The first goal was getting into the playoffs. Check.
The second goal was getting home ice advantage in the first round…. wait… ain’t happening.
Losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 Thursday assured that and now the Flyers will haaavvve to approach the playoffs the hard way – starting on the road in New York, Pittsburgh or Boston.
Not that the Flyers haven’t done things the hard way all season…
Nevertheless, this game was there for the Flyers. They had buckets full of chances. Anders Lindback looked like Dominik Hasek. The Tampa goalie was diving all over the place. He was out of position and still made big saves – or had his teammates making saves for him as defenseman Radko Gudas did twice.
“We had tons of chances,” said Wayne Simmonds in a televised interview. Simmonds scored a power play goal in the game. “That part of our game was there. He was pulling saves out of his butt there.”
The part of their game that wasn’t there was what Simmonds described as “bonehead plays.”
All four Tampa goals were the result of mistakes. The kinds of mistakes the Flyers weren’t making for a large portion of the season – at least not all in the same game.
It was a rough night for both Steve Downie and Scott Hartnell, both of whom combined for the three errors that led to three Lightning goals.
Downie made a low percentage pass in the neutral zone across the ice that became an odd man rush for Tampa and eventually a goal by Tyler Johnson.
Later, Downie lost track of his man – defenseman Eric Brewer – and Brewer was able to get the puck on his stick in a high percentage area and beat Ray Emery.
“It’s mistakes here and there,” Craig Berube said in a televised interview. “We can’t have mistakes like that.”
Hartnell took a tripping penalty late in the third period, which led to the insurance marker by Steven Stamkos on a tough angle shot.
It had to be a frustrating night for the Flyers, who controlled the play for a good portion of the game.
“I thought we were up today and competed real hard,” Berube said. “The first five minutes we turned the puck over a couple times and they got a goal there. But we played pretty good tonight. We just couldn’t finish tonight.”
The Flyers will have to find a way to finish if they want to avoid a first round matchup with the Boston Bruins.
The Flyers find themselves in a dead heat with both Wild Card teams – Detroit and Columbus – as all three teams have 91 points.
Currently, the Flyers hold the tiebreaker over both teams, but need to keep winning to prevent themselves from falling to that bottom spot that would draw the big, bad Bruins in the first round.
That makes this weekend’s final two games against Pittsburgh and Carolina quite important. Win both, and the Flyers are guaranteed to play the Rangers in the playoffs.
Lose both, and that Boston matchup looms without help from other teams. A split could bring any of three possibilities, including a possible matchup with the Penguins.
Needless to say, the Flyers just want to win those games for themselves more than anything involving who their playoff opponent could be.
Because after such a great effort to earn a playoff spot, a bit of a scuffle here in April can be a blow to the team confidence without success heading into the postseason.
Win the final two and that’s four of the last five… and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself.
Lose and… well… let’s not think about that right now.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers