Tuesday night’s lackluster, lethargic effort was the tipping point.
A 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks, the same team the Flyers knocked off on opening night, culminated with a players-only, closed-door meeting (see observations). Even the players’ fathers, in attendance for a special gathering coordinated by the Flyers, were waiting outside the dressing room.
“We've got to look at each other and see what we’re playing for here and go play for it,” captain Claude Giroux said. “The position we’re in here, it’s really frustrating. It’s not the position that we thought we’d be in right now.”
The Flyers’ winless streak stretched to nine games (0-4-5) with their last victory three weeks ago on home ice over the Chicago Blackhawks. They posted a 2-5-6 record during the month of November.
“It’s not just this one [game]. It’s all nine,” forward Wayne Simmonds said. “It’s a cumulative thing. We’ve had leads, chances to win in overtime, shootouts and whatever it may be and we haven’t done it. I know this is unacceptable. This isn’t right.”
“I think it’s just a matter of guys saying what you want to say,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “It’s not questioning anyone’s integrity or their work ethic or anything. It’s more just we got into this thing together, and it’s up to us to get out of it.”
The mistake-filled effort on Tuesday night included countless turnovers, sloppy passing and six minor penalties during a span of 27 minutes that negated a pair of power-play opportunities.
After witnessing a similar performance against the Canucks last week, the Wells Fargo Center crowd quickly turned on the guys in orange sweaters. However, the most venom was reserved for the head coach as a chorus of boos and “Fire Hakstol” chants intensified in the final minutes of the game (see Ron Hextall's take).
“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Dave Hakstol said. “If you don’t want to be in this spot, that’s a choice. That’s how I react to it. There’s high expectations in this market, and we have maybe the best fans in the National Hockey League and they’re full value for having the expectations.”
“They can chant whatever they want. We’re in this together,” Giroux said. “We’re all in the same boat here. It’s not on him. It’s on everybody.”
“I don’t think that’s a fair assessment,” Simmonds said of the chants. “He’s not on the ice, he’s not playing. It’s up to us to go out there and play every single night.”
Playing for the first time in a week, Michal Neuvirth couldn’t come up with his best effort either, as he was slow to react on the Sharks’ first two goals — a Chris Tierney snap shot from the high slot and Joe Thornton’s sharp-angle shot during a 5-on-3 power play that gave San Jose a 2-1 lead after the opening period.
“Yeah, I’ve definitely got to stop that one,” Neuvirth said of Thornton’s goal. “It was a long shift and some heavy legs, but I’ve got to make the save there, for sure.”
Frustration mounted as the Flyers, playing on the second night of a back-to-back with tired legs, went more than 23 minutes while registering just one shot against Sharks netminder Aaron Dell.
“Maybe when you’re tired you make some poor decisions,” Giroux said. “We didn’t take care of the puck. We made some bad decisions. We didn’t generate any offense. I don’t really have answers for you. We just have to find a way.”
“I probably think that last night’s game was a tough loss to swallow,” said Neuvirth, who backed up Brian Elliott’s 47-save performance in Pittsburgh. “I think that affected us tonight.”
“Everything’s connected,” Hakstol said. “We ran out of gas, for sure, as we ran into the third period. I thought effort-wise was there. We just didn’t have much execution and we didn’t have much energy.
“There’s not a magical formula. You go back to work. You believe in the guy that’s next to you. You’ve got to stick together and believe in the guys that are in that room. Nobody’s going to wave a magic wand.”
Wednesday is a much-needed day off for the Flyers. Many of them will drive their fathers to the airport following the two-day dads’ trip that isn’t exactly one they’ll be bragging about for years to come.