TAMPA – Glass half-empty synopsis of Saturday’s wildness: The Flyers twice blew two-goal leads, were sloppy defensively, and goalie Peter Mrazek was shaky in a 7-6 shootout loss to Tampa Bay.
Glass half-full synopsis: The Flyers played with a lot more energy than in Thursday’s listless 4-1 home loss to Carolina, salvaged a point on Claude Giroux’s late goal in regulation against the NHL’s best team, and now have points in 13 of their last 14 games.
Hey, when you have played as well as the Flyers have over the last three months, you deserve to look at the positives.
Their offense, which had been stuck in neutral the previous two games, finally started clicking.
Maybe they should have played a more conservative style when they pushed the lead to 5-3 on Ivan Provorov’s goal early in the third period. But the run-and-gun continued and, well, that played into Tampa Bay’s hands.
Still, all things considered, it was an important point, one that put the Flyers in a first-place tie in the Metropolitan Division, pending Washington’s game against visiting Toronto on Saturday night.
If a team is judged solely on its ability to overcome adversity, the Flyers are among the NHL’s elite.
Since their 10-game winless streak ended Dec. 4, they are 26-9-4 for 56 points. Only Boston has more points in that span.
It is also worth noting that when the Flyers play a clunker – as they did Thursday against Carolina – they generally rebound in the next game. That’s a testament to the team’s leadership and coaching.
The Flyers have lost 11 games this season by three goals or more. In previous years, that would have started a tailspin. But they are 5-3-3 this season in the next game after a blowout loss.
“It’s the resiliency of the group,” coach Dave Hakstol said after the Flyers fired 43 shots, the fourth-most against Tampa Bay this season. “We know we didn’t play well a couple of nights ago, and I’m sure you saw in the demeanor of the players that it doesn’t sit very well. It’s not just about the loss. It’s about the overall performance, and that wasn’t us the other night.”
With just 17 regular-season games left, the Flyers know they can’t afford many off nights if they are going to win the Metro and get a more favorable first-round playoff matchup – at least on paper.
“As we go through this road trip and start this next stretch,” said Hakstol, whose team will face dangerous Florida on Sunday afternoon, “we’ve got to raise our level quite a bit from where we were the other night. We just wanted to get back to it tonight, and I thought our guys did that.”
One guy who didn’t get back to his previous level was Mrazek. The Flyers need him to play like he did in his first three games (a total of four goals allowed) with his new team, and not the way he did in the last two (a total of 10 goals allowed).
Hakstol wouldn’t commit when asked if he would go with Mrazek again Sunday or give rookie Alex Lyon his first start since Feb. 20.
Mrazek, acquired from Detroit the night before Lyon’s last start, was hard on himself after the game and said he let down the team.
And, yes, he would like to play Sunday and redeem himself.
“It’s a decision that Coach is going to make,” he said. “I played three or four back-to-backs this year and I felt pretty good in those, so I don’t mind those games.”
Mrazek has been mediocre when playing in back-to-back games this season, going 0-2-1 with a 3.00 goals-against average and .908 save percentage behind a weak Detroit defense.
Then again, it won’t matter who plays in the nets Sunday if the Flyers don’t clean up their defensive mistakes. They gave away the puck too often Saturday and allowed too many odd-man rushes.
That’s not a glass-half-empty synopsis. That’s a realistic one.