One doesn’t need to see numbers to know the Flyers’ season has fallen into a state of mediocrity.
But just in case. . .
For starters, Saturday night’s 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center drops them to .500 (the accepted benchmark for non-winning hockey) at 22-22-7 and puts them in jeopardy of finishing below the breakeven mark for only the second time since 1993-94.
Other statistics are equally appalling:
***Their .877 save percentage could wind up finishing as the lowest stop rate in the NHL’s past 20 years.
***A rather embarrassing plus-minus season number of minus-42, putting them in a tie with the lowly Devils, who beat the Flyers three straight in their four-game series and should have defeated Philly all four.
***10 straight games allowing the opposition to score first, a proven formula for how to lose a game.
With the next four games against the East Division powerhouses (two against Pittsburgh, two against Washington), the Flyers look like a beaten outfit.
Proud veterans such as captain Claude Giroux and goaltender Brian Elliott could only shake their heads as they tried to supply answers in the team’s post-game media Zoom call.
The Flyers were already eliminated from playoff consideration after Thursday night’s 5-3 loss to the Devils.
That one was painful.
Saturday night’s looked and sounded more like depressing.
“When the puck’s not going in, you obviously get frustrated,’’ Giroux said. “You’re going to try and change a little bit, try to do something to put the puck in the net. The whole team now there’s a lot of frustration. . .to be honest, I’m not sure what to say here.’’
It almost goes without saying that every pro hockey player has pride. They don’t want that tag of “giving up’’ next to their name.
“We’re making mistakes now that we usually don’t make,’’ Giroux said. “There’s a little bit of doubt in our game. That’s what happens.’’
Due to Carter Hart’s knee injury and Hart’s prior week-long benching, Elliott has been pressed into more service than really should be on his plate.
Saturday night’s game typified the situation. The Devils swarmed the Flyers’ net like angry bees, and while Elliott might like to have one or two of those goals back, the breakdowns on defense in front of him are a big contributing factor in that ugly .877 team save percentage.
“It just feels like we’re in a lot of in-between,’’ he said. “When you’re not sure, it tends to not turn out well. If we trust our instincts and go with our first play, make it hard, even if it’s the wrong play, do it hard and it usually works out.
“I think we just need to be a little more decisive, try not to be in-between what you’re thinking out there.’’
Despite the Devils scoring unanswered goals in the first and second periods, the Flyers were still somewhat alive until Nico Hischier scored shorthanded for the Devils at 5:14 of the third.
For the season, the Flyers have allowed six shorthanded goals and scored just one.
Giroux was asked if his teammates care as much as he does.
“The guys care in the locker room,’’ he said. “Right now, one thing goes wrong, there’s always a second and a third thing wrong happening. I don’t think laziness is part of it.’’
>Can Flyers play role of spoilers?
The aforementioned games against Pittsburgh (Monday-Tuesday at home) and Washington (Friday-Saturday on the road) might give the Flyers a little extra incentive to play spoilers.
It’s really about all they have left to play for.
“At this point we’re worrying about ourselves and how we play,’’ Giroux said. “Try to play as a team – battle out there. It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to show up.’’
>Why frustration won’t help matters
Vigneault indicated the Flyers have to maintain a somewhat even emotional keel to succeed in these final games.
“Frustration won’t help us play better,’’ he said. “Tonight, those first two periods, we had a tremendous amount of offensive zone time and couldn’t make that team pay for the mistakes they made and they made quite a few.’’
>Confidence seems to be lacking
The Flyers often look like a disoriented bunch. In Saturday night’s game, they couldn’t put a shot past New Jersey goalie Mackenzie Blackwood until Joel Farabee fired home a shot with just 1:18 to play in the game.
“We’re not winning a lot of hockey right now,’’ Vigneault said. “Anytime you’re not winning a lot of hockey, confidence is an issue and a factor. Right now, all we can do is get ready for our next game.’’
The Devils are 4-2-0-1 against the Flyers this season with one game to play. . .Blackwood improved his career record against the Flyers to 6-0-2. . .Elliott played in his 499th NHL career game; Kevin Hayes played in his 500th.