Rich Hofmann: Flyers are doing everything but scoring

Posted: May 06, 2010

THERE ISN'T a lot to say, or ask. The scoreboard speaks of a 4-1 Flyers defeat to the Boston Bruins. History shrieks of the the Flyers' all-but-mathematical demise, down by three games to none. The players stick to their cliches like gum to the bottom of your shoe. And so, this column is written in that spirit, one sentence at a time.

The Flyers have a day to stew about their predicament before playing Game 4 and, as goaltender Brian Boucher said, "It's certainly not going to be chipper." They will attempt to steel themselves for the nearly impossible. They will try to keep looking ahead (so as not to wallow in what-ifs), but not too far ahead (so as not to be daunted by the enormity of the task). Neat trick, that.

But here's the problem (other than that pesky 3-0 deficit in the series): The Flyers played really well in the first two periods before the Bruins wrung the life out of the game with their neutral-zone trap in the third. Truth is, they played well enough to win either of the first two games in Boston - but they were better than that in the first two periods last night. They probably cannot play a whole lot better than that against the Bruins.

Try stomaching that if you are a Flyers player. It must be maddening when you watch somebody shake off your best punch.

"I thought we were just stormin'," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said, describing his team's first period. But it ended with the Bruins ahead, 2-1. They were good in the second period, too. But that also ended with the Bruins ahead, 2-1. The Flyers just haven't scored enough. Their intention in this series was to make up for the absences of injured scorers Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne with aggressive forechecking and balanced opportunism, hoping that a winning style would overcome a diminishing of their skill.

They got the secondary scoring from Arron Asham last night, but that was it. They got the forecheck going, but it wasn't enough. And there really aren't any options. Laviolette said he liked the way his team played and wouldn't change a lot, other than the not-scoring-enough-goals part. But, really, what can he do? The pieces he has are the pieces he has.

As Laviolette said, "We've got to get more from what we've got."

It was a game out of the Eric Lindros era, a playoff game in which the Flyers would dominate in shots and chances but still be unable to score enough in the end. The frustration of those times would be crushing, and this seemed so similar. Missed chance piled upon missed chance, and then the Flyers' sticks were just squeezed harder and harder. I looked down at one point last night half-expecting to see Mikael Renberg out there.

Back then, in another lifetime, the games would be decided by a puck crawling up John Vanbiesbrouck's arm or something and sneaking into the short side. This one was so eerily similar. The first goal the Flyers gave up was a wide shot that was redirected in front. The second goal happened when the Bruins' rush was unleashed because Dan Carcillo ended up being collateral damage on a great center-ice hit by Mike Richards on Boston's David Krejci. The third goal deflected off defenseman Chris Pronger's shoulder to a wide-open old buddy named Mark Recchi.

In between, though, the Flyers dominated. They had somewhere between double and triple the Bruins' good scoring chances, and 35 shots on goal to the Bruins' 20, and 71 attempted shots to the Bruins' 31. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was good, but the Flyers still let him off the hook too many times, unable to get to enough rebounds or generate enough traffic. And the Bruins, led by Zdeno Chara, were excellent in front, blocking 21 shots and steering wayward Flyers out of Rask's way.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda; loss, loss, loss. As Claude Giroux said, no matter how well you play, "In the end, you've got to produce."

But the Flyers didn't. Now, unless they are ready to buck some serious history, the only thing they still control is the length of their goodbye.

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