By Sam Bush
The old joke about NHL players and their intelligence is summed up in the answer to this question.
How hopeless are the Flyers’ playoff chances:
More than worse!
That is the feeling in Flyers Nation this morning as they watched in horror the playoff-killing mistake that Vonny Lecavalier made last night.
Everyone knew exactly whom Wayne Simmonds was talking about when he was summing a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night by saying:
“Hockey is a game of mistakes. The team that makes the less mistakes normally wins the game. We did what we had to go to get back in the game, then made a few mishaps there in the third.”
A brutal giveaway by Lecavalier is what killed the Flyers.
“Inexcusable turnover and it’s in our net,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said.
With the game tied 2-2 midway through the third, Lecavalier’s clearing attempt from the left-wing boards was a no-look, weak backhand to the middle of the ice that went right to Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky, who fed forward to Cam Atkinson for a 2-on-1 that turned into an easy goal for Matt Calvert.
“I didn’t see that guy obviously that picked up the puck,” Lecavalier said. “Obviously, I’d like to get that back.”
“It’s easy to say now … just throw it off the wall,” Lecavalier added.
But Lecavalier, a great offensive player in his heyday, has made a habit of not playing solid two-way hockey during his two seasons with the Flyers. That’s why he was benched seven games in a row in December … the first seven healthy scratches of a career that includes 410 goals and 927 points in 1,149 games, most of the production coming during his 14 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
What makes his present-day defensive shortcomings worse for the Flyers is Lecavalier isn’t scoring again.
He went 12 games without a goal before his benchings, then two more when the long-time center got back in the lineup playing right wing on a fourth-line that has Pierre-Edouard Bellemare at center and Chris VandeVelde at left wing.
Asked about not scoring for 18 games, Lecavalier answered like he’d received a question about his line.
“Obviously, I think we all want to do more,” he said after a game in which he was scoreless on four shots. “It was a tough game tonight. I thought we had some really good chances in the second and a few in the third, as well. We just got to try to bury them, the chances that we get. Play with confidence. I think we’re making some good plays, but once they’re there … We’ve got to put them in the net.”