By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
The Flyers haven’t really faced this kind of adversity since the return to play began, but now they have a lot of it surrounding them.
A 5-0 loss to a Montreal Canadiens team that entered as the 12-seed will do that. There was no sugarcoating this one after it was over. The scoreboard said it all.
“We got our butts kicked today in all facets of the game,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “They outworked us, outplayed us and out-executed us. At the end of the day, we got our butts kicked today.”
For whatever reason, the Flyers came out with a flat start. For the first time in any game since the Round Robin game, they trailed, just 1:02 in. They never recovered.
Montreal just kept pressuring and enforcing their will on the forecheck. It forced the Flyers into careless mistakes with the puck and had them out of sorts without it. It was a team that didn’t look ready to get on the ice for the second game of a playoff series.
“There’s no doubt that Montreal’s will tonight to play the right way and to do the right things was much higher than ours,” Vigneault said. “At this time of the year with the importance of the game, you certainly don’t expect that. At the end of the day, we’re going to have to turn the page, move on and get ready for the next one because there’s no doubt that they’re ready.”
Part of the problem is certainly a lack of scoring. The Flyers outscored opponents in the Round Robin, 11-3, but didn’t get much in terms of offensive contributions from their Top 6. They scored just twice in Game 1. Jake Voracek scored the first on a deflection on the power play. The other went to Joel Farabee. That’s still no goals from their top five goal scorers in the regular season.
Vigneault noted that at this time of year, you need your top players to be your best players, something that has yet to happen in the playoffs.
“There’s no doubt that in any time, whether it be in-season hockey or playoff hockey, you need your top players to be driving the bus. Right now, I know that their intentions are good, but it has to transform itself on the ice surface,” Vigneault said. “Tonight, the total team was off. We hadn’t had one of those in a long time. We’ve been playing some pretty good hockey lately. At the same time, we picked a bad time to play a bad game, but we did.”
It’s fair to wonder what exactly the mentality was for the Flyers heading into Game 2. They had won Game 1, but it wasn’t near their best performance. They looked like a lost team in Game 2, certainly not a team that belonged among the final 16 teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Montreal is a team that wasn’t even supposed to be here, but they have taken the opportunity, bonded as a team and ran with it. Is it possible that the Flyers underestimated this team?
“I don’t think we underestimated them. It’s pretty clear that they’re at a higher level than we are right now,” Matt Niskanen said, “so we’ve got to ramp it up here. We’ll be better at the next game.”
You have to go back to January to find the last time the Flyers lost back-to-back games. They haven’t had a loss as bad as this since a loss in early February to the Devils by the same 5-0 score. Nearly every time they have had a loss like this, they have bounced back. They need to do it again to reclaim control on this series.
“I like our group. We believe in our abilities. We got guys that are hungry for success,” Niskanen said. “We had a bit of a blunder today. We’ll learn from it quickly. Get excited and our energy up for the next game. I know we’ll play better.”
“Playoff hockey is about winning four games. Right now, the series is tied 1-1. We’re going to need to be a lot better,” Vigneault said. “I saw towards the end of the game there, where Kirk Muller there got a 5-0 lead and he put his No. 1 power play on the ice. We had embarrassed ourselves enough. I don’t think we needed to get embarrassed more. I’m going to make sure our team is very aware of that next game.”