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November 24, 2017

The Flyers aren’t hitting the panic button — yet

Flyers NHL

The beauty about hockey players is they don’t mask anything. Whatever is on their mind after a game often surfaces. So the look of disgust on the faces of Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds spelled it out: The Flyers are frustrated and in trouble.

But no one was about to hit the panic switch after the Flyers blew a two-goal, third-period lead in dropping their seventh-straight game, 5-4, in overtime to the visiting New York Islanders on Friday.

“You have a 4-2 lead, I don’t care how you do it, you have to find a way to get the win. We played a good game. We just couldn’t finish. We have to find a way to get confidence, especially in the third period."

The seven-game dip is the longest winless streak the Flyers have had since floundering with a 10-game winless streak in 2008 (Feb. 6, 2009-to-Feb. 23, 2008; The 2008 team reached the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins).

This month, the Flyers are 2-9 overall. They’re 2-10 over their last 12 and 2-8 over their last 10.

This current slide has featured an inability to close games. They lost to Winnipeg in a shootout after being up 2-0 in the first period on Nov. 16. They lost to Calgary in overtime after being up 3-1 in the first period on Nov.18, and were up 1-0 against Vancouver before surrendering four unanswered goals in a lethargic 50 minutes, in dropping a 5-2 decision on Nov. 21.

It’s a combination of sloppiness in their own zone, lazy passes that lead to turnovers, and fundamental mistakes like puck watching that has contributed to this fall.

And finally, the Flyers were up 4-2 on a Black Friday home-and-home matinee against the Islanders and collapsed. They fell to 8-10-5, 22 points, and reside at the bottom of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division.

“You have a 4-2 lead, I don’t care how you do it, you have to find a way to get the win,” said Giroux, after a very audible sigh of frustration. “We played a good game. We just couldn’t finish. We have to find a way to get confidence, especially in the third period.

“I believe in what we’re doing is going to work. We have to start believing that we’re a good team and can finish games, but until then, stuff like this is going to happen. We’re all frustrated right now. You play a good game and can’t find a way to end it, but I really believe that we’re going to learn from this. We’re going to get back to a playoff spot.”

When Simmonds entered the locker room to meet the gathered press, he wore an expression as if he wanted to rip someone’s face off. He was that angry. Simmonds’ second-period goal put the Flyers up, 2-1, on Friday and was the first goal he scored in over a month, since the Flyers’ 2-1 win over Edmonton on Oct. 21.

“There’s no change in mentality at all, it’s just about getting it right,” Simmonds said. “It is what it is. No one is feeling sorry for us. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to find a way to change the tide. No matter what it takes. We’ve been close but we haven’t gotten there.”

Flyers’ coach Dave Hakstol took a different approach. He looked at the Flyers’ listing situation from a half-full cup. He’s mixed lines to no avail.

“You have to evaluate it for what it is,” Hakstol said. “It’s another hockey game after 60 minutes. It’s a tie game I think. I think seven of our last 10 we’ve gotten a point. So five of those are OT or shootout losses. Again today, it was a close hockey game all of the way through.

“We have to find a way to finish the games in overtime, and we haven’t done that yet. We have to do a better job there. We’ll continue to look for ways to try and improve that little bit that we need to. Also, one of the big things for me is for our group to stay confident and stay with it and come back to work tomorrow.”