WASHINGTON — When the epitaph is written on the Flyers’ bizarre 2018-19 season, injuries to their goalies — and poor performances by their replacements before Carter Hart arrived — will be mentioned prominently.
“The Year of Eight Goalies” could go on their tombstone. So could this: “Couldn’t Win Enough at Home.”
The Flyers have accumulated the fewest home points of any of the eight Metropolitan Division teams. Surprisingly, they have just 18 wins and 20 losses (18-16-4) at the Wells Fargo Center. They need to win all three of their remaining games there (vs. Toronto, the Rangers, and Carolina) or they will finish with just their second losing home record in the last 24 seasons — and only their sixth since the franchise started in 1967-68.
“We’re probably putting a little too much pressure on ourselves” at home, said center Scott Laughton, one of the team’s most improved players. “We have to make something happen, and we have to go after teams.”
The Flyers, who will host Toronto on Wednesday night, were one of the NHL’s best teams for more than a two-month stretch, going 18-4-2 and inching to within three points of a wild-card spot with 13 games remaining. At the time, they seemed to have a decent chance to become the first team in NHL history to reach the playoffs after trailing by 16 points at one point in the season.
Since that sizzling run, however, they have gone 2-5, including defeats in their last three home games: losing to Washington, 5-2; falling to Montreal, 3-1; and getting outplayed by the Islanders, 4-2.
The Flyers’ offense has sputtered down the stretch, making wins possible only if their goalies were exceptional. Relying on your goaltender to steal wins is not the optimal situation, though Hart has done his part, making 41 and 40 saves, respectively, in each of the Flyers’ last two wins.
Many forwards have faded, including Claude Giroux, Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, and Oskar Lindblom. Giroux has no goals in last nine games, Patrick and Konecny have no goals in their last eight, and Lindblom has no goals in his last seven. (Giroux does have eight assists over his last nine games.)
Put it all together, and you have a team that is eight points out of a playoff spot with six games left.
“It’s not a secret,” Giroux said. “Right now, it’s going to be real tough to get in.”
Actually, it’s almost impossible. The Athletic gives them a 0.1 percent chance. That’s one in a thousand.
The Flyers’ awful start (15-22-6), their goaltending injuries, and their struggles at home are the main reasons.
If the team is going to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, it still needs three key pieces: a veteran to stabilize the defense, a No. 2 center, and a high-scoring winger. General manager Chuck Fletcher’s first offseason with the team should be a busy one.
Fletcher’s roster needs upgrading. Never was that more evident than in the Flyers’ games against the four division leaders: Tampa Bay, Washington, Winnipeg and Calgary. They have just one win in 10 games (1-6-3) against those powerful teams.
The Flyers have allowed 13 goals and 91 shots against the Maple Leafs in two games this season. They blew a 5-2 lead and fell to Toronto, 7-6, in the teams’ last meeting on March 15, and dropped a 6-0 decision on Nov. 24. … James van Riemsdyk has 20 goals over his last 32 games, including a hat trick against his former team, Toronto, on March 15. … Jake Voracek will play in his 600th game as a Flyer on Wednesday. … Brian Elliott on playing the remaining six games with virtually no chance to get into the playoffs: “There’s a lot of prideful guys in here, and no one is going to give up. There’s no give-up in our locker room. We wouldn’t be here if guys had that attitude. No matter what game it is, we’re coming to win.”