Always a team that embraces tradition, the Flyers, off to the worst start in franchise history following last night’s 4-1 loss to the archrival Penguins, again must long for the good ‘ol days: Namely the lockout.
A year ago at this time, they weren’t staring at a 1-7-0 record, having scored just 11 goals for the season. They weren’t spouting empty cliches about it being too early in the season to worry because there was plenty of time to get it together. And they certainly weren’t wondering if their season was already a lost cause, assuming cooler heads would eventually prevail and they’d soon get back to work.
Once they did -- some three months later -- everything quickly unraveled for the Orange and Black. But throughout the summer and into training camp, they swore from team chairman Ed Snider on down it had all been an "anomaly’" and now that things were back to normal, the Flyers could get on with their annual relentless pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
That doesn’t look very likely now, not after the Flyers watched Sidney Crosby and Co. take advantage of a couple of failed clearing attempts to score second-period goals by Jussi Jokinen and Chris Kunitz 2:30 apart en route to a 4-1 victory. After Wayne Simmonds’ late power-play goal got the Flyers on the board, the Pens then withstood a strong third period Flyers’ push before finally putting it away late when Crosby converted a tap-in and Evgeni Malkin’s scored into an open net.
As for the Flyers, for the fifth time this year that one goal was all they’d get in dropping their fourth straight. Now, with a full week off before taking on the Rangers here Thursday, they say they need to pretend this has all been just a bad dream.
"We all know what our record is, so there’s no sense dwelling on it,’’ said Brayden Schenn, whose open net attempt to tie the game glanced off Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads wide. "Now, we have to look forward and have a good week of practice and just be better after the break.
“Obviously guys are frustrated when you don’t win hockey games, but at the same time, we have five or six days off to regroup and look forward to a new start, new challenges ahead."
The biggest of which might be convincing themselves they can play.
"We need to start believing it before we start playing,’’ said captain Claude Giroux, who assisted on Simmonds' goal but still has yet to light the lamp himself. "I think we go into games with confidence down already.
"We’ve got to start believing we're a good team. When we do, we’ll be dangerous.”
The 6-1-0 Penguins won’t argue.
"Going into this game, we didn’t think we were playing a team that resembled a record they have,’’ said Pens coach Dan Bylsma, who’ll soon be coaching Team USA at the Olympics with Peter Laviolette by his side. "They have a dangerous team and their power play tonight was extremely dangerous.
"This game rivaled intensity-wise and physicality-wise any game we played this year.’’
Perhaps. All the Flyers know is it was another missed opportunity to right a fast-sinking ship despite another stellar effort in goal by Steve Mason, who had 31 saves. By the time they play again, they’re bound to be further buried in the standings as other teams continue to pick up ground.
"You better pick your head up, work and get ready to play,’’ warned coach Craig Berube, 1-4 since replacing Laviolette. "They are the only guys who will dig themselves out of this hole.
"They’ve got to start believing in each other and believing in themselves and going out and playing hockey like they can.’’
Because unlike those good 'ol days, this year there’s no lockout to save them.