Flyers might be doomed by 6:28 glitch

ASSOCIATED PRESS Peter Laviolette yells to Flyers players during the second period, when Winnipeg took control of the game.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Peter Laviolette yells to Flyers players during the second period, when Winnipeg took control of the game.
Posted: April 09, 2013

IT WAS THE BEST of times, and one bungling span of 6 minutes and 28 seconds in Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon made it the worst of times.

That hideous stretch of hockey, in which the Jets scored four times, wiped out a week's worth of penance when the Flyers had begun to capture the imagination of a city starving for a playoff berth.

A four-game winning streak and five-game points streak evaporated quicker than the thick haze in the mezzanine at Saturday's Fleetwood Mac show. The 4-1 loss killed any momentum the Flyers had gathered over their near-miraculous march through the schedule with a roster full of names we barely recognize.

With it went the Flyers' best shot at making the Stanley Cup playoffs since the first day of this whacked-out, shortened season. Before Saturday's game, the Flyers were a 22.3 percent shot to make it - with a chance to push it toward 30 with a win. Their probability heading into Monday? Just 12.1 percent.

"We sucked," Wayne Simmonds told reporters. "What do you want me to say? We reverted back to our old ways."

You could almost hear the Flyers' playoff hopes being flushed down a Manitoban toilet with that second-period dump . . . and chase. It wasn't just that the Flyers lost, but the Islanders and Rangers both won. Suddenly, the Flyers are five points back of a playoff spot with 10 games to play, a banged-up roster and three teams to jump over.

They still have a heartbeat. It's just faint.

There are two small benefits: One is that neither the Rangers nor the Islanders has distanced themselves from each other. The Flyers are five points back from one of two playoff spots.

The other benefit is that they play the eighth-place Islanders twice in these final 3 weeks of the season. That is a potential eight-point swing, which could ultimately be the difference between a long summer and an intriguing spring. Tuesday night will mark the Flyers' most important game at Nassau Mausoleum since the 1980s. Who'd have thunk it? Given their awful positioning in the standings 10 days ago, I'm sure not even the Flyers did.

Livin' on the edge

Watching the puck flutter across the blue line before Tobias Enstrom's blast hit Luke Schenn in the face on Saturday afternoon made me think of something Phantoms coach Terry Murray said recently.

"You have composite sticks, you've got rolling pucks, you've got bad ice, you've got players shooting one-timers who shouldn't be shooting one-timers," Murray told the Glens Falls Post-Star in New York. "One of the rules of all time is that you never shoot a rolling puck; you have to get a flat puck as a defenseman, because that's what happens.

"Those things are not even talked about anymore. Just shoot the puck."

The puck was clearly on its edge when it arrived on Enstrom's stick.

Luckily, Schenn - the Flyers' most important defenseman these days - was stitched up and returned to the game quickly. He was wearing a visor, which might have prevented a career-threatening injury. Rangers defenseman Marc Staal wasn't as lucky March 5 against the Flyers - and he still hasn't returned.

Honestly, I've never heard anyone even mention Murray's golden rule. While it is idealistic, it's just out of touch with reality. Players are diving - sometimes facefirst - at a ridiculous rate to keep the puck out of the net, even when shots are getting harder and faster. That didn't happen as often in the 1970s, when Murray played for the Flyers.

The art of shot-blocking is evolving, not devolving. And with the money on the line each game, asking players to show respect by settling a puck down - at the risk of not getting it on net - is out of the realm of possibility.

Alt signs

With the top talent on his Golden Gophers team bailing on their senior seasons, Minnesota defenseman Mark Alt felt little need to stay in school. The Flyers officially signed Alt to an entry-level deal over the weekend. He will report to the Phantoms.

Alt, 21, is a former second-round pick (2010) of Carolina and was acquired from the Hurricanes in January along with Brian Boucher.

Alt had a disappointing junior season, with a 15-point dropoff in offensive production, and he saw a decrease in playing time under coach Don Lucia. The top-ranked Gophers were upset by Yale in the NCAA Tournament. Nick Bjugstad, Nate Schmidt, Zach Budish and Erik Haula have all signed in the NHL.

The Flyers love Alt's athleticism. He is mobile, even at 6-3, and he was a star high school quarterback. Alt has the pedigree, too: His father, John Alt, was a two-time Pro Bowl tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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