The Philadelphia Flyers seemed to get a valuable wakeup call by losing 9-8 to the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 27. Since then, Flyers fans like myself have been cheering almost non-stop as Philadelphia went 6-0-2 after that embarrassing loss. But for all the progress the team has made in the last few weeks, it still doesn't seem to have enough to stop the Jets.
Winnipeg is hardly an unbeatable opponent as the former Atlanta Thrashers are still under .500 and adjusting to their new home. Yet for some reason, the Jets appear to have the Flyers' number and racked up another big number of goals on Nov. 19.
While the Jets didn't get nine goals this time, the Flyers still gave up six and were behind the eight ball throughout their 6-4 defeat. It started when Brian Little scored two early goals in the span of over two minutes, as it left the Flyers to play catch up from there.
Philadelphia did at least make a rally, just as it did when Winnipeg took a massive lead in their first game. This time the Flyers cut a 5-1 lead to 5-4, although unlike before, they couldn't take the lead before giving up even more goals. In addition, Sergei Bobrovsky played all 60 minutes this time and wasn't relieved by Ilya Bryzgalov - but that doesn't mean he played any better.
For the second time, Bobrovsky was knocked around by the Jets and gave up five goals in the first 30 minutes. While he did shut Winnipeg down in the next 30 minutes, he left too big of a deficit for Philadelphia to rally from. Scott Hartnell and Matt Read combined for all four Flyers goals, yet no one else on the offense could help them.
It is head-scratching that the Flyers' last two losses in regulation have come against the Jets - and that they have given up a combined 15 goals in the process. Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky were getting hot in games that didn't involve the Jets, and yet Winnipeg again proved to be Philadelphia's kryptonite.
This makes it even more fortunate that the Jets can't beat many opponents other than the Flyers and probably won't face them in the playoffs. Philadelphia seems to have mastered beating clubs other than Winnipeg, which should bode well until their next meeting on January 31.
If teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins learn to master the Flyers like the Jets have, then there really will be trouble. But for now, no club has to be more relieved to stay away from Winnipeg for a few months than Philadelphia is - especially since no one else has to be relieved to avoid the Jets, period.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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