The final nail in the proverbial coffin of the 2018-19 Flyers was delivered over the weekend after a pair of losses to the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.
Philadelphia is now eight points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, currently inhabited by the Montreal Canadiens, with six games remaining and an additional team in the Columbus Blue Jackets to jump just to get there.
It certainly isn’t looking good.
Then again, it’s pretty remarkable that they are still even this close so late in the season.
If you went back to Jan. 8 and said that the Flyers would not be mathematically eliminated from postseason contention with less than 10 games to go in the regular season, you would not have believed it.
Head coach Dave Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall were fired, eight-different goalies received starts (which is an NHL record), and new head coach Scott Gordon along with replacement GM Chuck Fletcher went just 2-7-2 over their first 11 games together in Philadelphia as the Flyers dropped to 15-22-6 on the season and to dead-last in the East.
At least there was a consolation prize in the form of a possible No. 1 pick in the draft that would have become Jack Hughes.
But the introduction and steady presence of 20-year-old Carter Hart in goal since December did help turn things around. He backstopped a majority of the team’s victories in an eight-game winning streak and had a personal stretch in which he won 10 of 11 starts. Veteran Brian Elliott created a solid enough tandem to at least ease some of the tension at the position during the second half of the season,
The Flyers were the hottest team in the NHL, going 18-4-2 over a nearly two-month span that put them within three points of a playoff spot with 13 games remaining.
Even when times were good, there were still some sizable blows sustained as veteran forward Wayne Simmonds, considered by many to be the heart and soul fo the team, was traded to the Nashville Predators at the deadline.
Yet the Flyers kept winning, which temporarily masked the team’s disorganization on defense, its lack of scoring from their wingers, and an inability to win at home; but Hart’s injuries and struggles down the stretch brought it all back to light.
The Flyers have lost five of their last seven games and have won just three times at Wells Fargo Center since Feb. 19. It’s continued a miserable brand of play at home in which they collected just 40 points in Philadelphia this season, the fewest of any team in the Metropolitan Division.
That’s simply not good enough to make the playoffs as Fletcher will have quite a checklist of improvements to make heading into his first offseason as Flyers general manager.