To almost no one’s surprise, the Flyers say they’re surprised they didn’t make the playoffs this season.
After all, hopes were high when the pandemic-shortened season began. Coming off last season’s success, those expectations were reasonable.
But things began to unravel following the COVID-19 pause in which at least a half-dozen players were sidelined and four games postponed.
The Flyers nosedived and never recovered.
Shayne Gostisbehere expressed his thoughts and emotions with his usual candor on Friday, declaring, in so many words, that his teammates expect fallout, i.e, “changes,’’ because of the team’s failing performance.
Gostisbehere, out for a week with a mild knee sprain but expected back for Saturday night’s home game against the New Jersey Devils, said in a post-practice media Zoom call from the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. that he expects what amounts to personnel moves in the offseason.
“It’s tough for sure, taking a step back from last year,’’ Gostisbehere said. “We know we’re a playoff team with the guys we have. It’s tough, you can’t put your finger on one thing.’’
“Ghost’’ gives the impression Flyers ownership and management won’t sit still this offseason.
“You look back and you say what if,’’ Gostisbehere said. “What we could have done here, what we could have done there. Obviously we realize some changes are going to come. We’re not stupid in that sense. It’s our lives, too. We know something is going to happen. But we still have to go out and play to the best of our ability – we have a job to do.’’
Gostisbehere took part in Friday’s practice and afterwards gave it a thumbs up.
“I felt good out there, that was my first practice with the boye,’’ Gostisbehere said. “I feel like I can be ready to go tomorrow. Hopefully I’m in.’’
James van Riemsdyk expressed similar disappointment for the Flyers’ season. Although his 16 goals lead the team and his 39 points are second to Jake Voracek, he knows he could have been more consistent. At one point he went scoreless in 17 straight games.
“Ultimately, going into this year, we had high expectations for ourselves and our team,’’ he said. “We weren’t able to find that consistency you need to be a playoff team.’’
JVR believes it’s important to be competitive in these last six games and a lot of that falls on the leadership group, which includes Sean Couturier, Voracek, Claude Giroux and himself.
“It’s an internal thing,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “Again, it’s an honor to play in this league. You have to play with pride and be prepared to play each and every game.’’
Travis Konecny also has experienced an off year. He sounds determined to turn things around moving forward.
“The goal every year is to make the playoffs,’’ Konecny said. “It’s definitely disappointing. There’s going to be a lot of analyzing when everyone goes home. We’re going to have to really think about what happened this year.’’
Konecny just hasn’t been the offensive force he was the previous three years when he scored 24 goals in each of those campaigns. He needed a goal the other night just to get to double digits.
“We want to keep growing and getting better as a team,’’ he said. “Whatever changes they make, that’s up to them. I’m just a piece of the puzzle trying to help us win.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault continued his vow to wait until the end of the season to evaluate team and individual performances.
“Now is not the time to reflect on the past,’’ he said. “We will do that once the season is over. I’ll answer all the questions at that time.’’
>Admiration for Provorov streak
Just as it appears Giroux might have a shot someday at Bobby Clarke’s once thought unbreakable record of 1,210 points, Ivan Provorov might be in line to break the team’s ironman consecutive-game mark.
Provorov has now played in 365 straight games, having never missed one in his career, and will total 371 if all goes well by season’s end.
The franchise record is 484 set by Rod Brind’Amour back in the 1990s. If Provorov stays healthy, he could pass the mark during the 2022-23 season.
“He’s definitely a genetic freak for sure,’’ Gostisbehere said. “The way he prepares for games, not only mentally but physically, it’s pretty special. And the way he plays the game, too. He’s taking hits and he’s blocking shots, too. It’s definitely a compliment to him.’’
Vigneault said Brian Elliott will start in goal and Kevin Hayes will return to the lineup after sitting out one game due to performance and health reasons.