Ever-changing Flyers need to find final identity soon, before the constant changing bites them.
PHILADELPHIA – It’s safe to say the Flyers are the chameleon of the NHL because it seems they have once again morphed into a different team.
No matter how you look at the Flyers at this point, 48 games into the season, the fact is this team sits in second place in the Metropolitan Division and they’ve been able to get there by being quick change artists.
They were a team who couldn’t score in October. They were a disciplined, smothering defensive team in November.
And since the start of December they’ve opened things up in games where no lead seems safe.
And then there are games like Thursday against Nashville, where the Flyers lost 4-3 in a shootout (Read the Game Recap here), where they were a little bit of everything from the first three months.
There were times they couldn’t buy a goal against Carter Hutton – the same guy who was a one-day call-up in 2010 to back up Brian Boucher on Fan Appreciation Night.
He never played a game for the Flyers, but despite giving his jersey to a fan as part of the post game festivities, the fan gave it back to Hutton, thinking he would want it as a memento from his first day in the NHL. (The fan was given a Jeff Carter jersey as a replacement for being so generous to Hutton).
|Brayden Schenn stayed hot, scoring another goal to give the Flyers an early lead, but it melted away in what was, in many ways, a microcosm of the season.|
Yet, Hutton didn’t seem concerned about giving back to the Flyers faithful, making a bunch of nice saves and even one “Holy-cow-can-you-believe-that” save on Michael Raffl.
The puck took a crazy hop off the end boards and even though Raffl didn’t get all of it, Hutton was able to dart back in front of the net and lunge to make a glove save.
“I would rather call it a miss,” Raffl said. “You’ve got the open net and the puck is bouncing right on my blade. [A backchecking David Legwand] got his stick on me a little bit. It kind of changed direction. I wasn’t aiming there so you’ve got to give him credit he made a desperate save. It was a nice save.”
That was just the one that stood out, but Hutton got a few more, and even got some help from the post as both Vinny Lecavalier and Matt Read found iron.
The Flyers also had moments of good defense in front of Steve Mason, and when they didn’t, they got strong goaltending as Mason finished with 34 saves, looking more like the Steve Mason of November than the Steve Mason who has struggled some since the holidays.
“I don’t think he can worry about that at all,” said Wayne Simmonds, who had a three point night for the Flyers. “He’s been saving our butts all year. [Losing to Nashville] has nothing to do with him. We should’ve played a more solid 60 minutes in front of him.”
Or 65 minutes in you count overtime. Or more if you count the seven-round shootout.
But they wouldn’t have even gotten there if they didn’t play a bit like their December-January selves either getting the first tying goal from Andrej Meszaros – who has been quietly good offensively of late – and the second tying goal from Simmonds, who is absolutely on fire.
And as the game slinked into a seven-round shootout and the goalies mirrored each other for six rounds, each stopping the first four shooters before giving up goals to the next two, the Flyers were again a team living on the edge – as they have been for much of the season, with so many games being close to the end.
“Not a huge fan of [shootouts],” said Mason. “The guys gave me two opportunities to win the game and I couldn’t do it, so I let them down tonight with that.”
That’s because after Simmonds missed in round seven, defenseman Roman Josi became the third straight Predator to score, claiming the win for Nashville and sending the Flyers to their second straight loss on home ice after winning 10 straight there.
|Vinny Lecavalier hit the post in this one, but Carter Hutton was the difference, making 32 saves (including five in the shootout) to steal a point from the Flyers.|
Ultimately, the Flyers are going to have to decide what kind of team they want to be.
They know they don’t want to be the October Flyers, because that miserable month is the only reason they aren’t sitting comfortably in a playoff spot right now.
They might want to get back to being the November Flyers a little bit, even if it cuts down on their suddenly cruising offense.
But, how can you not want to score like they’ve been scoring? In the last 21 games, the Flyers have scored 71 goals and allowed 71 goals. That’s an average of 3.38 per game.
In that same span, they’ve allowed three goals or more 14 times – still with a winning record mind you (6-5-3) - but a dangerous number to flirt with nonetheless.
So, maybe a combination of November and December-January is the right mix. It wouldn’t surprise if they ended up figuring that out here in February-March, because come April, they need to be something other than what they’ve been so far if they want to make a playoff run.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers