I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it needs to be reiterated – the shootout is terrible.
Coaches hate it. Players hate it – both shooters and goalies. And either the voices on social media are a 140-character wielding vocal minority, or they are indicative of NHL fans. And if it’s the latter, they hate it too.
Sure it probably sounds like sour grapes, especially appearing on a website of a team that just lost in the shootout for the second game in a row and for the seventh time in 10 tries this year and for a team that has never had a winning record in the shootout.
And it’s fair of you to think that.
But, more than anything, it was a deflating result to two superb hockey games this week.
Try to tell me fans wouldn’t rather see five more minutes of action between the Flyers and Bruins. Try to tell me a 0-0 hockey game through 65 minutes deserves to be determined by a skills competition.
And seriously, don’t you think some teams play for the shootout once a game reaches a certain point because they like their odds in a breakaway competition more than the other guy?
Never mind the extra point that suddenly gets attached to games and the standings logjam it creates, especially with teams who don’t deserve to be in the competition for a playoff spot.
What you’re getting is hard-fought games between elite teams – and by now, if you still haven’t recognized the Flyers as an elite team, then you never will – battling for playoff position, home ice, and the best record in the league.
I mean here are the Flyers showing you they can play any which way a game can go.
For the first time in franchise history, they played consecutive games against two 50-win teams. And while the Flyers didn’t win either, they took both teams to the brink, only to lose in this ridiculous post game exhibition.
First it was the 4-3 loss to Boston that was played at an amazing physical pace (87 combined hits) in which the Flyers got 52 shots on goal in 65 minutes.
This was followed by a 1-0 loss to St. Louis in which defense and goaltending ruled the day – which was even more impressive for Flyers fans since it was a defense without it’s stalwart leader Kimmo Timonen who was sidelined with an upper body injury, and goaltending by the backup Ray Emery, who, despite the loss, is credited with his 16th career shutout.
You want to play physical hockey? The Flyers are ready. You want to play a game with wide open offense and lots of shots? The Flyers are ready. You want to play a lock-it-down, ugly, defense-oriented game? The Flyers are ready.
That’s what really needs to be taken from two consecutive shootout losses. Not the fact that they lost those games. They did that in name only.
Instead, they took the best shots from the two best teams in the sport and played them evenly.
And now, they are 6-2-2 in the past 10 games, part of a 12-game stretch that was supposed to be treacherous.
That hurdle has already bean leapt over.
Now, the magic number for clinching a playoff spot is down to six points – either earned by the Flyers or lost by Washington. It would take an epic collapse to not get in at this point –and with the way this team is playing, that’s not going to happen. So book that.
The next task is getting home ice advantage, if possible, against New York. That will be a little tougher for sure, but it’s still within their control. Win the extra two games against Buffalo and Carolina at Wells Fargo Center and play even with the Rangers in the other five games, and it’s done.
Then, start the playoff journey.
It’s a path these Flyers are prepared to take. They’ve been playing playoff hockey for months now. And the fact that they are playing the way they are against the best the league has to offer, you have to feel confident don’t you?
If you’re not, I blame the shootout. Because if these games were ties, or wins with further overtime being played, and not losses, you’d almost certainly feel that much different.
Thanks for listening.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers