PHILADELPHIA – For those keeping score at home: The number of coaches/players in post-game interviews who said (or agreed with the premise) “we’re trending in the right direction’’ – Three.
The number of coaches/players in post-game interviews who did not say (or agree with the premise) “we’re trending in the right direction’’ – Zero.
We would hate to see how things would look if the Flyers were NOT trending in the direction, especially after losing three straight home games to the hated Washington Capitals, including Saturday night’s not-really-close 5-4 verdict at the Wells Fargo Center.
Pressed to explain why the Flyers continue to get off to slow starts, commit the same kinds of errors and then finally wake up in the third period, coach Alain Vigneault and players James van Riemsdyk and captain Claude Giroux all repeated or went along with the same “right direction’’ mantra.
Egads, this is a team which has lost five out of seven and gone 1-5 against the Capitals and Penguins, who have the Flyers in their rearview mirrors, over the last two weeks.
One would think the Flyers would come out with steam pouring out of their ears after dropping decisions to the D.C. gang on Sunday and Thursday.
Instead, they started turning the puck over again and this time veteran Brian Elliott wasn’t sharp enough in goal to save their proverbial bacon. He allowed three goals before Vigneault pulled the plug. Carter Hart entered in relief and did what he could but the defense just wasn’t up to par.
Washington is a speed team and when you don’t keep up, you get left broken down on the side of the highway.
Maybe the Flyers can get it straightened out in an upcoming four-game road set – two at the Rangers, two at the Islanders – this week but they certainly can’t stay in this state of denial.
The Flyers were down 2-0 after one and 4-2 after two. Only a power-play goal from Shayne Gostisbehere with 6:53 to play and another by Giroux with the Flyer net empty and 2:57 left on the clock made the score look respectable.
No one’s suggesting any panic buttons be pushed here but how about a little accountability?
“No doubt we’re going through a challenging time,’’ Vigneault said during a media Zoom call after the game. “We’re falling behind in games, trying to battle back.
“We are making a few mistakes. But our guys are competing. If we continue to do that, we’ll be in good shape.
“I do think we’re trending the right way.’’
Van Riemsdyk was next up and he seems to subscribe to Vigneault’s rosy outlook.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,’’ JVR said. “Ultimately we were playing a real good team, I think every time we made a mistake it seemed they would capitalize on it.
“It’s just managing the game better.’’
Giroux came right out and used the dreaded “trending right’’ line to describe where his team is headed.
“I do believe our game is trending the right way,’’ Giroux said. “It’s hard to evaluate that when you’re losing games.
“But we’re doing a lot of good things out there. A few mistakes that cost us but overall if we keep playing like this, keep doing the right things, we’re going to win a lot of hockey games.’’
>Stick to the game plan
Although the Flyers haven’t been getting much out of the way they’ve been playing lately, Giroux insists the Flyers have to stick to their game plan.
“We can’t be trying to change what we’ve been doing,’’ Giroux said. “We know we can do it. When we get a win, it’s going to turn into a couple wins.’’
Of course, they will be playing the Islanders twice, who are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and starting to make a real move at the top of the division. So maybe Giroux is referring to the Rangers.
>What’s with getting a goal, then quickly giving up one?
Statistics say a bunch of times so far this season the Flyers have scored a goal and then given one right back within the next three minutes.
Talk about momentum killers.
It happened again Saturday night. Van Riemsdyk scored his team-leading 12th goal to cut Washington’s lead to 2-1 early in the second period.
But the Capitals quickly countered just 29 seconds later on a goal by Nick Jensen to kill any momentum the Flyers might have started to build.
“We are going to try to continue to improve,’’ Vigneault said. “Get the mistakes to a minimum.’’
>Patrick ends goal drought
Nolan Patrick scored the Flyers’ second goal at 5:47 of the second period to end a 17-game goal drought which extended all the way back to Jan, 26.
>Not Elliott’s night
Elliott probably had his toughest game of the season. On Washington’s second goal, he failed to control a rebound, the second try popped in the air, hit his shoulder and rolled into the net.
“He was fighting it a bit,’’ Vigneault said. “When you’re giving up a number of goals we’re giving up at this time, it’s not easy for anyone.’’