FFR2 Gm 40: PHI 3, LA 5 - Dropped the Ball
New Year's Resolution for the Flyers: don't be bad.
If only it were that simple. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 5-3, to the Los Angeles Kings. The first half of this road trip is complete, and the Flyers have somehow only picked up two of a possible six points. The Sharks, Ducks, and Kings are all bottom five in the NHL; the Golden Knights, Coyotes, and Hurricanes, who the Flyers face next, are all top fifteen.
Did I mention that they play league-best Washington the very next day after this road trip ends?
Look, I'm not happy about the Flyers right now, and you shouldn't be, either. The Flyers came out completely flat in a game they needed to win and found themselves down 4-0 after 20 minutes, thanks to two goals for the LA Kings power play, which entered the night 30th in the NHL, and another scored short-handed. The Flyers were out of the game less than eight minutes in when they fell behind 3-0; they wouldn't cut the deficit to two until there were less than three minutes remaining in regulation.
But without watching a single second of this game, or any of the highlights (though they were mostly lowlights this night), the message to take from this game is clear; this is analysis a decade in the making. The Flyers were just beaten by an inferior team with a goalie sporting a sub-.900 save percentage (though, in fairness, Jonathan Quick's talent level is way above that). Their penalty kill stunk. They gave up a shortie. The goalie was pulled at the end of the first period. Claude Giroux was one of the few big guns to find the scoresheet. Could you not dream of a better summary of the 2010s Flyers than this?
This is the way this decade HAD to end. There was simply no other option. This is the culmination of seven and a half seasons of mediocrity - four ended in early April, three less than two weeks later. That stretch was preceded by two outstanding regular season clubs that burned out in the second round, and they were preceded by a unique club with the same mediocrity of the latter years of the decade but a thousand times more clutch. They came up just short of ending what has swelled to the fifth longest Cup drought in the NHL.
But here's the beautiful part: none of that matters. The last ten years don't mean anything to the Flyers anymore. It's the next ten years that mean the world to this organization, none more so than this season. There are still 42 games remaining. The Flyers aren't in a playoff spot by much. But they are in a playoff spot, on pace for their first one-hundred point campaign since 2011-12.
The 2019 part of the 2019-20 Flyers season played out almost exactly like the nine years of this decade that came before it. But there is no precedent for the 2020 section. No stupid stereotypes, sarcastic nicknames, or incompetent players to define 2020 on and off the ice for the Orange and Black. It's up to the current group of players, coaches, and management to begin writing the story that will define the next decade of Flyers hockey.
The 2010s were unlike any decade the Flyers have experienced before, sometimes for better, often for worse. Will the 2020s continue it, or will the Flyers return to the greatness of the mid-1970s when the team didn't just become a perennial Cup contender, they brought home the first and only two Cups in franchise history? Perhaps they will end up somewhere in the middle. Maybe they will reach levels of futility never seen from the Flyers over a consistent stretch. Only time will tell.
The journey to greatness won't be easy. It will likely be full of growing pains and hard lessons. Perhaps Tuesday night was one of those. But the Flyers have achieved success from far worse situations than the one they are in right now. This is an incredibly talented group filled with star power up front, a strong defensive core, and the best goalie they've iced in thirty years. They have one of the most qualified and respected coaching staffs in the NHL. The chance for success is present. All the Flyers have do is the one thing they were unable to achieve in the 2010s - seize it.
We have arrived in a new era of Philadelphia Flyers hockey. The possibilities for where it will go are truly endless. The 2020s will be the most important decade, because it is now the decade the team is in. The heartbreak and underachieving of the last ten teams that came before them cannot be fixed. What can be is the team that took the ice Tuesday in Los Angeles. I don't think anything major needs to be done to achieve that. After all, for most of the season, the Flyers have looked ready to take a step forward. That was a common theme during the 2010s. The 2020s will be all about what that next step truly is, and whether or not it is attainable.
It's time to choose, Flyers. Crush or crumble. All or nothing. Now or never. Fly. Or. Die.