Flyers’ coach, players say weak finish tarnished strong midseason drive

Sean Couturier

VOORHEES – With a game to go in their star-crossed season, the Flyers have one question that begs to be answered:

Did a disappointing 3-9 finish wipe out all the good things that helped build an 18-4-2 run between Jan. 14 and March 14?

Some believe the way this season is coming to a close could have impact on what the Flyers do in the offseason, namely the future of interim head coach Scott Gordon as well as some of the players.

General manager Chuck Fletcher, who is scheduled to talk publicly on Monday, has a lot on his plate.

People are wondering how much this last “baker’s dozen’’ body of work will affect Fletcher’s thinking in the offseason.

Better that he not watch too much video of that nightmarish 7-3 loss at St. Louis on Thursday night.

The performance reminded onlookers of that lifeless 5-1 debacle at Vancouver on Dec. 15 which appeared to be the last straw in ending the Dave Hakstol coaching tenure.

Or the no-show effort during a 6-0 defeat at Toronto on Nov. 24 which ended Ron Hextall’s reign as general manager.

Veterans such as Jake Voracek can’t really pinpoint why the Flyers didn’t appear to exhibit any real pride in those competitions.

And so we’re left to speculate on how much the skid down the stretch will erase some of the aforementioned good stuff.

“Remember when I said we had a lot of young guys coming the last couple years and I think this is the year?’’ Voracek said after Friday’s practice at the Skate Zone.

“From that standpoint, this was my most disappointing season in the NHL. Because I had way high expectations. I think we had a few pieces going, a few pieces not. You need 17, 18 guys having above-average years to have a great team.’’

Seven years of not being able to put back-to-back playoff seasons together is wearing on people like Voracek, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier.

“I’ve been asked that question over the last couple years,’’ Voracek said. “It is frustrating. But hopefully there are better times ahead for us and I think there are.’’

Gordon said the turning point for losing the momentum of the midseason drive came in the discouraging 7-6 loss at Toronto on March 15.

The Flyers took a 5-2 lead in that game, only to see the Maple Leafs score five unanswered goals on the way to a 7-6 win.

“For myself, when we got to three points out (of a playoff berth, after being 16 out on Jan. 8), I think there was a sense of accomplishment,’’ Gordon said.

“There was certainly a feel-good in the room. Everybody was going in the right direction. I think that loss in Toronto took a lot of the wind out of our sails. The way it happened, the timing of when it happened, it obviously was frustrating.’’

The Flyers never seemed to recover that swagger after the meltdown.

“That said, we had an opportunity against the Islanders (on March 23), a tie game with four minutes to go in the game (which the Flyers wound up losing, 4-2),’’ Gordon said.

“We had a 2-1 game against Montreal (on March 19) where we didn’t have enough to get us over the edge (a 3-1 loss). A little of it was circumstances – the back-to-backs doesn’t help. From an energy standpoint, I’m sure there’s a little bit of a drain there from what we had gone through the two prime months.

“Now we’re in a situation where we haven’t had anything to play for for a few games now.’’

Sean Couturier said the Flyers want to show a little more pride in Saturday’s finale against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center.

“It (the loss at St. Louis) was pretty embarrassing,’’ he said. “Poor effort. It sucks, it’s tough. We have to play with more pride here, more intensity. Everyone should have pride and try and prove something. We’re not seeing much of that.’’

Couturier is enjoying a career year but he believes that performance comes down to more than just numbers.

“You should always try to prove yourself, no matter what the situation is,’’ he said. “I don’t think we’re playing as a team. . .some guys might be trying to do a little too much. That’s not the right way to win games.

“And I don’t think that’s the right way to prove yourself. We want to finish strong. I think we owe it to the fans.’’

>Short shots

Rookie goalie Carter Hart will start in goal for the Flyers. . .Ivan Provorov will be trying to extend his record of consecutive games played for a defenseman from the start of a career for the Flyers. He has never missed a game. Saturday’s contest will be his 246th straight game.

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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