A little over midway through Tuesday night's game, Kevin Hayes snapped his stick in half like an angry baseball player destroying his bat after a strikeout.
The frustration felt like déjà vu. Hayes shattered his stick into pieces Monday. These days, the Flyers are probably going through more sticks than usual.
The frustration — from both the club and its fans — reached a palpable level Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center as the Flyers' problematic March hit a new low. The Flyers stumbled to a 4-3 loss at the hands of the Devils.
A pair of third-period goals from Sean Couturier made the score closer but the Flyers fell short of the equalizer.
As the second-period buzzer sounded, the Flyers (15-12-4) heard sharp boos from the 2,882 fans in attendance.
The voiced displeasure was warranted.
"We have a lot of confidence in our group," Claude Giroux said postgame. "We still think we're going to make the playoffs. We need to be a little bit more consistent in our game. It starts with me. You can’t play one good game and then one bad game and keep going like that. We need to put a few games together here."
The Devils (12-14-4) are 1-2-0 against the Flyers this season.
• With a press conference Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET, general manager Chuck Fletcher will hold his typical state-of-the-team address around the midway mark of the season.
It won't be a glowing address.
In many key areas across the board, the Flyers have regressed from last season, which saw the team win its first playoff series since 2012 and come a game away from the Eastern Conference Final.
Here's where the Flyers stand through 31 games compared to last season's first 31 games:
- Record: 17-9-5 (39 points)
- Goals per game: 3.03
- Goals allowed per game: 2.68
- Power play: 17.9%
- Penalty kill: 85.1%
- Shots per game: 32.5
- Shots allowed per game: 28.8
- Record: 15-12-4 (34 points)
- Goals per game: 3.10
- Goals allowed per game: 3.52
- Power play: 19.1%
- Penalty kill: 74.5%
- Shots per game: 28.4
- Shots allowed per game: 29.4
Just as troubling, the Flyers have regressed throughout the course of the season, as well. It would be one thing if they were starting to find their identity after a slow start.
That has not been the case.
In March, the Flyers have held an intermission lead only four times. Thirteen games into their 17-game March slate, the Flyers are 4-8-1 and have surrendered 57 goals (4.38 per game). They allowed 52 goals through their first 18 games in which they went 11-4-3 before the March slide.
After allowing 2.77 goals per game last season, tied for the seventh fewest in the NHL, the Flyers are permitting 3.52 goals per game this season. Only the Senators are giving up more at 3.82.
"We know we haven't been good enough, we're very aware of it," Alain Vigneault said before the game. "We know we need to get better. Our goal is to get into the playoffs first, that's our first objective and we're working on that. To work on that, we've got to take care of business tonight and that's what we intend to do."
The Flyers did not and the head coach might be asking his GM for help soon as the evaluation heats up ahead of the April 12 trade deadline.
One can safely surmise the Flyers won't be buying like a Stanley Cup contender. Thirty-one games into the 56-game regular season and the Flyers are still on the outside of the playoff picture in the loaded East Division. Are they currently worth risking a hefty sacrifice for maybe making the postseason?
Fletcher will be proactive in looking for help but the Flyers should be judicious in what they're willing to give up.
• The Flyers surrendered a goal in the final minute of the first and second periods. Travis Zajac did the second-period honors for New Jersey, which sounded the boo birds.
"I think overall, as a five-man unit, we’re not working as well as last year," Ivan Provorov said. "We were playing a lot closer, a lot tighter, we were killing plays and we were able to get the puck back sooner and spend less time in our zone. Lately, we haven’t been playing the same, so I think that’s why there have been some breakdowns and a lot more goals."
• Carter Hart came in with strong numbers in his young career against the Devils but any track record doesn't seem to matter much with the Flyers right now.
The 22-year-old made 28 saves on 32 shots. He can be better and the Flyers were porous in front of him. Heard this story before?
New Jersey netminder Mackenzie Blackwood faced the Flyers for the first time this season. The 24-year-old entered 2-0-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in his career against the Flyers.
His impressive play against the Flyers continued as he converted 30 saves.
• The Flyers fell behind, 2-1, at first intermission. During March, they've been outscored 20-9 in the first period.
Tough to win like that.
Michael McLeod gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead midway through the frame and Kyle Palmieri regained the advantage on a power play marker with six seconds left in the period. The holding call on Travis Sanheim was highly questionable, but the Devils took advantage.
They were also the clear-cut better team to start the game when the Flyers have stated ad nauseam that they need to build off of a strong performance.
With inconsistent starts, you can see why they've allowed three or more goals in all but one game this month.
"It’s my job to work with these players," Vigneault said postgame. "They're good players, they care, they want to win. Obviously we’ve got a consistency issue at this time and it’s my job to find the right buttons to push — and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. Obviously I haven’t found that yet, but I’m going to continue to work. There’s no doubt in my mind that these guys had the best intentions, but it seemed early on that we didn’t have a lot in the tank."
• Joel Farabee scored his 14th goal in 30 games to get the Flyers on the board in the first period. His marker came on the power play, which went 1 for 3.
On the other side of the Flyers' special teams units, the penalty kill went 3 for 4. The Flyers committed four penalties before the game was halfway done.
• The Flyers are off from practice Wednesday and host the Rangers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
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