
The Flyers did not seem like they would have too much to feel bad about following a period of play on Friday against the Washington Capitals. Although they trailed 1-0 heading into the first break, they had earned the territorial advantage, limiting Washington to just four shots in the entire period.
However, as has been the Flyers’ bugaboo all season, the second stanza reared its ugly head yet again. The Capitals scored five goals on 15 shots in the twenty minutes, including three in the first four minutes of the middle frame. It was only after the fourth Washington goal that Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren had had enough.
“Once they scored the fourth goal, we stopped playing,” said Holmgren. “I think we’re afraid to play the game right now, afraid to make plays, afraid to battle for pucks, afraid to skate after pucks; it’s tough to watch.”
It is easy to sense Holmgren is aware of his job security’s potential jeopardy. On multiple occasions on Friday night, “Fire Holmgren” chants engulfed the Wells Fargo Center, despite the sound people’s best efforts to drown them out.
However, the ramifications of the brawl go well beyond the job security of the club’s general manager.
The Flyers Paid the Price in Injuries
Before the brawl even began, the Flyers’ were not having a night to remember in any facet of the game. A scuffling power play continued its trend in the first period, having as many shots blocked (8) as shots on goal in the first period.
However, the second period brought with it more than just Capitals’ punishment. In his first game in his second stint in Philadelphia, Steve Downie dropped the gloves with Aaron Volpatti, and the Washington tough guy had his way with a defenseless Downie, who suffered a concussion in the midst of the scrum. Downie was taken to a Philadelphia area hospital for observation.
As if that was not bad enough, following the point-after conversion by Washington to make it 7-0 on Joel Ward’s third of the night, in true Philadelphia fashion, the only way to satisfy the hostile crowd was to “beat” the Capitals. So “Fight Night” was on.
The Flyers, needless to say, were a frustrated team. They received a locker room visit from Holmgren following the tumultuous middle period.
The message? “That stays in the room,” said head coach Craig Berube.
Whatever the message, if fight back is what the GM wanted, it is hard to say he did not receive just that. Emery’s actions, while exciting and a wake-up to a dead crowd, created its own firestorm that will hurt the Flyers in more ways than one.
What Emery did is a disgrace to goaltenders and the integrity of the sport. He jumped a goalie that clearly did not want to join the fracas, and then proceeded to punch him despite Braden Holtby not dropping his gloves.
What kind of discipline Emery receives is yet to be known, but it almost surely means the net will be Steve Mason’s for an extended period. This is not really bad news for the Flyers, though, as Mason far exceeded Emery and seemed to win the starting job after the season started as a goaltender-by-committee system.
However, the secondary fights that did not involve Emery are more troubling. Wayne Simmonds started the melee by dropping the mitts with Tom Wilson. That fight went about as expected, with both players trading haymakers.
Brayden Schenn held his own against Alexander Urbom, and for his part, he and Urbom both received game misconducts. However, the most troubling sight for Flyers’ eyes was a scrum involving Vincent Lecavalier.
Lecavalier and Steve Oleksy was not the highest profile fight, to say the least. However, it proved to be the worst thing to happen to the Flyers. Lecavalier suffered undisclosed facial injuries in the scrap. He will miss the Flyers’ game Saturday in New Jersey and rumor has it the Flyers could be without their leading goal scorer for a longer period of time.
Sounds like Lecavalier could miss a couple weeks.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) November 2, 2013
This is just a rumor, after all. Holmgren addressed both Lecavalier’s and Downie’s injury updates on Saturday afternoon. Lecavalier is officially listed as day-to-day.
On a team that already makes scoring look more difficult than threading a needle while blindfolded, losing a top goal scorer will only make the task more daunting.
Where Do the Flyers Even Go?
If this is not rock bottom, the Flyers have a ton to be worried about. With an already awful cap situation not being helped by the fact that Philadelphia used both amnesty buyouts in the offseason, the Flyers may have to realize their mindset has to change. Perhaps even a “fresh perspective” will be needed.
Holmgren’s words are a scathing indictment on a team that has, quite frankly, given up on more than occasion:
“Right now we’re not playing the game with any confidence, especially when we get behind. Like I said, I thought we played fifteen pretty good minutes. They got one good chance and then they ended up scoring on (I think) their second shot. We just folded up like a cheap suit. It’s hard to win in this league when you don’t win battles and you don’t use your speed; we looked like a slow team tonight, and I don’t think we are.”
Thanks to injuries attained in completely unnecessary fights, some Adirondack Phantoms will enter the Flyers’ lineup in the coming days. Tye McGinn has shown some flashes of talent, but lacks the two-way game that is asked of a bigger forward.
The long and the short of it is simply this: the Flyers are a bad hockey team. While a turnaround is mathematically far from impossible, the Flyers have found entirely new ways to lose hockey games. If the fans want to be pleased with a donnybrook style melee in a 7-0 loss, so be it. Their team is still, statistically and to the observer’s eye, a train wreck.
Without a fresh perspective, the disaster could be compounded, and quickly at that.
Ryan Smith is a proud graduate of Penn State University, having attained a degree in broadcast journalism. His experience in hockey is extensive, having covered PSU Men’s ice hockey for USCHO.com as an Arena Reporter for its first NCAA season in 2012-2013 while also serving as Penn State Athletics’ voice of women’s ice hockey home games. He was also the sports director for Penn State’s ComRadio, a student based radio station endorsed by the College of Communications. In that position, he broadcasted Penn State hockey since for four years. He can be followed on Twitter @RyanSmithHockey.