Call it the “Curse of the Every-Other-Year Playoffs’’ team.
There was a time and place when the Flyers never missed the postseason, like from 1973 to 1989, a 17-year stretch. Or from 1995 to 2006, another great 11-year run.
Then things began to change, starting after the 2011-12 campaign.
The Flyers completed a four-year streak of qualifying for postseason play that season and haven’t made it back in consecutive years since.
For veterans such as Claude Giroux, the dean of all current players who’s been around since 2008-09, the hit-and-miss pattern is frustrating to say the least.
Especially now, with the Flyers all but eliminated from this year’s Stanley Cup chase – just months after getting within a game of the Eastern Conference finals at the end of the 2019-20 season.
“I think last year we took a huge step forward from the year before,’’ Giroux said during a pre-game media Zoom call from Madison Square Garden on Thursday afternoon. “Not being able to take another step forward is very frustrating. . .the position we’re in right now.’’
Early this season, the Flyers seemed to have carried over momentum from last year by starting out 8-3-2.
Then COVID hit, and while most players aren’t using that as the only excuse for the dropoff since then, it certainly had a hand in their March demise (6-10-1).
“I don’t think we saw each other in this position at this point of the year,’’ Giroux said. “It’s confusing and frustrating.’’
Now the Flyers are basically playing for pride and possibly as a spoiler to teams like the Rangers, their opponents the next two nights.
What’s left unsaid is, the coaching staff and management are watching closely to see which players perform respond to a situation where the prospect of a Stanley Cup has been removed.
“I know our chances of making the playoffs are pretty slim,’’ Giroux said. “Saying that, we’re going to go into every game trying to win those games.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault sees no connection between his captain and the Flyers’ inability to move forward.
“I do believe in my time here he’s been working extremely hard to be the best player he can be,’’ Vigneault said. “And be the best captain he can be.
“We had talked after last year about a couple areas that I felt he could improve and he’s been trying very hard. These have been very challenging circumstances for our group and he’s tried to lead by example.’’
After missing a couple games due to head-related injury, Nolan Patrick was set to return to the lineup on Thursday night.
Patrick was struck in the side of the face by an errant puck in last week’s game at Pittsburgh and sat out games against Washington and the Islanders as a precautionary measure.
Vigneault has Patrick centering a line with Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
Also, Phil Myers returned to the lineup due to the speedy nature of the Rangers’ lineup while Sam Morin gets the night off.
>Allison on Hayes line
Rookie Wade Allison has looked good in his first few games, including a power-play goal against the Caps.
For the first game in New York, Allison was slated to play with center Kevin Hayes and team leading goal scorer Joel Farabee.
It looks like Vigneault has developed some trust in Allison already.
“He goes to the tough areas, skates well,’’ Vigneault said. “So I’m just giving him an opportunity here with Hayes, who’s an experienced player, to show what he can do here.’’
Added Giroux: “He (Allison) brings a lot of energy to the team. Every shift he’s out there he’s working his butt off. When you have a teammate like that, it’s always fun. You follow that. Around the room he’s a pretty funny guy, fun to be around.’’
The Flyers have recalled goaltender Felix Sandstrom and forward Pascal Laberge from their AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, to the taxi squad. In addition, forward Andy Andreoff and defenseman Mason Millman have been loaned to the Phantoms from the taxi squad.