Worst. Loss. Ever. Thoughts after Rangers 9, Flyers 0

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

It would have been easy to sit down in front of the computer as soon as the Flyers game ended Wednesday night and tear into them after an utterly embarrassing 9-0 loss to the New York Rangers.

After all, it was the worst game I had seen the team play in nearly 15 years.

But… I didn’t.

I convinced myself to wait until morning. Sleep on it. The words will be a little less harsh then because I won’t feel like I wasted 150-or-so minutes of my life that I can never have back.

And while the sleep was enjoyable, the mood about writing about this franchise didn’t really change.

Probably because they have been in denial.

What I mean by that is, they collectively don’t have a sense of self, and we could see it coming last week.

As soon as the Flyers fell out of playoff position, I asked some guys afterwards if there needed to be a sense of urgency or desperation with the team – especially since they were doing a lot of things right and still losing games.

Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes mostly poo-pooed the idea.

Then, after another loss, Vigneault and captain Claude Giroux told us not to worry, that the team was trending in the right direction and that if they kept playing that way, the wins would come.

When you hear these things, it almost makes you question what you are seeing yourself. Am I missing something? Hockey is a difficult sport to watch sometimes. There are times when you think the team is playing well, and it isn’t, or times where you are certain the team is playing poorly, and you are wrong.

There are games when a guy finishes with three points, or is a plus-3 on the scoresheet, and really isn’t playing up to snuff, and there are times a guy is held pointless and is a minus-2 but plays a great game.

Hockey is weird that way.

But we could all see the problems the Flyers have been having of late. It wasn’t a mirage. Their team defense was in shambles and their goaltending was really subpar.

Watching the Flyers play defense against the Rangers reminded me of playing NHL 94 against my college roommate (pre-Nashville Predators), who was from Tennessee and had never seen the sport before and just used to hit random buttons while I dominated him. It looked a lot like this:

As for the goaltending, Brian Elliott, who had been spectacular for the first two months of the season, started showing cracks against Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago, and hasn’t had a good performance since, with the lone exception of a relief outing of Carter Hart in the come-from-behind win against Buffalo.

Meanwhile, Hart’s most encouraging game in the past few weeks came Monday against the Rangers, and he still allowed four goals.

In fact, the Flyers have now allowed three goals or more in nine-straight games, and in the last eight games have given up 37 goals – an average of 4.63 per contest.

If stuff like this wasn’t setting off alarm bells, maybe the worst lost in nearly two decades will.

That’s the only saving grace out of this whole mess – is that this is only the outcome of one regular season game. That the end result would have been the same had they lost a 1-0 goalie duel or lost 6-5 in a wild west shootout. As long as the game was ending in regulation, this loss was the same as every other. The other team earned two points, and the Flyers did not.

And waking up on Thursday, the Flyers are still three points out of a playoff spot, the same as they were before the Wednesday night carnage.

But this is now Waterloo.

This is the time when the team has to recognize that its game isn’t right. That it isn’t up to snuff.  Because losing games 9-0 doesn’t happen every day in the NHL. Consider the following:

  • It was the first time the Flyers have allowed nine goals since Oct. 27, 2011, when they fell 9-8 to Winnipeg – which was the infamous Ilya Bryzgalov “Lost in the Woods” game.
  • It was the most decisive loss in a road game in franchise history. They had previously lost a game 8-0 twice – in 1969 and 1994.
  • They allowed seven goals in the second period – also a franchise record. They had allowed six four times, the most recent being the worst game I’ve ever witnessed the Flyers play – Oct. 17, 2006 in Buffalo, a game after which then-chairman Ed Snider proclaimed “The whole damn team stinks,” and then proceeded to fire coach Ken Hitchcock and allowed for GM Bob Clarke to “resign” after they came home from the road trip a few days later.
  • They allowed Mika Zibanejad to score six points in the second period. That tied an NHL record that had only been done once before – by Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders – in 1978!

And there was also this:

You know when you have Elias tweeting about your game, that it really can’t be good for one team.

The Flyers were clearly ticked off after the game, too. The usually loquacious Alain Vigneault was short and quick with the media in his press availability. Captain Claude Giroux and poor Travis Sanheim were trotted out and neither had much of anything to say other than calling the game an embarrassment, which we all knew anyway.

And I say poor Sanheim because although he had a terrible game (he was on the ice for seven of the nine Rangers goals and finished with a minus-6), it’s not like it was just him that was at fault. More guys should have been made available to face the music after such a poor performance.

Phil Myers was also minus-6 and probably was the worse of the two defenseman in his pair. Hayes had one of his worst games as a Flyer and really didn’t look interested once the game started to snowball. Konecny was invisible. This was probably James van Riemsdyk’s worst game of the season. Ditto Sean Couturier. There was one goal by the Rangers where no forwards even attempted to get back into the play, leaving the defensemen stranded. Scott Laughton appeared to be the closest forward on the play, and he was just cruising back into the zone.

There was a true lack-of-compete and that should piss off everyone in that room before playing the Islanders Thursday night.

And that’s the thing I was starting to get at several paragraphs ago – a loss like this can actually be the tipping point in a good direction. Maybe this kick in the teeth is what the Flyers needed since they were so averse to not needing to play with urgency or desperation. Maybe it leads to a wake up call, and the talented squad suddenly decides to play with a little heart and a little fire for an entire game and gets things going in the right direction that Vigneault and Giroux talked about after losing to the Capitals.

Either that, or its the kind of game that pushes a team off the ledge and they never recover from the free fall.

It’s up to the Flyers to decide which it is, and they need to decide today.

For more Flyers coverage, follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy provide pregame and intermission coverage of every Flyers home game from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts   

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