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December 04, 2017

If Flyers hope to salvage their season, there's still time – but they better act fast

The Flyers were booed off the ice by those that remained following the 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, adding to the local hockey team’s downward spiral.

The Flyers showed no sense of urgency, despite being down by three goals. Even with the goalie pulled and the man advantage, the Orange and Black struggled to even get a shot on the net. They dropped to 8-11-7 on the season and currently sit at the bottom of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division with seemingly no answers available to right this terribly listing team.

Obviously, no one is pleased. The players aren’t. Management isn’t. And the fans, as was evident from the sendoff they age the home team on Saturday, most certainly aren't.

The Flyers carry a 10-game winless streak into Monday night’s game at Calgary. It’s the seventh time in franchise history the Flyers have gone 10-straight games without a win. During this stretch, the they are 0-5-5. 

The 10-game run matches the Flyers’ 10-game winless rut in 2008 (Feb. 6 to Feb. 23), when the team went 0-8-2.

That 2008 team, which at its core had eventual Stanley Cup champions Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, along with Danny Briere, Mike Knuble and a promising rookie named Claude Giroux, ultimately reached the Eastern Conference Finals. And immediately following that 10-game winless stretch, they went 12-4-4 over their next 20 games. 

It was team that was coached by John Stevens, an experienced NHL coach, and it had a good veteran base in Richards, Carter, Briere and solid goaltending in Martin Biron.

The current team has a decent veteran base in Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. Brian Elliott has actually done a decent job in the net, considering the little help he’s received out front. The mistakes the Flyers are making – like the constant icing against Boston – appear to be correctable. And Dave Hakstol appears to be given a lengthy leash by general manager Ron Hextall, so it could be salvaged. 

But the salvage needs to happen fast, because this season is quickly slipping away and could be over by mid-January. 

Fortunately, the NHL Eastern Conference isn’t very good. There is Tampa Bay, Toronto, Columbus, New Jersey and two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh; the rest of the conference is not exactly filled with world-beaters. 

As of early December, the Flyers are eight points behind Washington for the last wild card spot in the conference. But they still have to face Tampa Bay, Columbus and Toronto a combined nine times the remainder of the season. And the effort is there. 

The Flyers are working hard, though a recurring mantra with this team is that they’re not working smart. 

Since winning 10-straight games last year, the Flyers have lost 47 of their last 75 games. In the time being, the same blank expressions follow each episode of this mess. 

“We’re just squeezing our sticks; we just have to figure it out here,” said a shell shocked Giroux after the Boston loss. “We will figure it out. We just need that first win so we can have that little breather. It’s not a good time right now. We need to figure it out, and figure it out soon. We’re trying too hard. We’re trying to make the extra play and not focusing in on the job. 

“We’re just trying to do too much. We have to simplify and everything will be fine.”

The Flyers overcame a 3-0, first-period deficit to ends the 10-game winless slide on February 25, 2008. They won in a shootout, sure, but it snapped the streak and got the team going again.

If anyone is to believe Giroux, he said point blank, “We feel pretty confident in our system and our structure in the way we play, it’s like I said, we get the puck now and mentally we’re making the right decisions. We’re forcing it or trying to make the extra play, instead of keeping it simple.”

On Monday night in Calgary, Dave Hakstol will be hoping that some changes to his lineup – including moving Wayne Simmonds to the top line in place of Jake Voracek – produce a different result for the slumping Flyers ... before it's too late.

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