The bare burgundy seats, long since emptied via mass exodus in the final 10 minutes, painted a fair enough picture.
When the final horn sounded on Saturday afternoon, the Wells Fargo Center was nearly as lifeless as the Flyers’ effort in Game 1 against the Bruins. As such, the lower bowl looked more like a preseason game against the Islanders in September rather than a second round playoff game.
And so, the Flyers now trail the Boston Bruins one game to none in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Stop us if you’ve heard that before. This time, after a 7-3 shellacking that Claude Giroux may have described best:
“It’s more of our loss than their win,” Giroux said. “I think we kind of game them the win.”
Both teams were coming off of emotional, Game 7 wins earlier in the week to skate into the second round. The Flyers, in fact, had an extra day of rest. And yet they played flat – from the drop of the puck – starting in a hole just 1:52 into the contest.
Mike Richards said the Flyers weren’t physical enough, even though they officially outhit the Bruins, 26-20, on the scoresheet. That was just a part of the problem.
They weren’t physical enough in the right areas, most importantly in front of starter-du-jour Brian Boucher. They did not take care of the puck the same way they had in round one against Buffalo, blatantly turning the puck over as if it were a grenade on their stick.
“It wasn’t very good [Saturday], the defensive play,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Especially, you know, right in front of our goaltender. Too many easy goals, too many easy plays, we weren’t strong enough right in front of our goaltender.”
Make no mistake, Boucher was not much better. He was yanked after 36 minutes and 5 goals against, making way for Sergei Bobrovsky. It was the fourth time in just eight playoff games that the Flyers have replaced their starting goaltender.
Laviolette was quick to not pin the blame on Boucher, who allowed 5 goals on 23 shots.
“Certainly, you don’t want to do that,” Laviolette said, “But I think that just based on the way we played in front of our goaltender, we as a team deserve all of the responsibility as far as that goes.”
That didn’t stop Boucher from taking his part. All-time, the Flyers are now 0-6 in Game 1s against Boston.
“As a goaltender, I’m responsible for stopping the puck and when they get by me, I take responsibility,” Boucher said. “I don’t think any of us played particularly well. There were some plays where I was able to make the first save but not able to make the second one. It wasn’t our best effort and that’s just the way it goes.”
Despite not having their “A” game on Saturday afternoon for Game 1, regardless of reason, the Flyers had a chance to make things interesting in the third period when trailing 5-2. After whiffing on a power play with 12 minutes to play, they blew a 56 second two-man advantage before Richards could finally solve Tim Thomas.
Scoring twice in that sequence would have made the Bruins think.
Instead, Brad Marchand netted his second goal of the afternoon just 1:57 later. Laviolette said his team needed to play much better than to even think about those moments as a possible “turning point” in Game 1.
“The 60 minutes that we played, it was hard to get a turning point anywhere in there,” Laviolette said. “It was an opportunity for us to get back into the game. Turning points, I think, are when you are competitively involved in the game and something all of the sudden goes south or doesn’t go your way, that’s a turning point.”
Monday night’s Game 2, back at the Wells Fargo Center, could be a turning point in the seven-game series. Or not.
And while the goaltending carousel will rage on, even though our gut is that Laviolette will stick with Boucher as the Flyers try to even the series, the truth is that it wouldn’t matter who would play in net on Monday if they continue to invite the Bruins into their living room.
“We could’ve been better as a group,” Richards said. “Defense is played by 5 guys on the ice and the goaltender. We left our goaltender out hanging [Saturday]. We weren’t playing really well.”
Both Boucher and Richards used the ‘it’s just one game’ mentality that has plagued the Flyers all season. What may be most frustrating, after Game 7s dominant win over Buffalo, is that once you think you have this team figured out, they never cease to stop dumbfounding.
“We come off one of our strongest performances in a while, come out and we don’t have a good game,” Laviolette said. “That’s not the way we need to play in order to be successful. Everything’s got to change.”
History, especially recent history, can change pretty quickly. This year’s Bruins team doesn’t look like the bunch that is going to squander a two or three game lead again.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers
Get exclusive videos and analysis in our new app for iPhone and Android. Download it here.