For a brief moment, the overall mood surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers began trending upwards. After the putrid ten-game losing streak and firing of Alain Vigneault, the team embarked on an extended point streak, clawing their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. In the minds of some, Philadelphia looked like a team that could turn their fortunes around. Then, the “Disney on Ice” road trip happened.
Coming off a lengthier-than-usual holiday break, the Flyers ventured west to take on the Seattle Kraken, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. Although no games, especially with the Flyers, are guaranteed, Philadelphia looked positioned to come out of this trip with a substantial addition to their point total. If they wanted to prove the prolonged losing streak was a fluke, grabbing five-to-six points of the possible eight would go a long way in doing so. Unfortunately for the Flyers, they embarked on their journey back to Philadelphia with only three.
The Flyers managed to bring their point streak to seven games with an overtime win in Seattle and then an overtime loss in San Jose. Philadelphia failed to look like the superior team in either contest but still came away with three of the possible four points. In Los Angeles, not only did the point streak come to a halt, but a new losing streak began. Tuesday’s loss to the Ducks brought that defeated streak to three games, making the Flyers “turnaround” a distant memory.
Of course, the road trip came with additional obstacles the team failed to overcome. They missed vital roster pieces in each game, either to COVID protocol or injury, creating a makeshift of a lineup asking some players to play beyond their typical role. Even though these are legitimate problems for any team, the entire NHL is experiencing this challenge. One can witness a team overcome those trials and tribulations at any given night. Just look at the Pittsburgh Penguins. Still, the Flyers never appear to bring enough fight to the ice to be one of those teams.
Now, Philadelphia finds itself four points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. With the Bruins playing four fewer games, the postseason looks less and less like a possibility. The Flyers play four of their next five games at home, but they are against legitimate playoff contenders such as the Penguins, Bruins, Hurricanes, and Rangers. The Sharks, who beat them on the road trip, are also in there. Additionally, the team will still be without some of their better players, including Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Ryan Ellis (still), and potentially Ivan Provorov.
In truth, this is the last chance Philadelphia has at attempting to save this sinking ship of a season. If they cannot come away with somewhere close to seven of the possible ten points, the team must begin the approach of a “seller.” At this juncture in the season, with the level of competition at the top of the conference, no more opportunities to turn it around exist.
It is a statement said too often this season, but this is potentially the last crucial stint of games for the Philadelphia Flyers this season.