Just days after Ilya Bryzgalov went out and said the Flyers were more or less finished this season if they got swept in their home-and-home by the division rival New Jersey Devils, his team went out and laid a serious egg in Newark, where stinkers that bad usually don’t get noticed because New Jersey smells bad and that’s the joke I’m doing.
The final score said 5-2 to the Devs, and that might not have even told the full story about how putrid Philadelphia was in the game. If New Jersey opening the score just 2:02 into the game was the first nail in the coffin for the Flyers’ season, Adam Henrique putting his team ahead just 37 seconds after Jake Voracek tied it midway through the first didn’t help at all. Ilya Kovalchuk’s shorthanded goal at 17:18 was probably just about it for Peter Laviolette’s prospects of taking a whack at turning the team around. The Flyers mustered just 14 shots over the final four minutes and ended the game with 25. A truly pathetic display.
After the game, the Flyers themselves said all the right things about how their performances in the last, oh I don’t know, 28 games are on them, and not their coach, in whom they still believe deeply and for whom they have nothing but the utmost respect. But the fact of the matter is that the old adage about not being able to fire the players stands true, and we have to be days, or even hours, from seeing Laviolette shuffling out of Wells Fargo Center with a box full of stuff from his desk in one hand and a ficus in the other. As with other teams which experienced colossally mismanaged offseasons (Detroit, Buffalo, etc.), the problems now being experienced on the ice are hardly the coach’s fault, but the axe dangles nonetheless above Laviolette, who otherwise has such a pedigree that you’d think it would be enough to save him from one bad season.
Philadelphia’s defense is held together with duct tape and the memory of Chris Pronger, and little more. Luke Schenn being out with the flu last night probably didn’t help, and Luke Schenn’s not that good. Bryzgalov has caught a lot of the blame for this failure, because that’s who Philadelphia writers decided long ago was the cause of all the team’s ills, and it’s not that he’s without fault, but the problems are so much deeper than just him that it’s reductionist at best and willfully ignorant at worst to hang all this around his neck like a particularly unfortunate ancient mariner.
The Flyers are behind the Islanders in the standings. That’s what it really boils down to, and Paul Holmgren, bad though he may be at his job, has a ready-made scapegoat in Laviolette. He hasn’t given the coach the fabled “Vote of Confidence” that often portends a firing, but if Bryzgalov’s ominous prediction is right then by this time next week we’ll be talking about new Flyers bench boss Lindy Ruff. And won’t that just be a hell of a lot of fun?
But if even Ruff isn’t able to turn this team around (and he isn’t!) then there’s always the amnesty buyout period this summer that’ll see the goalie go too. And if THAT doesn’t work, well, I’m sure Holmgren will come up with another person to blame.
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