Practice has made the Flyers nearly perfect. They can flush the bad ones with the best of them.
You can blow them out, but so far they have blown right back. After getting flummoxed 7-0 by Washington, the next night they were airtight in a 1-0 win at New Jersey. After showing zero energy in a 3-0 home loss to the Devils, the nadir of their bad start, the Flyers next took it to Edmonton to start a 6-0-1 spurt.
Can you keep the 2013-14 Flyers down? Nah, they got resilience down.
After appearing to have one leg already on the plane home during a 7-2 loss at Chicago, one night later they buckled right down to squeeze Montreal 2-1, pulling off the trickiest motivation of them all, the first game back from the long road trip.
Bland would describe the 2-0 loss in Minnesota. Yet spirited would portray the victory that followed in Detroit, a hard place to win, evidenced by that one being only their second at Joe Louis since 1989. And though the Flyers never had the puck in a 6-1 loss to Boston, three days later they practically never gave it up in a 5-0 home blasting of the Red Wings.
Only once all season have the Flyers not followed up one of their stinkers with a win. After going down too easily, 5-1 in Dallas, they lost in Ottawa, but only in a shootout.
Point is, they have gotten at least a point every time they have needed a serious rebound.
They have copper-plated plumbing, do these Flyers, and now their industrial strength toilets will be tested again Saturday afternoon against the Rangers. Who, last time in, went down 2-1 at the Wells Fargo Center one game after the Flyers had been taken out by Vancouver 4-1.
This is a team at its best immediately following its worst, which is how, despite skids of 1-7 and 2-7-2, the Flyers are in third place in the division -- playoff position -- with 22 games remaining. Never mind that thanks to all these blowouts, a 30-24-6 team has given up nine goals more than they have scored, Craig Berube’s troops remain in the hunt while their hunt for the level of consistency needed to become a greater Stanley Cup threat continues.
Of course, a first-pair caliber defenseman who could get them out of their zone with more ease, would even out more of their highs and lows. That said, the Flyers have been solid enough back there for long enough stretches to make their M.O. strange and frustrating.
Their 10 wins after trailing at some point of the third period is a franchise record, but they might have even more comeback wins had they been able to hold themselves in more games.
As the Sharks, who remember were overwhelmed by a Flyer third-period in San Jose on February 3, went to the net at will in a 5-goal second period blitz Thursday night, it once again became a curiosity: Why does it so often takes the Flyers another game to compose themselves so well?
“That’s a good question,” said Berube. “I think we were ready tonight, thought our first period was okay, considering the layoff.
“Then, after they tied it up, it looked like we stopped competing.”
It would be easy to assume that the Flyers have gone as their goaltending has gone, but the only game where Steve Mason severely fought the puck was the one where his team rallied for three late goals to beat Columbus.
Thursday night Mason let in one bad boy, dropping Marc-Edouard Vlassic’s point shot that Joe Pavlelski converted to put the Sharks up by two. Until Mason was yanked in an attempt to shake out the Flyers’ cobwebs, their goalie spent the rest of his 32:01 in the net with his head on a swivel, looking through screens.
No, it hardly has been the goaltending. Typically when the Flyers are bad, it is most often because their defensive zone play is bad. Sharks were so uncovered in the slot that on two goals, they had time to stop point feeds and then turn around and fire. One careless stick foul by Michael Raffl that Pavlelski converted for a 2-2 tie seemed to change everything, but why would it?
Why does it seem to take a night to sleep on it for the Flyers to wake up?
“There is no (standings) room to go on a couple day-break.” theorized Mason, but the race is so tight, there probably will not be room to go on too many more one-period breaks either.
All that said, if the Flyers are not a lot better Saturday, the most surprised guy in the house will be their coach.
“This team has a lot of character,” said Berube. “I expect a big game against the Rangers, I really do.
“They are embarrassed, we’re all embarrassed tonight.”
No question, the Flyers do shame pretty well. But it would be a shame to miss the playoffs because they have to gas up with humiliation.
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