On Wednesday, amid the Flyers' March swoon, general manager Chuck Fletcher held his annual midseason press conference and answered questions for 22½ minutes.
The next day, the Flyers provided no answers in 60 minutes. Unlike their 9-0 loss to the Rangers a week ago in New York, the Flyers at least made a peep Thursday night. They won't write home about it. The Flyers were rolled by the Rangers again, this time an 8-3 decision at the Wells Fargo Center.
Not 9-0, but in the grand scheme, just as bad and just as concerning.
The Flyers (15-13-4) have given up six or more goals six times already through 32 games this season. They gave up six or more goals only five times in 69 games last season.
A team that was expected to take the next step toward Stanley Cup contention this season took another wobbly step back Thursday night. The month of March has been marred by steps backward for the Flyers. They're 4-9-1 this month and have yielded an NHL-most 65 goals (4.64 per game). They're allowing 3.66 on the season, the second most in hockey, and are falling further out of the playoff picture.
Via tiebreakers, the Rangers (15-13-4) have jumped the Flyers and taken over fifth place in the East Division. The Flyers are ahead of only the Devils and Sabres.
"We’re going to get an opportunity [Friday] to have our first practice in 12 days," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said postgame. "We’re going to get back to work.
"There's no doubt that we came into this game tonight with the right intentions, in my personal opinion. It didn’t go that way at all. Every opportunity we gave them early on they seemed to be able to capitalize on it."
• Carter Hart's confidence looks shot. This year has to be wearing on the 22-year-old, on and off the ice. He said earlier this month that he hadn't felt like himself. His immediate NHL success sometimes makes you forget he's still early into his pro career and a young adult playing through a pandemic.
Prior to this season, Hart impressively seemed to always have an answer for pressure or hype. In 2020-21, it feels like things have snowballed, coinciding with the Flyers' glaring goal-prevention problem.
On Thursday night, Hart was pulled for the fourth time this season after giving up five goals on 11 shots. He has allowed the most goals in the NHL at 77 after surrendering only 95 in a standout sophomore year last season.
Brian Elliott gave up three goals in relief duty.
"It's just straight not good enough right now," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We're letting guys just f---ing absolutely beat us up in front of the net and it makes our goaltenders look like absolute s---. It's not fair. We've got to be better as a team, we've got to be better as a D core."
• Another first period, another multi-goal deficit for the Flyers.
They fell behind 3-0 at first intermission. The Rangers ripped off the three goals in a span of 5:35 minutes.
During March, the Flyers have been outscored 23-9 in the first period. The starts to games are becoming a nightmare for the club.
• After dropping a hat trick and six-point night on the Flyers in New York's 9-0 stomping, Mika Zibanejad scored another hatty and finished with six points again.
The Flyers have given up five hat tricks this season in 32 games. They gave up one all of last season in 69 games.
New York was up 6-0 at one point and 6-2 at second intermission. The Rangers scored a shorthanded goal at the beginning of the third period to put the nail in the coffin.
"Right now, this team has really lost its identity," Gostisbehere said. "From where we were at the beginning of the year to where we are now, it just sucks right now. We've got to find something here because we're too good of a team to let it just squander away. We owe it to our goaltenders, we owe it to these older guys on our team. It’s just unacceptable."
• The Flyers have more regulation losses at home (7-7-3) than they did all of last season (25-6-4).
• It's baffling why the Flyers' penalty kill has taken such a drastic step back this season. Prior to assistant coach Mike Yeo's arrival in 2019-20, the Flyers' penalty kill was second worst in the NHL over the previous five seasons at 78.4 percent. Last season, Yeo had it 11th in the league at 81.8 percent.
On Thursday night, the Flyers' PK was 2 for 5. It looks less aggressive and more packed in than last season. The team's penalty kill entered the game 25th in the league at 74.5 percent.
We keep mentioning the loss of defenseman Matt Niskanen. His absence is looking bigger by the game. Maybe the Flyers' PK is also missing role winger Tyler Pitlick.
The Flyers' power play went 2 for 3 and allowed that shorthanded goal.
• Samuel Morin entered the lineup and played his natural position as a defenseman. He dropped the gloves in the third period and connected on some punches.
• The Flyers and Rangers meet again Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center (1 p.m. ET/NBCS).
Subscribe to and rate Flyers Talk