The Flyers had an early-season homestand against three teams _ Washington, Pittsburgh and Anaheim _ that look like Stanley Cup contenders.
It was a chance for the Flyers to make a statement, a chance to show they belong among the NHL elite.
So what did we learn?
That the Flyers, despite the trade for star defenseman Chris Pronger, are still a work in progress.
The Flyers went 1-1-1 in those games.
At times, they looked like they could play with any team in the league. Like in the first period of Saturday’s 3-2 shoot-out loss to Anaheim.
In the first 20 minutes, the Flyers tightened up their defense and allowed the Ducks few scoring chances. They outshot Anaheim, 14-7, got solid goaltending from Ray Emery and a power-play goal from Mike Richards.
But there have also been times when the Flyers lose focus. Like when they allowed three goals (on nine shots) in the second period against Washington on Tuesday _ or like when they collapsed at the end of Saturday’s game.
They coughed up a 2-0 lead in the final 6:44 of regulation, allowing Teemu Selanne to score twice and tie the game at 2-2. Selanne’s second goal was scored with 16 seconds left in regulation after he took a slick circle-to-circle pass from Scott Niedermayer.
But Ryan Getzlaf made the play, keeping the puck in the zone near the blue line and feeding Cherry Hill’s Bobby Ryan (plus-2), who then fed Niedermayer.
The 39-year-old Selanne was the only player to score in the shoot-out. But his biggest goal was the one that forced OT.
“Getzlaf keeping the puck in like that was a huge play,” said Selanne, who has 583 career goals. “Scotty got the puck and I can’t believe how open I was. I just tried to sneak behind there and a guy like Scott _ if you get open, you know the puck is going to come _ so I was very happy to see the puck go in.”
Selanne’s late heroics ruined what had been a perfect script for Pronger, who celebrated his 35th birthday and scored his first goal as a Flyer. Against his former teammates, no less.
“At this stage, we have to look at it as a learning experience,” Pronger said of the late-game collapse. “It sucks to lose…We’ve played good enough to win, but we haven’t. We’re doing a lot of good things, but it’s the little intangibles, thing like getting pucks out at critical times in periods….Things that championship teams do, day in and day out, we need to get to. We’re a young team and need to learn that.”
They also need to figure out a way to win shoot-outs. The Flyers were 0 for 3 in the shoot-out Saturday as Danny Briere, Richards and Simon Gagne were stopped. They have a 12-25 shoot-out record in the franchise's history.