One game. In the scheme of an 82 game season, there’s no reason to overreact to a single loss.
Then again, we learned a hard lesson in the 09-10 season when the Flyers made the playoffs with a shootout win in the last game of the season. In that scenario, it was easy to understand the importance of 2 measly points and we opened ourselves up to the ability to react. And the first reaction to the first loss of the 13-14 NHL season is that we can’t rely on the Flyers for comebacks.
When the Flyers fought to rectify a 0-3 deficit against the Boston Bruins in the 2010 playoffs, then overcame the same margin in the seventh game of the series, they were labeled ‘The Comeback Kids’. Laviolette made waves as one of the best timeout coaches in the league when his ability to interpret the flow of energy in a game occasionally saw him taking a timeout in a first period. And it wasn’t a biased, anecdotal perception: in the 10-11 season, the Flyers’ collective CORSI score, which utilizes on-ice statistics to judge puck possession and shot attempts, showed that the Flyers were taking 75% of the shots on net in the two minutes following a Laviolette timeout, which is incredible.
What a difference a few years makes.
In the 12-13 season, the Flyers sacrificed 6 one-goal games in their 25 losses, and three of those were in overtime. Pundits often argue that one-goal games are the ones you have to win, and I don’t disagree, but when 12 of those 25 losses are by three or more goals, there are much bigger problems. Statistically speaking, last season the Flyers were more likely to get blown out than lose a squeaker. But that’s not even close to the scariest statistic.
When Dave Bolland scored for the Maple Leafs 2:30 into the third period of the season opener, I knew the Flyers were going to lose the game. If I had a black armband to signify their demise, I would have donned it. I felt horrible; seventeen minutes and thirty seconds left for the Flyers to tie it, which could potentially happen by accident in that amount of time, and I was ready to give up. I was screaming at coach Peter Laviolette through the TV to take his timeout. I felt insane. I tried to convince myself I was being pessimistic. I couldn’t. I tried to revive the murmuring pulse of hope that I used to feel in every game. I had flatlined. I tried to dismiss this feeling as irrational. Then I looked at the statistics.
Last year, the Flyers lost 11 of their 25 games as a result of their play in the third period, overtime, or the shootout. That’s almost half of their losses where they were leading or tied at the start of the third period and lost. Flabbergasted, I looked into the statistics of the 11-12 season. The Flyers had the third-most points in the East, going a very respectable 47-26-9. They also lost 12 of those 39 non-wins when leading or tied after two periods, which accounts for more than a third of their losses.
And it happened again tonight.
As with most statistics, it occurred to me that I could be misusing my sample set. I went back to the 12-13 season and worked with the inverse; which games did the Flyers win in the third period, overtime, or shootout when they were losing or tied at the end of the second period? The answer was six, meaning about 75% of the time, the Flyers won because they maintained a lead they built earlier in the game.
As early as the 2012 playoffs, the Flyers were eager to shed their rallying moniker. It’s safe to say that ‘The Comeback Kids’ have left the building, and they’ve been gone for some time: Chris Pronger with his influence and shut-down ability, Mike Richards with his determination and leadership, and Jeff Carter with his knack for scoring game-winning goals. Their replacements? ‘The Letdown Lineup’, though these days, that could be any team in South Philadelphia.
But it was the first game of the season.
The innumerable possibilities presented by the skilled athletes on the Flyers roster, particularly the improvements of a startlingly talented collection of young players and prospects, make each game worth watching. There will be hot streaks and cold streaks for both individuals and the team. Someone will step up, and someone will disappoint. The fans will complain after each loss and celebrate after each goal. We watch sports because there’s nothing like live entertainment with an uncertain outcome, and even when you think you know what’s going to happen next, someone is ready to prove you wrong by showing why they’re a professional athlete. And that’s hockey.
But if the Flyers surrender a tie-breaker early in the third period, be ready with that black armband.
Topics: Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Comeback Kids, Flyers, Flyers Lose, Ice Hockey, Jeff Carter, Kimmo Timonen, Letdown Lineup, Maple Leafs, Mike Richards, Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers, Scott Hartnell, Season Opener