Flyers
Jeremy Swayman (first NHL game and win) and Patrice Bergeron (900 points) reached impressive milestones and led the way in Boston’s 4-2 victory over the Flyers. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

So that’s how it ends, huh? The Philadelphia Flyers blow it, losing 4-2 to the Boston Bruins in a game they needed to and should have won. And in doing so, their playoff hopes are all but mercy killed.

The Bruins didn’t exactly come into this game with a championship-caliber roster. They have one of those, it just wasn’t able to come to fruition Tuesday. Top defenseman Charlie McAvoy was a late scratch with an upper-body injury. And 22-year old rookie Jeremy Swayman was forced into his first NHL game with Tuukka Rask (injury) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID) unavailable. There’s no way the Flyers lose to this battered of a roster. Right?

It took the Flyers a while to start getting changes. And it didn’t help that by the time the offense got going, they were already down 1-0. Carter Hart made a nice stop on a Craig Smith rebound, but Patrice Bergeron corralled the rebound and out-waited the Flyers 22-year old backstop. I wrote last night Bergeron must’ve really wanted his 900th point when he took the shot that led to Sanheim’s OT winner; well, he got it on that play.

When the Flyers found their legs, they got some really good looks, especially on the power-play. Nolan Patrick missed the net all alone once, then was stopped a second time in the same scenario. Swayman robbed Joel Farabee on the power-play on a beautiful deflection that looked eerily similar to Bergeron’s 2-1 goal last night. Laughton couldn’t bury a breakaway chance coming down the right side. But the Flyers just could not get the good times rolling.

Even when things seemed good, they were actually bad. Scott Laughton gets a short-handed breakaway? Denied, giving the Bruins numbers on the ensuing counter-rush. The Bruins PP jumped over 50% against the Flyers on the year again, as Bergeron patiently put the puck through Hart’s five-hole as he was uncovered in the slot. The Flyers may not have played terribly, but to be down two goals to an AHL defense (feat. the actually good Matt Grzelcyk) and a fourth-string goalie is simply unacceptable. Especially in a must-win game.

I’m not sure what Alain Vigneault said (or didn’t say) during the first intermission, but it certainly worked. The Flyers came out guns blazing and finally started to capitalize on their chances. After Jakub Zboril wiped out in his own zone, Travis Konecny slipped a backdoor feed to Jake Voracek, who tapped it in to break a nine-game goalless. The Konecny-Giroux-Voracek line delivered arguably the team’s best shift of the season, inducing an icing. They immediately one-upped themselves on the next shift, and Shayne Gostisbehere beat a down-and-out Swayman to tie the score!

The scary thing is that the Flyers probably deserved more than two goals in that period. They peppered Swayman with a season-high 25 shots for a period. Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny struck iron. Philadelphia drew the only penalty of the period. Tying the game early in the period was absolutely huge. But for the Flyers to truly make this game count, they needed to pull away on the scoreboard in the third and keep the Bruins from earning any standings points.

Yeah, about that. Remember that “even when things seemed good, they were actually bad” line? Well, the Flyers got a power-play, just missed setting up Travis Konecny for a tap-in… and then Brad Marchand scored his second shortie of the year on a 2-on-1. The Flyers managed a pathetic three shots on goal the entire period. And Patrice Bergeron finished it off with the hat-trick into the empty net after the Flyers couldn’t win a board battle to save their lives.

This game is the antithesis of the Flyers’ 2021 season. Looking like world-beaters in spurts but falling flat on their faces, especially on special teams, far too often. Losing games they should and had to win. This game is just all but the official dagger to the Flyers playoff hopes. They’re five points back of a Bruins team that has two games in hand. And if you can’t beat the Bruins without McAvoy and their fourth-string goalie playing, how can you expect to ever beat them?

Comebacks like that just don’t happen, especially against a team like the Bruins who always find a way in the end (ignore the 2015 and 2016 stretch runs). That’s the difference between them and the Flyers. The playoffs are for closers. And the 2021 Flyers are just like the 2020 Phillies; blowing a prime opportunity to take a step forward the franchise desperately needs. And who knows if this core will ever get another one.

Check out Gavin’s latest edition of Three Majors and a Minor for news across the NHL and a different voice talking about the Flyers being terrible.

Lindies

Swayman is just the third Alaskan-born NHL goaltender ever. Washington’s Phoenix Copley is the only other active one; Ty Conklin is the other.

This is the Flyers’ and Bruins’ seventh meeting of the season, the most times they’ve ever met in a regular season. One more coming up on Saturday. Yay.

Jake Voracek reached a pretty impressive milestone with his assist on the Gostisbehere goal.

This goes both ways, but man has the officiating this season been terrible with a capital T. A clear delay of game on Boston was ignored. Gostisbehere got away with the most lackadaisical retreat to sucker an icing I’ve ever seen. The “roughing” penalty on Sam Morin late in the first was ridiculous. It’s been an issue all season. I try hard not to be the “boy who called wolf” of complaining about officiating, but it was too bad to ignore tonight.

What a disappointing year this has been for Nicolas Aubé-Kubel. A bottom-six revelation last year, NAK’s forechecking prowess has been inconsistent all year, but the bigger problem is discipline. That was an issue for him in his first AHL season, and it’s resurfaced this year. He took another bad penalty that led to the first Bergeron goal.

Despite a team-leading 14 goals, it’s clear Joel Farabee is falling out of favor with Alain Vigneault. First, he was one of the three players benched in last week’s comeback win in Buffalo. Tonight, he started on the top line but was dropped to the fourth line in the second period, trading places with Oskar Lindblom.

This is the third time a Bruin has scored a hatty against the Flyers. David Pastrnak already has two against them this year.

Speaking of Bergeron goals, the Flyers are now -21 in first periods since March 1 after going down 2-0 in tonight’s opening twenty minutes.

Boston’s Kevan Miller returned tonight after missing 20 straight games with a knee injury. Only Jeremy Lauzon played more than Miller (22:25).

An 8-4 thrashing of the Penguins tonight combined with Philly’s regulation loss moves the Rangers ahead of the Flyers for fifth in the East Division. Honestly, assuming the Flyers don’t win out or something of the sort, I’d like to see New York rally and get that last playoff spot. They certainly have been building up some momentum.

This is a little old, but I thought I’d mention it. On a recent episode of the 31 Thoughts Podcast, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said he expects the Flyers to make changes in the offseason. And for what it’s worth, TSN’s Trait Bait list has Scott Laughton ranked 18th. With the Flyers falling and the cap staying flat, it might be time to say goodbye to Laughton Michael Raffl, or/and Erik Gustafsson, who are all pending UFAs.

This is also old, but I’ve been meaning to include it, too. A couple of weeks ago, the Flyers paid tribute to the victims of the Atlanta and Boulder shootings pre-game. My condolences to all who suffered as a result of this terrible tragedy. It certainly puts tonight’s loss in perspective as to what really matters in life.

3 Stars

3rd: Brad Marchand (BOS) – Goal (18), 3 Assists (25, 26, 27), 3 Takeaways (four if you count him taking away the Flyers’ hopes and dreams)

2nd: Jeremy Swayman (BOS; NHL Debut) – .952 SV% (40 Saves/42 Shots),

1st: Patrice Bergeron (BOS) – 3 Goals (13, 14, 15), 5 Shots

Next

BOS – 4/8, 7 PM @ WSH (25-10-4, L1)

PHI – It doesn’t matter

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