Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: Crushing loss in Pittsburgh the tipping point?

Flyers Weekly Observations: Crushing loss in Pittsburgh the tipping point?

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse and that it was OK to step outside in your orange and black gear again, this past week happened.

The bruises got darker and the cuts got deeper this week as the Flyers’ prolonged misery and embarrassment continued with three more painful losses, each in unique fashion, to push the losing streak to 10 games. It’s the longest losing streak for the Flyers since 2008, when they also lost 10 in a row. For those keeping score at home, the longest winless streak (losses and ties) in franchise history is 12 games way back in 1999.

The week kicked off in stunning fashion with a disheartening 5-4 loss in OT to the rival Penguins on Monday in Pittsburgh. It continued back home Tuesday night with a lifeless 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. And then the week ended with yet another dud, a 3-0 shutout loss at home to the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.

So, as you may be able to infer, there is plenty to get to in this week’s observations, and not much, if any of it, is good.

Let’s get to it.

• The feeling heading into this week was that the Flyers, losers of seven straight contests, could benefit from the energy, ill will and overall rivalry with the Penguins, and get some momentum going to turn the ship around. And for 40 minutes, it looked like that feeling was reality.

Until the third period began and the Flyers blew yet another two-goal lead, the fourth such lead they’ve blown during this streak. But they struck back thanks to a sweet power move by Michael Raffl, only to have that lead evaporate with less than a minute left. So of course you knew the nightmare would come full circle with a Sidney Crosby OT winner.

This loss was so demoralizing on so many levels. Here, you had the defending two-time Stanley Cup champs and your blood rival on the ropes to end a long losing streak, and then in the blink of an eye it all swirled down the drain in a most painful, needling fashion while your goalie, Brian Elliott, basically stood on his head with 47 saves and gave you a chance to win yet again.

The question that still lingers almost a week after: was that the tipping point for the Flyers? Was that black eye what finally pushed them off the cliff? If we’re status quo in April and we look back at when the wheels fell off for good, will that be what we point back to? Shake the orange and black Magic 8-ball right now and “all signs point to yes” will appear. And the proof was in how the Flyers responded in the next two games.

• Last week, I wrote that the 5-2 loss to Vancouver on Nov. 21 was the Flyers’ worst performance of the season. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have an new leader in the clubhouse and it’s the dismal showing back home vs. San Jose on Tuesday night, just 24 hours after the meltdown in Pittsburgh.

After Claude Giroux scored just 48 seconds into the contest, the Flyers barely had a pulse for the next 59:12. The Sharks grabbed the game by the throat and the Flyers put up little resistance or pushback.

Yes, the Flyers were a tired team coming off a heartbreaking loss and the Sharks are a big, strong contender from the Western Conference. But still, the Flyers should have more than five measly third-period shots when trailing by two goals. The night was a breeze for Sharks goalie Aaron Dell, who had to make just 22 saves, and not many of the challenging variety.

Just not a good effort whatsoever. And more importantly, an awful response to adversity from the night before.

• The Flyers lost again Saturday, of course, to the Bruins, 3-0, and were shut out for the sixth time in 26 games. That marks the most in the league. But while the Bruins carried the game, the Flyers shouldn’t have been shut out as Giroux cleanly beat Tuukka Rask on the power play near the end of the second period to cut Boston’s lead to 3-1.

But not so fast, as the officials erased the tally for supposed goalie interference on Wayne Simmonds, who had cut in front of Rask and made contact with the Bruins’ netminder, according to the powers that be. And it was an egregiously terrible call by the powers that be.

Simmonds, who is entitled to his ice, barely grazed, if even touched Rask, who was inching out of his crease. That was and still is a good goal, except to the league, which has different rules and standards on different days. That move by Simmonds will be goalie interference one game and not even an afterthought the next. The lack of consistency is baffling. If you’re going to call it tight, call it tight all the time. If you’re going to let some things go, let those things go all the time.

The way the rule is enforced one game and period and play to the next is laughable, to be quite frank.

• Some curious lineup decisions by Dave Hakstol this week, benching young forwards Jordan Weal and Taylor Leier as healthy scratches and inserting veterans Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera into the lineup Monday in Pittsburgh and Tuesday vs. San Jose.

