Watching the Flyers play since they returned from the Covid pause forced by a team outbreak has been torture. I love this team fiercely and have for as long as I can remember, but this has been god awful, torture second only to sleep deprivation. As I suffered through both last night I was roughing out this blog, pondering in my head as is my normal style of writing.
I am as loyal a Flyers fan as you will encounter. I wear a gold Flyers charm around my neck every day, I have a Flyers emblem tattooed on my back (second one coming soon, by the way) and there is a Flyers flag that flies in front of my house every day. Every. Damned. Day. Yes, even today. Even the day after the Blackhawks took the Cup in our house. Even after the Islanders beat the Flyers in seven games last year. And yes, even after I will have to square up on a bet with a co-worker that is a Leafs fan, but I shut that game off last night before the final horn. I just couldn’t watch after that empty net goal, just couldn’t. It was too painful, too graphic. That game was uglier than the Devils reverse retro sweaters, and that is some ugly. I would say it was as ugly as the Preds sweaters, but I don’t think anything is that ugly.
I instead turned on “Doctor Sleep”, one of my favorite Stephen King movies. Actually, anyone that knows me knows that whatever King happens to be on is my favorite, with the exception of a few movies that were butchered completely (“Needful Things” and “Bag of Bones” anyone?) but I digress. Anyway, “Doctor Sleep”, the movie that is the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s version of “The Shining” features an extremely graphic scene, one of the most disturbing ever filmed, of a small child being tortured to death. That Mike Flanagan produced nightmare was easier to watch than the Flyers being humiliated by the NJ Devils.
The Devils had not won in 10 games, and have the worst power play known to mankind…. Enter the 2020-21 Philadelphia Flyers. Not only did the Devils win, but they scored two power play goals. Not one, but TWO, two power play goals. On two power play attempts. It was the Flyers special teams play that was running around in my head while I tossed and turned last night, my left arm throbbing in pain from my 2nd dose of the Covid vaccine, a pain that paled in comparison to watching the Flyers last night.
Seriously, how is the Flyers penalty kill bad enough to allow the Devils to score twice? When you look at the Flyers, they should have a decent PK. Just by virtue of having Sean Couturier, the reigning Selke Trophy winner, one would think that the penalty kill would at least be able to hold the Devils to a 50% clip on power plays. While I understand that losing Matt Niskanen to retirement during the off season was a blow, this defense is by and large the same one that took the Islanders to seven games in the playoffs. Yes, Carter Hart has struggled, but he has not been alone. Ivan Provorov has looked lost, and don’t get me started on Travis Sanheim. The plague that was Erik Gustafsson was exiled at the trade deadline, but apparently it was far too little, far too late.
The Flyers are currently killing penalties at 73.47%, ahead of only, you guessed it, the New Jersey Devils. Let us move on to the Power Play, shall we? The Flyers had a glorious opportunity early in the game, a four minute double minor assessed on the Devils Michael McLeod for high sticking the above mention reigning Selke Trophy winner. They managed one shot. It was at this point that I wanted the coaching staff to go all Kurt-Russell-as-Herb-Brooks on this team. I mean, seriously? One freaking shot? I wanted AV to just lose his shit on this team, have Lavi grab a whistle, and make them WORK. Until someone threw up. You know…..AGAIN.
Again, I am one of the most loyal Flyers fans on the planet, and I just can’t understand what is going on this year. The Flyers have always been a team built on hard work, not superstar talent. While the Flyers do have their share of talent this year, going back to Herb Brooks, they just don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone. It has been the work, the effort, that has been lacking this year, and that is what I am missing. Yes, I might be Wayne Simmonds biggest fan, but it is his type of effort that is missing. The go hard, don’t take a shift off, defend your team mates at any cost kind of play that has always defined this team, that is nowhere to be seen. These games, without heart, without passion, without effort, have me asking myself, “Is it over yet?”
I spend all of the hockey offseason counting down to opening day of the Flyers season, but efforts like last night just have me wising this season was over. Can we please, for the love of all that is holy, just skip ahead to October? Just give the Stanley Cup to the Leafs, so that Simmer can have his Cup and my Leafs fan co-worker can die a happy man, and let this god awful Flyers season be over. Please?
Photo Credit troyrecord.com