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The Black Knight lost

Who doesn’t admire Monty Python’s Black Knight? That never-say-die, I-won’t-lie-down, no-quit-all-go attitude is something a hockey team needs to get the job done.  The thing is, the Black Knight did lose the fight.  He had all his limbs cut off, and–I don’t remember– did Arthur finally cut off his head, or just leave him there screaming at the Fates and all comers?  Anyway, he lost, because he ran out of resources to fight with.  But he was still valiant.

So I’m not at all disappointed with the Flyers this season, even less so with their performance in Detroit.  Maybe I’m star-struck, maybe I think too highly of the Red Wings, but consider who scored for the Wings tonight: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, some guy named Kronwall, with help from Lidstrom and that guy Zetterberg again.  Wow.  He must be pretty good, that Zetterberg.

Zetterberg made me think of the Road Runner once.   It was a playoff series against Phoenix, and he left several Coyotes sliding down the glass after they tried to hit him.  “Eyes in the back of his head” I thought.  And Holmstrom? His extra eyes are somewhere else, even more unusual and very useful for screening a goalie.  Sometimes Bertuzzi borrows them.

Yes, the Wings had MacDonald in net, not their white hot number one Howard.  But they’re still the Red Wings.  They did just fine even while Howard was a baby goalie struggling along to find his way.  The Flyers took some heat for poor defensive play.  Well, they managed to outshoot the Wings.  That’s something.  And it was still a one goal game.  I don’t think anyone was injured, so they didn’t lose any players.  Well done. A for effort.

Timonen scoffed at the idea that they team is still finding its legs with all the young players.  Yeah, yeah, they’re all in the NHL now, they need to step up.  The truth is, a number of those youngsters have been in and out of the lineup, up and down from the Phantoms, have never had a real chance to find their best game with the big club.

That isn’t a knock on the coaching decisions.  Lavy has the players he has, they need playing time, they’ll get what’s available, in Philly or Adirondack.  You can’t hurry experience.  You can try but you will fail.  Read and Schenn are a little different, but not much.  Read is older than most guys with his lack of NHL time.  Schenn has spent too much time out with injury to be as seasoned as he might otherwise be.  The Kings didn’t rush him.

So the Flyers are what they are.  They cannot be ready sooner just because we want them to be.  They can’t find their chemistry faster just because they have some vets who are running out of time.

Talbot and Simmonds have been surprisingly helpful but they’re not going to carry the team.  Jagr, no matter what he says, is still hurt and should sit the hell down for several games.  Briere just came off a concussion.  Giroux can sometimes carry the team, with a hand from Hartnell, but not very often.  He’s just one guy and a team with any sense is going to shut him down.  Which shuts the team down.

So with all that in mind, I don’t feel at all let down by the Flyers losing to the Red Wings tonight, as Detroit sought to tie a record for home game wins.  On top of everything else, their health and skill and discipline, the Red Wings are feeling damn good about themselves.  No way, no way the Flyers were going to run away with that game.  I don’t think many teams could have.  I’m not sure very many teams would even make it a one goal game.

The Flyers have a long road ahead, can expect more bumps and turns along the way.  They didn’t just lose top players in their prime (well… age-wise Carter should be) last season.  They lost familiar faces with an understanding of Lavy’s system and the personalities in the room and a lot of NHL games under their belts.  Hell, even dumping Versteeg is starting to look dumb now.  When the Flyers made that run to the Finals two seasons ago, they didn’t just have a lot of those pieces still around.  They also had a high comfort level with each other.  They knew how to find each other on the ice and off it.

The Flyers are trying to find that sync point, that groove, I believe they really are trying.  I also think they are figuring it out, but I don’t think they can figure any faster just because the season is winding down.  How long should it take?  Ask the Red Wings.  Check out their turnover rate, see how many guys they move each season.  That would be a good measure of how to get quick-fire chemistry each season.

In the mean time, I think the Flyers are doing just fine, better than fine.  You can’t expect miracles, that’s why they’re called miracles.  There’s no reason to spit or kick dirt in the face of reasonable progress.  Some ask if one trade or even a couple will “fix” this team.  I’d say no.  I don’t think it needs that much fixing, and a little faith will go a long way to make something out of the players they already have.  I hope Holmgren has that faith and can act accordingly.

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