Saturday, April 11, 2015

Philadelphia Flyers: Season finale calls for off-season preview

A generally listless first period was seen as the Philadelphia Flyers hosted the Ottawa Senators at the Wells Fargo Center. A generally full crowd applauded the season-ending team awards, reaffirming organizational excellence on the public relations side of the ledger. Yet, what happens for (at least) 60 minutes, 82 times per season is why the franchise exists. And, a third Stanley Cup parade still appears to be a dream in April 2015.

The late-Gene Hart, who called both Stanley Cup victories (1973-74, 1974-75), always ended his broadcasts with a phrase that became his signature. But, I'll save this finale homage for later in this post.

Final game overview

Mark Stone's power play goal came at 6:06. The easy tap into the half-yawning net symbolized many tallies seen this season. Steve Mason had no shot to stop the puck due to his own misplay, which was a rarity. Often, his own defense let him down this season. 

Matt Read's eighth tally of an injury-filled season tied the game at 1-1 at 1:23 into the second period. But, a later-second frame goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau gave Dave Cameron's team the lead again. Stone's second goal of the game, midway through the third, sealed the Flyers' fate. 

The end-game celebration was all Ottawa in the Flyers' house, as the Senators are heading to the playoffs next week. 

So, Philadelphia finishes the season 33-31-18 (84 points). The ten point drop from 2013-14's mark (42-30-10, 94 points) is telling.

Inherited issues, to a degree

The squad Berube inherited, after Peter Laviolette's quick pink slip was received three games into the season, finished ninth overall in team offense. Defensively, they finished twentieth in the League. This year the Flyers' offense ranked twenty-second, their defense placed twenty-fourth.

Berube noted after the game that everyone is responsible for wins and losses. So, with that, he assumes partial ownership of this season's outcome. Whether general manager Ron Hextall decides to replace Berube with his own guy 
remains to be seen.

Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Steve Mason and a handful of other players form a decent core that needs to be supplemented by developing prospects (when they are ready) and key veterans up front and on the blue line. 

Last summer's moves, especially the trade of Scott Hartnell, hurt short-term goal scoring. But, that move, along with the in-season deals of Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn were made with the long view in mind.

Reasonable projections

As for next season, further moves that open the way for a volume of Flyers' prospects are sure to be attempted, if not completed, before the puck drops next season. Along with the annual NHL draft and the addition of some veteran players, the off-season is sure to provide further intrigue.

Good night Gene

At the end of every game, Hart would offer what came to be his signature verbal signoff. When it was uttered at any season's final game, which came most-often after a playoff series ended, the words were bittersweet. And so, it's fitting that the last 2014-15 regular season Insight post ends by quoting that kind-hearted, beloved hockey man. "Good night and good hockey."


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