OK, a veteran presence is one thing. But it doesn’t help all that much when those veterans are giving you next to nothing right now. Weise has only two goals on the season and just one point in his last 14 games played. The stats are just as ugly for Lehtera, who has just two assists in 17 contests this season.

Yes, the scoresheet isn’t pretty for Weal or Leier, respectively. Weal, who was counted on coming into the season to provide a secondary scoring jolt in a top-six role, has just two goals and four assists on the campaign and is scoreless in his last 11 contests. Leier, pegged into a fourth-line role that isn’t asking for offense all the time, has a goal and two assists on the season.

But what those two guys do bring night in and night out is energy. And if there’s anything this Flyers team needs desperately right now, it’s an injection of energy. Those two guys should be playing every night.

• Funny (alright, maybe not so much in this case) how things can change over the course of a year. On Dec. 3 last season, the Flyers topped the Chicago Blackhawks to win their fourth of eventually 10 straight games. Fast forward a year and the Flyers are drowning in the quicksand that is this 10-game skid and morale is as low as has been in recent memory. "It's f----ing brutal," according to Shayne Gostisbehere. "Everything we touch right now turns to s--," explained Jake Voracek on Saturday.

Hey, nowhere to go but up, right?

Right?

Coming up this week: Monday at Calgary (9:00 p.m. on NBCSP+), Wednesday at Edmonton (9:30 p.m. on NBCSP), Thursday at Vancouver (10:00 p.m. on NBCSP).

What's next for Scott Gordon? Watching Stanley Cup Playoffs

What's next for Scott Gordon? Watching Stanley Cup Playoffs

Chuck Fletcher wanted to give Scott Gordon some time to think about his future.

The general manager said Gordon was understandably disappointed Monday morning when he was told he didn't earn the Flyers' full-time head coaching position.

What might Gordon be doing in the meantime?

Good chance he's checking in on the NHL playoffs.

Two weeks ago, Gordon was in limbo with the Flyers — a part of meetings moving forward and considered a strong candidate for the head coaching job, but with nothing guaranteed.

He was asked if such a dynamic was awkward at all.

"At the end of every year, it doesn't matter where you are or what your contract is, there's always a chance you're not going to be back," Gordon said. "I go into the summer or the end of the season, I obviously reflect on the past season, what I'd like to do different [or keep] the same."

In doing so, Gordon likes to study the postseason. A big advocate of dissecting game film, Gordon does the same with the Stanley Cup Final.

"I generally try to watch the playoffs as a fan and then in the finals, I'll watch it as a fan but then I will get those on a computer and break down, in August, some of the things … when the playoffs go through, just identify some things that I like that teams did," Gordon said. "Pay particular attention to the finals in August, as far as what I might consider doing differently, pull footage and present to my team maybe a different way of going about business."

Which team Gordon is working for in 2019-20 is unknown. He impressed Fletcher as the Flyers' interim head coach. The club was in the basement of the 31-team NHL standings more than halfway through the regular season. By March 11, the Flyers were within three points of a playoff spot following an 18-4-2 spree under Gordon.

Fletcher said he would likely touch base with Gordon again after Easter weekend. He will welcome him back to the organization with open arms. Fletcher said Gordon's previous job as head coach of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley was his if the 56-year-old wanted it.

However, Gordon said after the Flyers' regular-season finale that his time with the 2018-19 club changed his perspective on coaching in the NHL again, a much-needed spark following a not-so-memorable two-plus seasons as head coach of the Islanders from 2008-10.

"My experience in Long Island wasn't a great one," Gordon said April 6. "So much so that I didn't really think too much about coaching in the NHL. If it happened, great, but I wasn't losing any sleep over it. As I told the players after the game tonight, coming in here and dealing with the character of the players — not just as players but as people — reinvigorated that desire to coach in the NHL. With that being said, I'll do what job is asked of me and I won't think twice about it."

Gordon won't have any issues finding a job. He'll be watching the Stanley Cup Final, ready to coach.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Maple Leafs, Golden Knights can clinch on home ice

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Maple Leafs, Golden Knights can clinch on home ice

Four first-round playoff series remain alive.

Two of those four series could end Sunday.

Both the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights can advance to the second round if they win their respective Game 6s on home ice.

Below is the full schedule for Day 12 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs (TOR 3-2)
Game 6, Eastern Conference first round
3 p.m. ET | TV: NBC | Live stream here

San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights (VGK 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here