The Philadelphia Flyers had a chance to move above the .500 mark, had a chance to climb within the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference. It didn’t happen Monday, however as the Flyers dropped a 4-2 loss to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
It marked the Flyers’ second loss in the month of February to Toronto. The Flyers are three games away from the midway point of this lockout shortened season, and the journey toward a post-season position is becoming more and more dire every day.
“We’re not going to make the playoffs if we keep playing like this,” Flyers Scott Hartnell told CSN Philly. “We talked about it after the game.
“If we don’t learn fast, as in Wednesday night [against Washington], it’s going to be a long season.
“Guys have to realize, every point counts…Game 20 or Game 30. We have to wake it up.”
Their opponents from Toronto, meanwhile, continue to occupy a playoff spot. The Leafs sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, and have won seven of their last 10 games, opening up a five-point cushion on the eighth-place Tampa Bay Lightning.
The motivation for Toronto’s effort in Philadelphia was a dramatic and disappointing 3-2 loss to their Ontario rivals, the Ottawa Senators, on Saturday.
“For us it was about flushing what happened, the scar from the other night,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle told NHL.com. “We wanted to make sure we could flush that with our effort. You have to give our guys credit, they battled. They came in and went toe to toe with a pretty good hockey team over there.”
Talk about getting thrown into the fire.
Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.
Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.
Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.
We’ll start to find out tonight.
Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.
— Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.
— Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.
— Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.
— Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.
— Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.
— Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.
Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.
“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly.
So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.
That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”
The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.
“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”
That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.
Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen