Lack of defense dooms Flyers in Game 1

After last year’s humiliating collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers that saw the Boston Bruins salt away a 3-0 series lead, they entered Wells Fargo Center with the clear purpose of sending an early message this year. They succeeded with ease as the Flyers put on an embarrassing display of horrific defense and goaltending en route to a 7-3 Boston romp.

For as impressive as Boston’s deep forward corps was on Saturday, the Flyers defensive pairings resembled bullfighters rather than hockey players. Their poor play oiled the gears of the goalie carousel, as Brian Boucher was once again relieved of his duties after Boston’s fifth tally with 2:46 remaining in the second period. Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky finished the game out for Philadelphia, and his results were no more impressive as he let in two goals on just 10 shots.

It was no secret in the home locker room after the game why the goalies had such a tough time with the Bruins. Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen minced no words in describing his team’s effort on the defensive end of the ice.

“Well, we just have to play harder in front of the crease,” Timonen said. “If the puck gets there, we have to make sure that they don’t get there first. It’s the whole unit out there. It’s not just the defenseman or goaltending. It’s forwards and [defensemen], and we weren’t working together today.”

Every time Philadelphia gave Boston an opportunity to blow the series’ first game wide open, the Bruins happily obliged. Perhaps no player was happier to stick it to the Flyers than forward David Krejcí. In last season’s playoff matchup, he was sidelined during Game 3 for the remainder of the series by a broken wrist sustained after a Mike Richards open-ice hit. It was a pivotal swing in the series’ momentum, and Krejcí reminded the Flyers of his importance in earning the game’s first star after an incredible four-point performance.

“I try not to think about what happened last year but it’s in the back of my head,” the Czech Republic native said. “You don’t forget these things that often but I try not to think about it almost at all. It’s hard but I just try to stay focused for the game and my teammates helped me out today.”

Despite the overwhelming final score and the dominant performance of Krejcí, Philadelphia is no stranger to being behind the eight ball. That’s exactly where they’ll be for Game 2 on Monday night, as they can ill-afford to head to Boston facing an 0-2 series deficit. However, they also dropped Game 1 in their previous series against Buffalo, and managed to win the next two games. They also closed the series by winning two consecutive elimination games, but Boston provides a much bigger challenge than Buffalo.

One secret to the Flyers wherewithal is the accountability of the team after a troubling effort. Claude Giroux held the team accountable in the frustration-filled dressing room.

“A lot of things [have to be changed] … it’s got to start with the effort,” Grioux simply stated. “It’s about the battle and wanting to win and learning to win the series. It has to start by every shift. We’ll need to play a better game Monday.”

In holding the team accountable for their shortcomings in Game 1, Giroux also made clear that he felt the onus was on the Flyers for squandering an opportunity.

“We’ll give them the win but … it’s more of our loss then their win,” Giroux said. “I think we kind of gave them the win.”

Regardless of personal opinion, the scoreboard told no lies after Game 1. The lopsided final score was indicative of many things. Perhaps the most important indication was that the Bruins are ready to exorcise the demons of last year’s collapse. And with the firepower of Krejcí coupled with Philadelphia’s defensive woes, they’ve made it clear that they aren’t going to give anything away this time around.