My first thought was to be reactionary.
After the Flyers season came to a crashing end Sunday in a classic Flyers manner – blowing a two goal lead – it was easy to put the target on this team, who ended up playing 88 games this season, winning 44 of them and losing 44 of them, as still not being ready for prime time.
It would be easy to target the coach – as I have for much of the season. The goaltending – for the umpteenth time. The defense – for their inherent lack of ability in getting the puck out of their own zone. The star players – who couldn’t score.
It would be easy to target all the negatives – and some negatives deserve to be highlighted – but the biggest takeaway of all of this is that even though the Flyers took a small step forward – making the playoffs after a one season hiatus, and doing so with a lot of young players in the lineup, there is still a long way to go before they can compete with the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And that’s the one thing that is going to make the upcoming offseason so crucial for the Flyers. They need to finally address holes in their roster via trades and free agency and need to stop trying to get by with band aids – marginal NHL veterans who provide no scoring punch.
It’s almost certain that a number of players who played in Sunday’s loss won’t be back. This Flyers team will have a much different look to it when training camp begins five months from now, but will it have a different feel? Or will we still look at how the roster has been put together and consider them a borderline playoff team, much as they have been the past six seasons, which includes three first round exits and three seasons where they missed the playoffs entirely?
So, I thought, let’s examine this roster, the impact each player had on this first round loss to Pittsburgh and what the future holds.
But, before we do, some telling statistics:
- The Flyers allowed eight goals in an elimination game for the fifth time in franchise history (1979, 1982 [nine goals], 1985, 2001, 2018). That’s a lot.
- The Penguins scored at least five goals in eight of the 10 games played against the Flyers this season, and all five of the games played in Philadelphia. That’s got to be considered completely unacceptable.
- The Flyers allowed 28 goals in the six games against the Penguins – tying a franchise record for most goals allowed in a playoff series and setting a franchise record for any series fewer than seven games.
- Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the series clincher against the Flyers, becoming the first player since Mario Lemieux in 1989 to score four goals in a playoff game against the Flyers (Lemieux had five).
- Guentzel and Sidney Crosby each finished the series with six goals and seven assists for 13 points – more than two points per game, as the Flyers had no answer for their line.
- Game 6 was the first time the Flyers lost a playoff game under Dave Hakstol where the team scored more than one goal. in his previous seven losses, the Flyers were shut out four times and scored one goal three times.
- Continuing on the last bullet, in Hakstol’s four career playoff wins, the Flyers have outscored their opponents 13-4. In Hakstol’s eight losses, the Flyers have been outscored 38-8.