The trash talk has begun, albeit from a strange place.
Taking a break from his usual chirping on Capitol Hill, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) turned his ill-will away from budget cuts and towards the Flyers, with regards to their upcoming playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres beginning on Thursday.
VOORHEES, N.J. — In the Stanley Cup Finals last season, Kris Versteeg proved himself a Flyers nemesis. His chippy and tough-checking style, mixed with incessant chirping, had him atop the Flyers fan’s long list of most despised Chicago Blackhawks.
Now going to war with, rather than against the Flyers, in the post season against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, Versteeg still doesn’t think he has the Flyers’ faithful entirely in his corner.
It has been a long and draining couple weeks for the Flyers.
Close losses in important games, including four head-scratching defeats in their last five tries, had the word collapse on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
But with the bad taste of their near-meteoric fall down the standings rinsed away by an Atlantic Division title clinch, the second-seeded Flyers, thanks to nearly a week off before Game 1 at the Wells Fargo Center against the No. 7 Buffalo Sabres, get a chance to wipe the slate and prepare for a brand new season.
The Flyers flat-lined in the visitors locker room at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Tuesday. The 5-2 loss, which was the team’s fourth in a row, completely sucked the remaining life and any possible answers out of an already vapid and confused squad.
They were dead on the table.
Mike Richards hasn’t exactly had a stellar season.
Despite amassing 65 points in 79 games, the 26-year old has appeared closer to being the Flyers’ problem rather than their solution during the late-season plummet. His sporadic production and even more sporadic physical effort had many wondering what type of leadership the quiet captain was providing. If not off the ice, where?
But on Tuesday night, something changed.
Midway through the third period of Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place, the Flyers officially hit rock bottom. Moments after the Senators took a two-goal lead on a power play goal from Jason Spezza, the home squad played keep away in the Flyers’ zone for what seemed like minutes, toying with what appeared to be a broken junior varsity team.
The reaction from the Flyers was telling but far from surprising.
Call it an insurance policy. Call it competitive motivation. Whatever it’s labeled, Tuesday’s recall of goaltender Michael Leighton on re-entry waivers, if he clears, will change the Flyers’ net dynamic for the better, at least on the ice.
For all of March and now into April, the Flyers have needed a backstop, either Brian Boucher or rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, to catch ablaze. Although both goalies have seen varied success, with Bobrovsky appearing to be the playoff starter, it hasn’t happened. And 79 games into the season, it’s not going to.