What a difference a week makes — even during a shortened season.
This time a week ago the Flyers were in the midst of a four-game winning streak and had pulled within two points of a playoff spot. Today they’re on virtual life support, a distant seven points from qualifying for the postseason with just eight games to play and four teams to climb over in the standings following a 3-1 loss Thursday night to the Ottawa Senators.
And while no one in orange and black is quite ready to wave the white flag, they know their task is too daunting to even think beyond the next game.
“All losses are tough,’’ said coach, Peter Laviolette, whose club has dropped three straight since winning in Toronto, scoring just one goal in each game. “We’re in the business of winning hockey games.
“Not getting that done is frustrating.’’
Especially considering the opportunities they’ve squandered.
Winnipeg had lost five straight before a four-goal, late second period explosion keyed the Jets’ 4-1 win. The Islanders hadn’t beaten the Flyers on home ice since 2010, before rallying for a 4-1 win Tuesday.
And Thursday, the Sens came in dragging their own five-game losing streak, putting their playoff hopes in peril with so many teams charging at them.
But rather than going after these clubs and feeding off their insecurities, the Flyers have been like chicken soup instead. Now the only ones sick are their fans, knowing it will take a total miracle to make up all that ground.
“I think everyone is still going to put in obviously a good effort right to the end,’’ said defenseman Luke Schenn, with road games coming up against the Sabres and Canadiens, before the Rangers and Devils come to town next week. “But obviously everyone’s a little bit frustrated.
“Guys are probably squeezing the stick a little tight. It’s been a real up and down year, for sure. It was a pretty competitive game for the most part tonight. But when it comes down to it, you’re not going to win very many games by scoring one goal.
The Flyers lone goal came when Claude Giroux redirected Simon Gagne’s shot shorthanded to tie the score at 11:44 of the first, after the Sens had dominated the first 10 minutes and taken a 1-0 lead on Zack Smith’s early breakaway. From there it became a tight defensive battle, with Ilya Bryzgalov back in goal after being given an unexpected night off on the Island.
A late third period high sticking call on Giroux that drew blood led to the game-winner on the power play, as Colin Greening inexplicably got behind the defense for another breakaway with just 5:36 left in regulation.
The Flyers pressed desperately for the equalizer but couldn’t connect, before Daniel Alfredsson’s empty net goal sealed it. And likely sealed their fate in the process.
“To get to playoffs you have to win games and right now we’re not winning games,’’ said Giroux. “We had some chances. We had some good chances. But sometimes it’s going to go in. Sometimes it won’t.’’
In large part because of all that’s transpired within the past week, eight games from now that will undoubtedly be their epitaph.