Philadelphia Flyers: Promise shown despite loss to Lightning

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Flyers suffered a 5-3 setback to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, but they managed to hang tough against an elite opponent.

Not all losses are created equal, although they look the same in the NHL standings (at least the regulation ones do) since you get zero points for them. Still, despite the bottom line of the Philadelphia Flyers coming away from their game with the Tampa Bay Lightning empty-handed, an important point was on display.

This Flyers team has it in them to compete with anyone in the league.

And yes, I’m surprised as you are that a dyed-in-the-wool Philadelphia fan like myself is thinking and writing those words after a loss, and about the Flyers no less. And this isn’t even a joke to set up the “here we go again” or “same old Flyers” narratives that we’re all so painfully used to.

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The fact is that, while there are a number of very good teams in the NHL right now, the Flyers have shown that they can keep up with any club. That doesn’t always translate to wins, and it sure didn’t on Saturday, but it’s a very encouraging sign for this season and the near future with this group of players and this coaching regime.

Saturday’s game was one that we’ve seen from the Flyers for years. They fell behind 2-0 in the first period and let their opponents carry the play. Honestly they were lucky to exit the period being down only two goals. Experience told you that this game wouldn’t end up being worth any more of your time, and that the Flyers would go on to lose somewhere in the realm of 6-1.

This projection seemed even more dead-on after the Flyers fell behind 3-0 early in the second. Facing the hottest team in the league in their building, the Flyers had good reason to pack it in, especially when you consider that they were playing their fourth game in six days. That’s 240 minutes of hockey in a span of less than 120 hours between Monday night and Saturday afternoon.

But the Flyers reminded us that things are different this year.

They finally beat Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy midway through the second period, the first time that they had solved him this year in nearly 90 minutes of game time. From that point forward, the Flyers carried the play, and it was only by the grace of Vasilevskiy that Tampa maintained its cushion.

Later, when Brayden Point struck in the third period to restore the Lightning lead to three goals once again, this game was definitely in the books. Nobody told the Flyers that, however, as they responded with a pair of quick goals to draw within 4-3. They couldn’t net the equalizer, of course, as the Lightning eventually tacked on an empty net goal to win 5-3. For the Flyers, the standings will show that this was just another loss.

But, more than that, it was a telling performance by the Orange and Black. They went toe-to-toe with the most stacked team in the league, and they carried the play for the second half of the game. In the end, the difference was yet another sluggish start by the Flyers, which you just can’t have against good teams. It’s a lesson that they need to learn quickly.

Nevertheless, aside from shaky starts like this one, the Flyers’ overall play has shown them to be entirely capable of giving any team a run for their money. On Saturday, the Flyers matched the Lightning in what turned into a pretty physical game, and they essentially fell short only because of goaltending, as Carter Hart did not play very well in the contest.

Next. The Flyers are really earning it this season. dark

The real concern will come into play if a trend develops where Hart plays excellently but the Flyers start losing 1-0 and 2-1 games. But, until that time, they can look at efforts like Saturday’s as an affirmation that they can beat anyone on any given night. Now the trick is to make sure that their efforts end up translating to points in the standings, because moral victories only get you so far.