The Flyers control their own fate at this point. They could have been challenging Ottawa for the fifth seed, but they faltered found themselves as close to being out of the playoff picture as they could possibly make it. They lost to the Islanders, a team they’ve beaten time after time just by showing up. But then they came back with a strong game against the Habs only to find themselves on the wrong end of a great goaltending performance.
Fortunately, the Flyers responded well to that loss and put in another strong effort against the Red Wings and pulled off a key 4-3 victory yesterday afternoon. Many have chalked it up to the Wings playing Osgood, their backup goalie, instead of Jimmy Howard. Does Howard give the Wings a better chance of winning than Osgood? Of course he does, but the Flyers weren’t exactly playing with Bernie Parent. Good teams will still win even with their backup goalie in, and the Red Wings didn’t bend for the Flyers yesterday, the Flyers were simply the better team.
The Flyers took advantage of a soft goal in the first few second of the game and kept pouring on the pressure. While Osgood should have stopped Carcillo’s first shot, he also made some tough saves to even keep the Wings in the game early on. But once the Wings gathered themselves, they showed why they hadn’t lost a game in regulation in the past twelve and tied the game by the time the first period was over. Personally, I started to get a bad feeling about the game. Over the past few weeks, the Flyers have been terrible with dealing with adversity of any time. Calling them a fragile team was an understatement.
But the Flyers did something out of the ordinary for themsevles. They came out in the second period and scored. A goal in the first minute in each of the two opening periods? That can’t be a bad thing. They jumped on a Detroit turnover, caused by a strong forecheck, and Claude Giroux potted the loose puck into the top corner. Osgood had no chance. And they they kept the pressure up and Arron Asham later added a slam dunk goal that Osgood had even less of a chance on. For the rest of the game, the Flyers survived the Red Wing onslaught and held on for two points.
That was the effort that the Flyers are capable of giving. It’s all about confidence. The Flyers need to keep plugging away and win these last three games in order to develop some type of momentum for the playoffs. The many injuries to the goalies really stinks. Ray Emery was playing well, then he got injured. Michael Leighton was winning game after game…and then he got injured. Johan Backlund was looking very good against the Penguins, and then he got injured. Brian Boucher hasn’t been that good overall, but he’s been playing behind a team with shattered confidence. Good teams will overcome a soft goal here or there, but when a team is questioning themselves, a soft goal can kill their chances in a game.
Boucher is not the guy I’d want leading my team into the playoffs, but he’s what the Flyers have. If the Flyers don’t play well in front of Boucher, then there’s no excuse about the goalie being the problem for an early exit. If Boucher plays terribly in the playoffs, well, did anyone expect him to carry the team? If he plays well, then that’s great.
The ball’s in the Flyers’ court. They play the Maple Leafs next, a team they have to beat, no question about it. I don’t care that they’ve been winning some games, a team with their playoff hopes on the line HAS to beat the last place team in the conference. And then the Flyers play two games against the Rangers to close the season. It could be a case of win and you’re in. Fortunately for the Flyers, they will more than likely hold the win tiebreaker if it comes down to that. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Rangers play a solid Sabres team tomorrow night. A win puts them in a good spot while a loss could spell a whole lot of trouble. The next two days will shed a lot of light on the playoff situation in the Eastern Conference.