PHILADELPHIA – With nothing to play for but pride, the Flyers came up just a bit short Saturday in what was close to a microcosm of their season.
So many times this year the Flyers appeared to be competitive in games but in many cases, they couldn’t find a way to put away an opponent.
Hence, their disappointing season ended on a sour note in a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers, who ended the season with five straight losses, finish with a record of 37-37-8, the first time they have failed to have more wins than regulation-time losses since the franchise-worst 2006-07 season.
Also, Carolina swept the season series from the Flyers, 4-0, for the first time since the Eastern Conference went to a four-game (or more) format in 1995-96.
“It’s disappointing for sure,’’ said Sean Couturier, who earlier in the evening was voted team MVP. “We dig ourselves a big hole earlier in the year, we battled hard to get back in the race, we were close at one point and then we lost some crucial games.
“At the end of the year, we felt the pressure of all the changes (GM, coach), all the uncertainty around the team. It feels like we had a little letdown at the end of the year.’’
There were a few high points, though, for the Flyers:
>The Flyers did rally from a 3-1 deficit to tie the score in the second period before the Hurricanes pulled away.
>Couturier scored a goal to register his 76th point, tying a career high, and Travis Konecny scored his 24th goal, matching last year’s career high.
>Oskar Lindblom tallied his 17th goal, making him the second-highest European-born rookie goal scorer, trailing only Mikael Renberg’s 38 in the 1993-94 campaign.
Otherwise, it was time to say goodbye to the WFC. On Sunday, the Flyers will pack up their lockers and head out for what promises to be a very long offseason.
Rookie goaltender Carter Hart did his best to keep the Flyers in this one but the Hurricanes simply put too many shots from good spots to be denied.
Now the Flyers wait and see what changes will come, starting with the status of interim head coach Scott Gordon.
“We need to be better from the start of the season,’’ Couturier said. “Be a better team consistently.’’
Slow starts killed the Flyers this season. They gave up the first goal of the game 50 times and were 16-31-3 in those games. They were down 2-0 in 32 games (like Saturday) and won only four of those.
“We didn’t get off to a good start,’’ admitted Radko Gudas. “That’s been our problem for much of the season.’’
Added Lindblom: “We have to figure it (slow starts) out during the summer here and come back better next year.’’
The ‘Canes broke to a 2-0 lead on goals by Warren Foegele (9:20) and Justin Falk (11:29). The Flyers responded with Lindblom’s goal from close range past Curtis McElhinney at 14:19 but Carolina came right back on a Teuvo Teravainen goal at 15:40 to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Flyers tied it at 3-3 on the goals by Konecny (wrist shot from the slot at 1:27) and Couturier (who tipped home a Jake Voracek point shot during a power play at 6:07).
However, the tie lasted barely a minute. At 7:33, Jordan Staal scored to give Carolina a 4-3 lead.
As in many of those 50 games, the Flyers just couldn’t rally due to a possible shortage of energy at the end.
“We have to score the first goal and put the other team on their heels,’’ Travis Sanheim pointed out. The Flyers were 21-6-5 when they scored first. “Use the home ice to our advantage (they were only 19-18-4). I think that comes with a good start.’’
Gordon, who led the Flyers to a 25-22-4 mark in the 51 games he coached, now awaits his fate.
If he’s back next season, he knows there’s one thing that will have to change.
“Do things consistently,’’ he said. “With how you play the game, how you practice. You’re going to get confidence, you’re not going to have those highs and lows.
“That’s something you build in training camp and ideally you get out of the gate quick. This year, to get behind the 8-ball, even though I wasn’t here, it’s a tough situation for any coach. . .if (Brian) Elliott and (Michal) Neuvirth had been healthy all year, I probably wouldn’t be standing here talking to you.’’
>Couturier wins MVP award
The Flyers presented their 2018-19 team awards prior to Saturday night’s game.
Couturier took home his first Bobby Clarke Trophy as team most valuable player and the Gene Hart Award presented by the team’s fan club to the player who played with the most heart.
Couturier’s 33 goals are a new career high (he had 31 last year). Prior to Saturday night, Couturier had 45 points (including 17 goals) in his last 39 games.
The Barry Ashbee Trophy (outstanding defenseman) went to Gudas, who took the honor for the first time.
Sanheim took the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy (most improved player). Sanheim played in all 82 games and his nine goals and 34 points more than tripled his previous best.
The Yanick Dupre Class Guy Memorial Award (character, dignity and respect for the sport both on and off the ice) was won by Andrew MacDonald. The award is presented by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA).
Hart took home the Toyota Cup award for accruing the most star of the game points. A check for $5,000 was presented in his name to Overbrook School for the Blind.