'Going through the motions' when Flyers can't afford it

'Going through the motions' when Flyers can't afford it

Carter Hart is a positive, happy-go-lucky kind of kid. His youthful exuberance is why so many people like him. The 20-year-old will block out negativity like a brick wall.

Props to the youngster for not expressing even an inkling of lost hope after the Flyers stomached arguably their most disheartening defeat of 2018-19.

On home ice Tuesday night, the Flyers lost to the Canadiens, 3-1, a team they're trying to leapfrog in their pursuit of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot (see observations). With 10 games remaining, the Flyers trailed Montreal by three points and the final playoff berth by six. They needed this game and didn't get it, leaving a climb that feels insurmountable (see standings).

"Have they said that we're automatically out, have they said that?" Hart asked rather rhetorically following the game. "Then exactly, we still have nine games here and mathematically, we're not out of it, so there's still a chance. That's what the mindset has to be in this locker room."

Claude Giroux is not 20 years old. He is 31 and has seen more playoff pushes than anybody on the Flyers' roster. As much as he could try to spin the situation differently, he's too accustomed to desperation time.

"We can't afford losing a game the rest of the season," Giroux said. "We're aware of that."

The Flyers probably can't afford a bad period at this point.

On Fan Appreciation Night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers didn't set the tone, playing a so-so opening stanza. They fell behind, 1-0, and had trouble generating chances with eight shots on net, not many of great quality, according to IcyData.

"I feel we didn't have a lot of urgency, we were going through the motions," Giroux said of the first period. "We didn't play bad, but we didn't play good."

Was that surprising given the implications of the game?

"Yeah," Giroux said.

It's understandable to have a not-bad, not-good period, but not when the Flyers have provided themselves so little room for error. For the Flyers — who made such a frenzied charge from Jan. 14 to March 11, going 18-4-2 with a plus-22 goal differential — their biggest hurdle isn't getting help from others, but instead having to be perfect down the stretch. They're now 1-3-0 in their last four games.

The Canadiens, who were 2-5-0 and outscored 24-12 in their previous seven games, held a 2-0 lead at second intermission Tuesday. Their goalie Carey Price came in with a 19-2-2 record and 2.13 goals-against average when leading after the second period.

Another hole in a season comprised of too many.

"I think our guys were ready to play," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said.

"Obviously we would've liked to get a few more screens, but I also think [the Canadiens] worked pretty hard at preventing us from getting near … whether we need a little more fight or not, I wouldn't be able to tell you until I saw the tape. 

"I know that I did look at the chances after the first and second period — we're in the area but we can't get to where we want to go."

The same can be said for the Flyers in the standings.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Hurricanes set for Game 7 clash

USA Today Images

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Hurricanes set for Game 7 clash

There were two Game 7 matchups Tuesday night.

On Wednesday night, we've got another one and it should be good as the defending champion Capitals try to put away the Rod Brind'Amour-led Hurricanes, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The first-round series hasn't lacked fireworks or physicality. Game 7 should be no different.

Below is the full schedule for Day 15 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Eastern Conference first round
7:30 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Updated: 5:13 p.m.

The Flyers saw both ends of the spectrum with their first-round picks from the 2018 draft.

While Joel Farabee shined at Boston University this season (see story), Jay O'Brien struggled to find his game at Providence College.

After a freshman season comprised of injuries and five points (two goals, three assists) in 25 games, it appears O'Brien's time with the Friars is over.

According to a report Tuesday by Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal, O'Brien has entered the NCAA transfer portal and is expected to play for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL during the 2019-20 season. However, per separate reports, O'Brien's decision for next season is still being decided.

O'Brien, a playmaking center, will have three years of college eligibility remaining.

Now, before anyone starts debating O'Brien's future, let's remember the importance of perspective with teenage prospects. 

O'Brien was perceived as a bit of project when the Flyers' previous regime of Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor selected him 19th overall last summer. Taking O'Brien at No. 19 was viewed by many as a reach, but the Flyers' scouting staff was high on the Thayer Academy product and trusted its evaluation. The Flyers took O'Brien over other centers Joseph Veleno, Rasmus Kupari and Isac Lundestrom.

This season, Veleno put up 104 points in the QMJHL, Kupari had 33 points over 43 games in Liiga (Finnish pro league) and Lundestrom appeared in 15 games with the Ducks.

O'Brien, because of his smaller stature (5-foot-11, 174 pounds) and being drafted out of prep school, had an adjustment period playing Division I hockey (see story). Multiple injuries also didn't help his cause with the transition.

But patience with O'Brien was always going to be imperative. The Flyers drafted him on a lot of upside after taking more of a guarantee in the quick-rising Farabee five picks earlier. The 19-year-old O'Brien isn't lacking in ability or work ethic. Providence head coach Nate Leaman, who led the Friars to a national title in 2015, called O'Brien's skill set "elite."

"It takes time to learn to play at the speed, to play with the lack of space," Leaman said in January during a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story).

"These guys that come right from high school, it takes time and I know Philly has told us that they understand that also."

O'Brien paid little attention to pre-draft rankings last summer.

"I don't even know where I was," he said at development camp. "It doesn't mean much to me. It's not really where you get drafted, it's what you do after you get drafted."

He'll have a new path in 2019-20, another chance to prove himself. There's still plenty to like, with plenty of time.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers