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.
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