“Playoffs?” once said a famous football coach after a brutal loss. “Playoffs? Are you kidding me!’’
That was Jim Mora, once upon a time, when asked what the Indianapolis Colts’ chances were of making the postseason after a 20-point blowout.
And no one would have blinked an eye if Flyers coach Alain Vigneault had replied the same way if he had been queried about his team’s chances of getting to the playoffs after Wednesday night’s 6-1 stampeding by the Buffalo Sabres.
Vigneault chose to take the high road with his comments after the Flyers were run out of KeyBank Center to finish the month of March with a dismal 6-10-1 record.
How bad was it?
Well, first of all, the Flyers allowed the Sabres to end an 18-game winless streak.
Secondly, the Flyers have accounted for two of Buffalo’s seven total wins this season, both by identical 6-1 scores.
Or how about this one: The Flyers gave up not one, but two, shorthanded goals on the same power play late in the game. To the same player! Brandon Montour.
So the Flyers remain three points behind Boston for the final playoff spot in the NHL’s East Division, with the Bruins holding a whopping three games in hand.
The Flyers have just 21 games remaining on their schedule to make up ground.
As they did in Monday night’s game at Buffalo, the Flyers got off to another slow start, trailing 2-0 after the first period and 4-1 after the second.
Unlike Monday night’s game, there was no miracle comeback in this game.
What’s the problem. . .or perhaps problems?
“A lot of it (Wednesday night) started in the offensive zone,’’ Vigneault explained in a media Zoom call. “We were a little off on our execution and gave them a couple rush opportunities.
“When they did have control in our zone, just a simple stick on puck would have enabled us to kill a lot of plays, a lot of opportunities to get pucks on net. We weren’t good enough there and they made us pay for it.’’
These breakdowns have haunted the Flyers through much of March.
“I’m not going to analyze the whole month of March,’’ Vigneault said. “I feel for my team tonight. I know our guys wanted to play well, do the right things.
“We weren’t good enough.’’
The Flyers finally get their first two-day break in the schedule in about a month. They will take Thursday off, then get a well-needed practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. on Friday.
“We haven’t been the same since our COVID stoppage (in February),’’ Vigneault noted. “We get a couple days here to regroup. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played. . .we need to take it a day at a time.’’
The Flyers may have had an inkling it was not going to be their night when Buffalo scored on a shot by Sam Reinhart which caromed off the leg of defenseman Justin Braun and into the net.
On the second goal, Braun was caught a bit deep and the Flyers were late on the backcheck, making it easy for Curtis Lazar to put a shot home.
Both Sean Couturier and Justin Braun alluded to some players competing sporadically.
“We each have our own responsibilities,’’ Couturier said. “Every night right now we have guys who are on and off. It’s tough to win when you have some guys off.’’
The Flyers did have a ray of hope when Ivan Provorov scored early in the second period. But, as has been the case in a lot of recent games, they were unable to carry any momentum.
Braun said: “We have to do a better job in front of our goalies. It’s tough to be beaten by this many goals, night in, night out. It’s just finding that consistency. It takes 20 guys pulling in the same direction. We’ve just had too many nights when guys were off.’’
Couturier also referred to this outcome as an embarrassing loss. Pretty strong words coming from an alternate captain. After that, he decided to put this game behind him
“We have a big game coming up against the Islanders,’’ he said. “We have to make sure we’re ready and get the two points.’’
>Lyon sees action
Alex Lyon replaced starter Brian Elliott in goal late in the second period and was responsible for only one goal (he was off the ice when a goal was scored into an empty net during a Flyers power play.
It was Lyon’s first action of the season. He’s been with the organization since 2016 and has a record of 5-4-0 in NHL games.
>York signs contract
The Flyers announced they have signed top defense prospect Cam York to a three-year entry contract beginning this season. York captained the U.S. team to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships in January.
York is likely to start play with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL.
The Flyers went a full game without taking a penalty for the eighth time in franchise history. Five of those games have come in the last three seasons . . . Michael Raffl played in his 500th NHL game, all with the Flyers. . .Couturier ran his point streak to five games. He has registered four goals/eight points over that span and has a point in 18 of his last 22 games since coming off injury on Feb. 7.