The irony of the Flyers winning their last four games is that they wound up with a winning record, 23-22-3.
But as enigmatic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said when asked what that would mean, that’s not what they set out to do.
“We are not going to make the playoffs,” said Bryzgalov, who started 35 of the first 37 games. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re two games below or two games above .500.”
There are plenty of reasons the Flyers are on vacation despite finishing third in the league on the power play. The most obvious ones are the myriad of injuries.
Before the season expectations ran high, largely based on the way the Flyers had taken out the Penguins in the playoffs. Playing a shortened season, with a young and talented roster, was supposed to help them.
“I thought we had a team that was going to be in the playoffs, a team that was going to do some damage,” said Danny Briere.
Fixing the Flyers
How do the Flyers pick up the pieces from a season they may wish never was and make their way back among the NHL’s elite? Will it take just a tweak here or there?
Or do they need a major overhaul, starting at the top with the coach and GM, and then sifting through the rubble of underachievers and players eating up cap space?
That may not bode well for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, winger Danny Briere and injury-prone defenseman Andrej Meszaros. By the time they reconvene in Voorhees for training camp next September they’ll surely have a different look.
Keeping Paul Holmgren in charge to put it together, while Peter Laviolette gets to play mad scientist with the new pieces, still seems likely considering the oddities of the shortened season. It’s never a certainty when you have an impatient boss like Ed Snider.
The Flyers most dire need remains a defenseman who can handle the puck and get it out of the zone against a persistent forecheck. It probably won’t come through the draft, thanks to a 4-0 finish that bumped them over three clubs.
And with a soft free agent market, they’ll likely have to go the trade route. Don’t be surprised if No. 1 target is still Nashville’s Shea Weber. The club may be willing to part with him after missing the playoffs.
They’ll probably go after a veteran forward, too, like the Devils’ David Clarkson. Of course, that could depend on if Briere returns.
But one area where the Flyers suddenly look strong is in goal — even if they send Bryzgalov packing. Former Rookie of the Year Steve Mason was a revelation the last two weeks, while flashing the kind of form that can steal victories.
For the Flyers to prove this lockout-induced season was a fluke and they truly belong with the top clubs, they’ll need more consistent play across the board.
What went wrong?
Expectations were extremely high for the Flyers coming into the 2012-13 season. What went wrong? We attempt to figure that out.
The kids didn’t grow up: Coming off strong rookie seasons, forwards Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Brayden Schenn were supposed to pick up where they left off. Especially since Couturier and Schenn were permitted to play for the AHL Phantoms during the lockout, while Read was over in Europe. It didn’t happen.
Road kill: The last two seasons the Flyers won 25 games on the road and fared better in enemy rinks than at home. This year was a different story. While the Flyers certainly weren’t world beaters at home, the reason their season is over is mainly due to a 8-15-1mark on the road.
Third-period blahs: Whether it was lack of conditioning or simply lack of talent, compounded by a string of injuries, the third period was the Flyers’ Achilles heel. Not only did opponents outscore them 52-36 in third periods, but Peter Laviolette’s club went just 4-8 when tied after two periods.
Blame the inconsistent scoring. Blame the makeshift defense. Blame Ilya Brzgalov, who wore down from 22 consecutive starts. It all added up to disappointment.