The already dim, flickering light that was the Flyer’s playoff hopes has burned out. It is amazing how one weekend can completely change the fate of the season.
A Saturday matinee against the Bruins was an essential do-or-die, with many implications in the standings. The best case scenario would have been that the Flyers won the game and closed the gap to only two points back from the rival Bruins. However, the worst case scenario was the outcome. Not only did the Flyers blow the lead with 14 seconds left in regulation, they lost in the extra frame, giving the Bruins two points. Even with managing a point, they still sat five points back before a Sunday meeting with the Devils.
While the effort was there in Boston, it sure was not in New Jersey. The Flyers were thoroughly outplayed and lost 5-2. The Bruins cruised past the Red Wings 5-3 earlier in the day, further distancing themselves and putting the dagger in the Flyers’ hearts. The Flyers now sit at 28-26-13, 11th in the Eastern Conference. They are behind yet another team fighting for the eighth seed, with the Senators taking a two point lead over them.
Seven points back with 15 games to go is a nearly impossible feat, and there is no evidence that the Flyers have it in them to turn it around. There is just no telling which Flyers team is going to show up night in and night out. Turnovers, taking bad penalties, and a lack of consistent scoring have led to this current predicament. Steve Mason has played well, but is receiving little defensive help and being left out to dry.
To make matters worse, Michael Del Zotto, arguably the Flyers best defenseman this season, is going to be out at least a week with an upper body injury he suffered during the Bruins game. Brandon Manning was called up from the Phantoms for Sunday’s game. The already depleted defense is now running very thin.
This weekend was just the tip of the iceberg for an already bizarre week for the Flyers that saw goalie coach Jeff Reese mysteriously part ways with the club after six seasons.
The organization has kept the details of Reese’s departure under wraps and no one is quite sure why he would mutually agree to leave before the season’s end. There is no word yet on who will replace him, but Brian Boucher has stated that he would be interested in the job if the Flyers were to ask him.
It is now officially time to look to the future. The Flyers kept it interesting for a while, but now it is time to get realistic. The offseason is going to be a busy one, with many holes needing filling. Defense will be the main priority, and hopefully the young prospects the team has stashed away in the minors will be NHL ready soon. Next should be finding someone capable of putting the puck in the back of the net to compliment Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds. Ron Hextall will have to be smart in his decision making, considering the salary cap crisis he is trying to amend.
There is a lot of work to be done before this team is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.