The Philadelphia Flyers, who are quickly becoming one of the league's worst teams despite a roster of much potential, got thrashed by the visiting Washington Capitals Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Led by a Joel Ward hat trick, the first of his six-year career, as well as a five-goal second period, the Capitals absolutely owned the Flyers tonight. Steve Mason had his first bad outing of the year, and was pulled in the second period after giving up three goals. Ray Emery, who is supposed to be the starter tomorrow night in New Jersey, was brought in to replace him, and subsequently gave up four goals, including a couple very soft goals. To add insult to injury, Alexander Ovechkin did not play tonight due to an injury – and the Capitals still won in dominating fashion.
Ironically, the Flyers came out looking very good in the first five minutes. Just 15 seconds into the game, the newly-acquired Steve Downie nearly got a goal off of Capitals starting goalie Braden Holtby. But at the end of the first period, the Capitals scored and things began going south for the Flyers. Nick Backstrom got the first goal on yet another play where the Flyers could not clear their zone.
It was just 1-0 heading into the intermission, but the massacre began shortly after the second period began. Three goals were scored in just over two and a half minutes by the Capitals, with Backstrom picking up his second of the night. Ray Emery came in after the first two Washington goals of the period, and quickly gave up a very soft goal to Backstrom. Emery would give up three more goals – two in the second and one in the third. This included two more goals for Capitals forward Joel Ward, who picked up his first career hat trick.
Trailing 6-0 going into the second period, the Flyers were out of the game. Emery allowed Ward's third goal five minutes into the period, and then a line brawl broke out. Wayne Simmonds began the fighting with Washington brawler Tom Wilson. While Simmonds and Wilson were tangled up, Ray Emery charged out of his crease and challenged Braden Holtby to a fight. Holtby did not comply at first, and the ref even tried to protect Holtby, but Emery persisted and broke through the ref's grasp and laid a beating on the Washington netminder. Emery's fight was possibly the only thing the Flyers won tonight.
Emery was tossed from the game due to his fight, forcing Steve Mason to come back into the game. Vinny Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn both ended up in fights of their own during some of the more exciting fight moments in the past couple of seasons. Things calmed down after this, and despite many Flyer chances in the second half of the third period, Braden Holtby was able to preserve his shutout, stopping all 28 Philadelphia shots.
There's nothing too complicated about this: the Flyers are as bad as they've been in a generation. Sorely underachieving offense and lackluster defense are the headlines, and the team is just not scoring with any consistency. They were absolutely dominated tonight by a paltry Washington Capitals team – their third line in particular – all without Alexander Ovechkin even in the lineup. Claude Giroux does not have a goal so far. Scott Hartnell doesn't even have a point. When they do play well, they cannot close out games. The team is in shambles, dropping to 3-9-0, and Craig Berube's replacement of Peter Laviolette does not seem to be making a difference at all.
What you're seeing, folks, is a bad, bad, bad Flyers team. Most younger generations can't remember many terrible Flyers teams (the 2006-07 team was an exception). They certainly have the talent and firepower to turn it around, but it seems like Berube, his staff, and even General Manager Paul Holmgren just cannot figure out how to make this team win. Perhaps a complete overhaul of the front office and coaching staff is needed, but that's something that does not just happen in the middle of a season. Trades of star players like Giroux or Hartnell may also be a smart move. For now, the only choice is to ride it out and hope the talent can be harnessed and come together at the same time to produce some wins. Points for the Flyers this year are about as abundant as water in a desert.
They'll take the ice tomorrow night in New Jersey to face the Devils, who are not much better than the Flyers. But after a game like tonight, any team in the league looks like a winner compared to the underachievers in orange and black who took the ice Friday evening.
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