Despite losing four of five, the Flyers continue pull closer to the flagging Boston Bruins in the wild-card standings with OT points.
By Josh Kaz
Heading into a matinee matchup with their old coach, Peter Laviolette, and his Western-Conference-leading Nashville Predators on Saturday, the Philadelphia Flyers are six points back of the Boston Bruins for the second of two wild card playoff spots.
If they’d been able to pick up extra points in even two of their last four losses–games which were decided in overtime and the shootout, respectively–they could be threatening to pull even with those Bruins.
But they won’t get there dropping games to the league-worst Buffalo Sabres, as they did Thursday night.
On the night in which the franchise honored one of its stalwart blueliners, Eric Desjardins, the Flyers also illustrated how sorely the current club could have used his talents on the back end.
It was no coincidence that the squad failed to make the playoffs the year before Desjardins arrived and the year after he left.
Desjardins led his team to the playoffs in each of the 11 seasons he suited up for the Orange and Black, bringing skill and talent with his play, and heart, grit, and leadership off the ice.
His longtime defensive partner, Chris Therrien, sang the praises of the man nicknamed “Rico,” calling him “my Wayne Gretzky.
“Someone asked me at the time, ‘Who was the best player you’ve ever played with?'” Therrien said. “It was Eric Desjardins. Far and away.”
Although the franchise has a number of defensive prospects in the pipeline, none of its current defensemen has stepped up into a leadership role, or even a skill role. Captain Claude Giroux has been a decent leader, but he is still very young, and currently slumping at the worst time possible in this season.
“We need to find a way to get two points,” Giroux barked in postgame interviews, while Mark Streit simply stated, “It’s unacceptable!”
They can utter these words as many times as possible, but the Flyers haven’t backed them up with improved play. Despite points in 10 of their last 11 contests, the Flyers have failed to score more than two goals (excluding empty netters) against opposing goaltenders.
In the shootout, Voracek was their lone scorer, continued his solid night scoring first; however, the next three Flyers failed to find the back of the cage, while Brian Gionta and Brian Flynn beat Ray Emery, securing victory and the extra point.
Thursday’s game will instead be remembered as Eric Desjardins Night (as it had been Eric Lindros and John Leclair’s only a few months ago, both of whom were also in attendance).
“Ever since I got to Philly, I always felt I was part of the family, and this feeling is precious to me,” Desjardins said.
“And you the fans are part of this great family. You are loyal, you are honest, you are certainly demanding, and you make it tough for opponents to play in this building. And you sure inspired us. I love you guys.”
- Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth earned his first win since November.
- Wayne Simmonds, who picked up an assist, led the Flyers with seven shots.
- Philadelphia outshot Buffalo 38-32.
- The Flyers went 1 for 4 on the PowerPlay and 3 for 3 on the penalty kill.
- Luke Schenn led the Flyers with seven hits.
Read more from Josh Kaz at dropthepuck.org.