Flyers coach Alain Vigneault stepped to the podium after Thursday night’s loss to the New Jersey Devils and said whatever could go wrong at the Wells Fargo Center did go wrong.
But his problems didn’t stop there. Two thousand miles away in Phoenix, the Carolina Hurricanes were beating the Arizona Coyotes, which meant another night of playoff roulette. The Flyers were the ones with the extra bullet.
Here’s what Thursday’s disaster to the Devils meant.
Stop the bleeding. Things are so tight in the East that even a short losing streak will be a problem. So the charge for the Flyers after Thursday’s 5-0 loss is to make sure there’s no continuation. Another repeat performance could mean 10-0 to Washington on Saturday. It’ll be the first of seven straight for the Flyers against teams currently in the playoffs in the East.
“It’ll say a lot about this group,” said Shayne Gostisbehere, back in the lineup for the first time in a month. “We were rolling there for a bit [6-2-1 last 10]. And when you lay a stinker like this — it doesn’t happen often — we need to lean on our veterans and come out kicking next time.”
Where they stand. The Flyers went into Thursday night in the final playoff spot in the conference. Carolina jumped them with its win at Arizona. The Islanders squeezed past Columbus (which was idle) into third place in the Metro with their win against L.A. Both the Flyers and the Isles played last-place teams Thursday. New York took advantage of their opponent. The Flyers did not.
Power outage. The Flyers’ power play was so bad that Vigneault was thinking about a new strategy. They came up empty on all four chances, managed just six shots in eight minutes, gave up one shorthanded goal and were lucky not to give up maybe two more.
“Our power play was terrible. I don’t know what else to tell you,” Vigneault said. “Every time we were on the power play, they were having chances towards our net. So, we should have denied it after the first one.”
What’s my line? The Flyers’ top line — Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk — started the game and watched the Devils turn a moderate forecheck into a goal 13 seconds in. Each player was minus-3 for the night.
Ever seen this before? The Devils scored on their first shot in each of the three periods. “It can take the wind out of sails, obviously, scoring on the first shot,” said Blake Coleman, who scored on that first shot. “More importantly, it speaks to the way we’re getting off to quick starts in the periods. Anytime you can put a team on [its] heels early, it’s gonna create that confidence [for us] and put a little doubt in their minds.”
Ghost back. Robert Hagg came out of the lineup as Gostisbehere played for the first time in 10 games. The entire defense made mistakes, so it’ll be interesting to see if Vigneault goes with Hagg against Washington over Gostisbehere or Phil Myers. Hagg is more physical than Gostisbehere and played against the Caps in the Flyers’ win last month (scoring his only goal of the season). Personally, I wouldn’t change the defensive lineup. Let’s see if this really was an aberration.
The goalie. Brian Elliott had his toughest game in more than a month, giving up four goals before being yanked early in the third. The one he definitely should have had was the Devils’ second goal, a power-play shot by defenseman Damon Severson from 23 feet that went over his shoulder.
Ouch department. The biggest hit of the night was John Hayden’s flattening Myers in open ice near the blue line toward the end of the second period. Myers stayed down for a few seconds, but finished his shift. He went to the locker room before the period ended, then played regularly in the third.
Bottom line. Jake Voracek had four shots on goal and seemed to get agitated when the home crowd was booing toward the end of a failed power play. It was a “bad game. Nothing you can do now,” he said. “Gotta regroup and win Saturday. Simple as that.”