At 20 games into the season, you are fully a quarter of the way through. People who watch a team in game #20 know what they're about, and you can figure out what the future holds pretty easily.
Perhaps that explains why I really don't like having to write this recap, or think about what this team has become.
Tonight really didn't start well, with Jake Voracek teeing up a shot from the top of the zone that would deflect off Brayden Schenn (and perhaps Jack Johnson's leg) to put the Flyers up 1-0 a little over two minutes into the game.
It looked like the Jackets might swing things back their way, though, when James Wisniewski drew a hooking penalty on his next shift, and the Columbus power play unit went hard at Steve Mason, moving the puck well and keeping the Flyers' PK just off balance enough that Boone Jenner could get down low and set himself up for a quick cross-ice pass from Wiz that he'd hammer into the back of the net. (So forcefully, in fact, that it took replay to determine he'd actually scored, as the puck hit the back of the net and bounced back out!)
That goal seemed to give both sides a bit of a jump, but any momentum was quickly wasted when Jared Boll and Zac Rinaldo decided to fight because...they were dressed for this game? After a brief discussion while waiting for a faceoff, the two pugilists dropped gloves and engaged in a brilliant display of what 99% of hockey fans hate: A fight with no purpose whatsoever.
After that thrilling display of whatever, the Flyers took a few more shots on Sergei Bobrovsky, but a great rush by Jack Skille would draw another power play, which seemed to re-engage the offense, though they were unable to convert.
The Jackets put up a small flurry of shots, but couldn't find an answer. (Did someone forget to remind the team about High Glove Side? So many shots went low it's not even funny.) Worse, the team became increasingly sloppy in their own zone and down low as the first period went on, leading to an almost inevitable Flyers goal when Mark Streit was allowed to walk in, fire, get his own rebound, and fire again, while most of the Jackets on the ice were either behind the play or turned in the wrong direction.
The Jackets did draw a third power play just before the end of the first period, but failed to convert before the period expired. While it was perhaps not their best performance, it was a decent road period, particularly for a team on the second night of back to back games.
Unfortunately, that's about where the good news ends.
The Flyers came out swinging in the second period, and Columbus was left chasing the play for most of the frame. It's worth observing that Wayne Simmonds would score a power play goal late in the period, but all you really need to know is that the team gave up a minute of 5 on 3 time, was at 4 on 4 for a full 2 minutes, and outshot 18-4. About the best adjective I can use to describe the period would be 'listless'.
There was a brief spark of hope at the start of the third period when Jack Skille burned in hard and set up Matt Calvert with a great door mouth pass off the odd man rush to cut the lead back down to 1 goal, but Braydon Coburn would answer back almost immediately after a sequence that started with Bobrovsky losing his goal stick due to a collision with Sean Couturier, and the defense doing a better job of setting a screen for the eventual shot than blocking it.
After that goal, the two teams skated around for another 15 minutes, but it was pretty clear who was in control of the game, and which guys just wanted to get back on the bus - including head coach Todd Richards, who gave significant ice time to the Boll/Wennberg/Cracknell line in the final five minutes of play, compared to, say, Johansen, Hartnell, or Foligno. The wags on twitter dubbed it "The White Flag Line". Hard to disagree with that.
Final Score: Flyers 4 - Jackets 2
In post game commentary, players said about what you might expect ("We didn't play hard enough"), the coach said about what you might expect ("Our best players weren't our best players"), the fans said about what you might expect ("Ryan Johansen's Fault / Too Many Injuries / When do we make a trade / How'd Eichel play tonight?"), and the numbers said exactly what you'd expect.
A week that started with a game pretty much everyone wanted to forget ended with a loss where nobody looked like they wanted to be there.
If that's the team we have, well, we're looking at a pretty rough sixty two more games.