Flyers

Flyers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Earlier this month, it was the crusher in Calgary.

Now, just two and a half weeks later, we have the fiasco in Florida.

Good teams simply don’t wilt like the Flyers have time and time again. The Panthers, playing on back-to-back nights, got an unthinkable game-winning goal Saturday from Jonathan Huberdeau with 1:06 remaining in regulation to beat the Flyers, 2-1 (see observations).

It wasn’t so much what they did, but rather how they did it — on a set breakout from behind their own net. 

“When that happens," interim head coach Scott Gordon said, "you have to get into your routes and get into position, and they just took off.”

Somewhat confusing prior to the breakout was the positioning of the Flyers' personnel. Their best defensive forward and best defender on the ice, Sean Couturier, was stationed just in front of the Panthers' crease, roughly 180 feet away from his own net. 

You would think Couturier would have been better served near the blue line to cover any odd-man rush against the Panthers' most dangerous line. Once Jakub Voracek failed in his attempt to pick off the pass between the Panthers' blue line and the red line, you could sense the doom. 

“As soon as they fired it up the boards, they took off,” Gordon said. “I know we were in between, and I think Jake tried to pick it off on the wall and it got by him, and that’s how it happened. It’s a bit of a hope play by them. We don’t come up with it and it’s a 3-on-2 and maybe a potential icing.”

 

With Aleksander Barkov and Huberdeau on the ice, it’s also a potential backbreaker. Voracek couldn’t recover in time, Couturier was too far away from his own net and Wayne Simmonds was still at the Panthers' blue line when the puck entered the Flyers' zone. 

Radko Gudas did a good job of riding the Panthers' lightning-quick winger Evgenii Dadonov out of the play, but once he left the puck for Barkov, it was tic-tac-toe — game over.

“I think we shot ourselves in the foot there. We had the game under our control there,” Gudas said. “We just collapsed. We just have to pay more attention to the details. A controlled breakout ends up in our net, that’s unacceptable especially with a minute left in the game.”

It felt like that Flames game all over again when the Flyers executed a series of breakdowns that led to Sean Monahan’s goal with seven seconds remaining, and once again, it was another outstanding effort from the goaltender that went wasted.

This may be Carter Hart’s biggest psychological challenge if he stays in Philadelphia for the remainder of this season.

“I felt confident in the net,” Hart said. “I saw the guy up top, Barkov, and then I saw Huberdeau on the back door as well. I think he just got it up over me on the glove side. Obviously, I’ll look at things tomorrow and review the game. I think I just need to bear down a little bit harder.”

I’m not sure how Hart bears down any harder than the effort he provided his teammates, stopping 34 shots and pitching a shutout through the first 53 minutes, but therein lies the concern for a 20-year-old rookie who deserved a much better fate.

Hart wants to shoulder the blame and take responsibility. On this team, that’s a tremendous load to carry. 

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