Inside the Flyers: A look at what went wrong with Flyers
Not many of us saw this coming. Not after the Flyers showed in the regular season that they were one of the NHL's most explosive teams.
Not many of us saw this coming.
Not after the Flyers showed in the regular season that they were one of the NHL's most explosive teams.
Not after the way the Flyers scored almost at will against thought-to-be-mighty Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs.
Not after the rookies demonstrated poise beyond their years and blended perfectly with the veterans for the first 89 games.
Yet in their last four games, all losses, the rookies played like, well, rookies, and some of the usually dependable forwards were invisible. The Flyers scored a total of seven goals in those four losses as they were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
This is the same Flyers team that scored 30 goals - five per game - in wiping out the Stanley Cup favorite Penguins in an emotionally charged series.
This is the same Flyers team that scored eight goals in back-to-back games against Pittsburgh.
This is the same Flyers team that lost to New Jersey because many of its big-time scorers couldn't get free for quality shots. Wayne Simmonds, Jaromir Jagr, and Jakub Voracek were goal-less in the five-game series, and Scott Hartnell (minus-6), Matt Read, and James van Riemsdyk managed one goal apiece.
Yes, it's easy to point fingers at goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for allowing one of the worst goals in Flyers playoff history as the Orange and Black were eliminated in Game 5.
But the fact is, the Flyers still had almost 21/2 periods to bail out their goalie.
And they did nothing.
Similarly, the offense was awful in Game 2, the turning point of the series.
The Flyers had won the opener and had a 1-0 lead as Game 2's second period ended - and they were booed as they left the ice. The reason? The Devils, playing without injured star Ilya Kovalchuk, had spent virtually the entire period in the Flyers' end, and the home team had zero shots during the first 18 minutes, 33 seconds of that period.
But the Flyers still led because Bryzgalov was, in a word, spectacular.
You would have thought the Flyers would have regrouped between periods and rewarded their goalie for his excellence. Instead, the Devils continued their dominance and broke through. Instead of Bryzgalov stealing a win, New Jersey emerged with a 4-1 victory.
A trend had been set. The Devils would continue to methodically take over periods with their forecheck and cycle, clog the neutral zone, and take control of games.
When the Flyers did carry the puck into the Devils' end at the blue line, they almost always had a numbers disadvantage, two-on-three, three-on-four.
"I don't think they lost any battles on the boards. That was the biggest difference," said Jagr, who was either slowed by an injury, his age (40), or the Devils in this series. "I hate to say that - I hate that feeling - but they were very strong on the boards. That surprised me. They played close to each other, and if somebody made a mistake, there was always a second guy [to cover up]."
Coach Peter Laviolette's adjustments didn't work - didn't come close to working, really - and the Flyers lost four consecutive playoff games for just the 11th time in 96 playoff series in franchise history.
Did the Flyers, who are likely Thursday to reveal a long list of injuries, look past the Devils after beating the Team That Was Supposed to Win the Stanley Cup?
"I think we thought we were going to walk over New Jersey," star center Claude Giroux said after watching Game 5 in a suit because of a suspension.
Give Giroux, who likely will be next year's captain if Chris Pronger does not return, credit for honesty.
Give the Flyers a "shame on you" for not waking up after Game 2 and failing to show more intensity until it was too late.
With feisty winger Zac Rinaldo inserted into the lineup in Game 5, they finally did play with more physicality and passion, and still were beaten.
That speaks volumes about the character, defense, and teamwork displayed by the Devils, who never allowed the Flyers to showcase their speed and play a more wide-open style.
"They kept it from the game we wanted," Laviolette said.
"I'm not happy, because we're not going anywhere further than the second round," Bryzgalov said. "I can't be happy with my performance. [But] it's a team game and if we're losing, it doesn't matter who plays well or who plays bad, we're losing! It doesn't matter who played well, it's not enough."
It hasn't been since 1975.