Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another miserable end for Flyers

PHILADELPHIA - The first period ended Tuesday and the Flyers, all but one, marched to the dressing room, heads and championship hopes low. Only Ilya Bryzgalov seemed reluctant to budge.
By then, there was nothing for him to draw from another between-periods strategy session, even if Peter Laviolette would recommend playing with jam. By then, there was nothing to gain from the silence he would have heard from the teammates who'd just watched him pledge the ever-popular fraternity of embarrassed Flyers goaltenders: Kappa Season Poorly.

So, Bryzgalov remained motionless - not for long, just for a few telling seconds. And he gently laid his stick on top of the net, delayed some more, then skated slowly to dry land.
He's just wasted another early Flyers lead, and this time, there was no one else to blame … or even to attempt to blame. He'd just handed New Jersey Devil David Clarkson a puck and an support role in the next treasury of hockey bloopers, Clarkson responding by ping-ponging a two-foot shot past him and into the net.
That was the second Jersey goal within a span of 3:18, but the latest of several deflating, ridiculous postseason goals against the Flyers in their troubled history. Claude Lemieux beat Ron Hextall with one in the Spectrum in 1995. The Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane beat Michael Leighton with one in 2010 to win - what do they call it again? - oh, yeah, the Stanley Cup, which, as usual, the Flyers will not win this year either, not after a 3-1 loss to Jersey in the Wells Fargo that once again prevented that elusive “Hat Trick in '76.”
They will not win it because when they needed spectacular goaltending Tuesday, they got more of what they had through what quickly had become a mini-series: Decent goaltending, but losing goaltending. With Claude Giroux suspended for a game, chances were strong that they would struggle to score, and the Flyers did. But when Clarkson was allowed to score with a minimum of heavy lifting, the Flyers seemed to realize that beyond the necessary offense, they would not have championship-level goaltending, either.
Kimmo Timonen showed up at the morning skate Tuesday with a t-shirt that read, “Play Angry.” He seemed confused that he would be asked about the message. That's understandable, too. For ever since 1975, the only t-shirt that the Flyers ultimately wind up wearing in the spring says something like, “Wildwood Crest.” He probably just made an incorrect wardrobe choice and was embarrassed that it would be noticed.
“We have to play our system,” Timonen said. “The last few games, we haven't played our system. What's the reason for that? I don't know. Maybe guys are trying to do too much.”
The Flyers tried Tuesday, with Max Talbot scoring at 7:18 of the first. For a while, they would throw elbows and knees and Devils around. They seemed ready to force a Game 6. But even in a year when they demolished previous organizational policy and went all-in for a special goaltender, they would wind up only with a late-model Roman Cechmanek.
So another Flyers season ends, and with a searing, haunting image. How many have there been? There was Bob Clarke, often, caught standing in his VIP box, peering down on an emptying building, barely moving. There was Brian Boucher standing in the dressing room, blasting Bill Barber, the coach. There was Leon Stickle, not making a call. There was Eric Lindros skulking out of Joe Louis Arena.
The searing image of the Kane goal, of course, will be tough to top - particularly because it was unacceptably soft in an overtime of a Cup-deciding game. But it will take years - years, years and years - before Bryzgalov sheds the image of handing the puck to Clarkson in a 1-1 hockey game in such a charitable fashion that he should have been credited with an assist.
Of course, he is under contract to the Flyers for eight more years. So he can take his time.


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