Hits and Misses (Lightning 5, Flyers 1)
Some news, notes and observations from my couch after Sunday’s loss in Tampa:
At least with the first three losses there were bright spots. There were parts of those games where you looked at the Flyers and thought, “Well gee whiz, if they can just play like this for 60 minutes, they’ll be fine.”
You can’t say that after Sunday.
The Flyers had no juice, played with a lack of discipline, and were thwarted by the Tampa Bay Lightning blocking 26 shots during a 5-1 loss that dropped the Orange and Black to 2-4-0.
Considering the Flyers only got 25 shots on goalie Anders Lindback the fact that the Lightning blocked 26 is a pretty astonishing figure.
And while that is one sub plot to this game, the fact is, the Flyers continue to suffer from self-inflicted wounds.
Yes, there are new standards for hooking and interference in the NHL. And while we can sit here all night and decry the changes being instituted as ridiculous, the fact is, the league has changed the standard, as well as the level of enforcement – which means they are cracking down on it.
And rather than complain, the Flyers need to understand the rule changes and stop taking penalties – because they have taken more minors than any team in the NHL this season.
And when you are shorthanded a lot, you are going to lose. This night was no different.
The Lightning scored two power play goals, and a third two seconds after a penalty expired, which means it was technically still 5-on-4 in the zone.
And the Flyers put themselves in that position, something you don’t want to do against anyone, but especially against Tampa, which has a lethal power play.
In short, they let the Lightning take them right out of their game.
Speaking of not being in his game, while it’s hard to pinpoint a player who played well for the Flyers, it’s most noticeable when Giroux is off his game because of his skill level.
He didn’t have that usual fire that you see out of the Flyers captain. He seems to be letting frustration eat at him a little bit and needs to break through that.
He doesn’t have to be the best player every night, but he does have to be very good on most nights, and, as the Flyers best player, he can’t ever completely disappear – and he did Sunday.
Just following the Flyers fans on Twitter and Facebook, it’s obvious everyone wants to roast Michael Leighton for his performance in the loss to Tampa in which he made just 21 saves and allowed five goals.
But keep two things in mind:
He hasn’t played in an NHL game since April, 2011 and not in any game at any level since April, 2012. So, you have to expect a little rust, no?
His team didn’t help him at all. He was in a tough spot. Any goalie put in his position would have lost tonight.
Yeah, the rebound he gave up on the goal by Viktor Hedman can’t happen, and he did seem a little slow laterally on a couple other goals, but considering the circumstances and what was going on around him, blaming Leighton is far down on the list.
As you probably already know, the Flyers sent Scott Laughton back to Oshawa of the OHL after a five-game run, the max allowed in the NHL this season before a junior player had to be returned or else stay on the roster the whole season.
The Flyers were impressed with Laughton, they just want him to get bigger and stronger.
He can rejoin the team later this season once Oshawa is eliminated from the OHL playoffs, but if he were to play another regular season game, the first year of his entry-level contract would kick in. That wouldn’t be the case in the playoffs though.
With Laughton off the roster, the Flyers could have recalled another player from the Phantoms (Eric Wellwood or Harry Zolnierczyk would be most likely) but they chose not to because it seems Zac Rinaldo will be able to return from injured reserve Tuesday in the next game in New York against the Rangers.
My Three Stars:
1. Steven Stamkos – How he didn’t get any star in the game in Tampa is beyond me, but he was everywhere for the Lightning. He was buzzing in the Flyers zone all night and finished with a goal and an assist but could have had more.
2. Martin St. Louis – He finished the night with four assists, and like Stamkos, was flying around the Flyers zone. He was the best playmaker on the ice in the game, bar none.
3. The Lightning defense – Of the 26 blocked shots by the Bolts, 18 of them were complied by the rearguards. Hedman and Eric Brewer led the way with four each. They just get in the way all the time and are more boring to watch than the New Jersey Devils, but they are very effective, and ultimately, that matters more than our entertainment. Solid work by that group.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37