The end is near.
After losing 3-0 to longtime nemesis Martin Brodeur and the even-more-desperate-than they-are Devils here last night, the Flyers are officially down to their last life.
One more regulation loss—or two coming in overtime or the shootout--in the final four games and they’re history. And if that’s not disheartening enough, consider this: Any victory by either the Rangers or Winnipeg will also assure the Flyers of missing the playoffs for only the second time since 1994.
In fact, by the time they step on the ice in Carolina they could be playoff goners should the Rangers win in Buffalo tonight. Regardless it’s clear next stop for the orange and black is the NHL Lottery April 29, as the Flyers—two weeks after seeing both Winnipeg and Ottawa snap five-game losing streaks at their expense--watched the Devils celebrate their first win in 11 games.
"It’s the first time in a long time for Philadelphia, for myself to be eliminated not by your own doing,’’ said Scott Hartnell, as the Flyers finished the season 1-4 vs. the Devils, scoring only six goals with Brodeur recording his 10th and 11th of 121 career shutouts against the Flyers . "It sucks.
"They’re frustrating to play against," Hartnell continued. "When you get frustrated, you start to do things that aren't in the game-plan. They wanted it more.’’
Perhaps it just looked that way, as the Devils typically waited for an opening, then seized it. It came early in the second period moments after the Flyers' Matt Read tried to make a pass on a 3-on-1 break rather than shoot from point blank range. Not much later Stephen Gionta fed Ryan Carter, who didn't hesitate shooting, beating Ilya Bryzgalov—back in the Flyers' net after newcomer Steve Mason single-handedly beat the Rangers last time out—to make it 1-0. It was the Devils' first goal in the last three games, a span covering 146 minutes.
That proved to be all Brodeur would need, though it appeared the Flyers had briefly tied it later in the second, until Jake Voracek’s goal was properly disallowed for steering the puck into the net with his skate. Bryzgalov kept the Flyers close after that with a number of clutch saves.
But eventually the Devils sprung Matt D’Agostini on the breakaway to make it 2-0 with 5:50 remaining, before Adam Henrique scored into an open net to ice it with 1:13 left.
"I think the biggest problem is that we don’t know how to play a patient game,’’ said Danny Briere, who had three of the Flyers' mere 19 shots. "The last two years we've struggled against the Devils because they’re patient. It just seems like against us they always wait us out and we become very impatient. The next thing we know, we try to force plays and it ends up in the back of our net.’’
That might explain the lack of success against the Devils, but New Jersey’s not the only reason the Flyers will be done a week from tomorrow in Ottawa. Goal-scoring has been an issue all season, the Flyers managing more than two goals only 18 times all season. Plus, they've been outscored 50-31 in third periods.
Add it all together, along with a string of injuries that riddled the defense and also took forwards like Hartnell, Read and Briere out of the lineup for long stretches, and it’s not hard to understand how Peter Laviolette’s club has gotten itself in this predicament.
As a result, the
y know what promises to be a long, uncomfortable summer of reckoning will be starting real soon.