Flyers hold 'players only' meeting after loss in Calgary
CALGARY, Alberta — The door to the Flyers' locker room remained closed longer than usual.
When it finally popped open, most of the players inside still had their pants, skates and shinpads on - half dressed in hockey parlance.
A few of them had blank looks on their faces, utterly stunned. Others were in a sour mood, ready to move on to Edmonton.
The Flyers held a brief "players only" meeting after their 4-1 loss to the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. They entered the final frame trailing by just one goal and allowed two power play goals after a parade to the penalty box in the third period.
What happened? What was said? Why now?
Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Mark Streit stood up and addressed the team with passion. When approached, all three declined to specifically comment on exactly what was said - and why it came after Game No. 73 of the season, when the Flyers are long out of the Stanley Cup playoff race.
"That's between us," Simmonds said. "We weren't happy with our last few games - and that was it. We didn't have enough compete. I think that's the main thing.
"We're getting paid to play this game. This is our career. If we're not going to have the pride and come out and compete every game, for me, I don't think there's any point. We shouldn't be playing the game."
Streit, an alternate captain, said he'd "rather keep what was said in the room. It was another tough game."
Voracek said: "I can't tell you that."
Captain Claude Giroux said it was not the first time this season that the locker room was addressed by teammates.
"We've tried a lot to get everyone on the same page," Giroux said. "We need to stick together here."
The Flyers have now lost eight consecutive games on the road. Their last road win was Feb. 15 in Buffalo, against the 30th place Sabres. They are now 9-20-9 away from home; only Buffalo, Edmonton and Toronto have fewer wins.
"You wear that Flyers uniform, you put that crest on, that's what you're playing for," Luke Schenn said. "This organization and the history there, Philadelphia has historically been a hard working city and the Flyers have been a hard working organization. The performance tonight was unacceptable. Everyone should feel pretty embarrassed about it.
"You're playing for pride, but also your teammates and the guy beside you. Guys are fighting for contracts. We've got to be a lot better."
If the Flyers' on-ice play and the necessity of their team meeting didn't set off alarm bells, the fact that Craig Berube yanked Steve Mason after two goals certainly should point to some discord.
Berube has ridden Mason hard all season, then pulled him for Ray Emery after allowing a goal on a screen which prevented him from seeing the puck until it hit the back of the net. In addition to Nick Schultz standing directly in front of him, Andrew MacDonald was to the right of Mason, blocking most of his field of vision toward the points.
"I don't think we're surprised at this point anymore," Schenn said of Mason's departure. "I don't think 'Mase' was playing bad or anything like that, it was just to shake things up."
Yes, the Flyers did score with 9 ticks remaining in the second period to cut the deficit to one goal, but whatever "momentum" it gained was clearly lost on the locker room.
Berube said he was not happy with the goals Mason allowed.
"There are going to be screens," Berube said. "You've got to fight to find pucks."
Reminder: Mason is just outside the Top 5 in the NHL in save percentage, one of three goaltenders in the league in the Top 20 who isn't backstopping a playoff team.
Mason deserved better than that, particularly after the way he's played this season and the awkward position he's been put in this season. There was also only 2:03 remaining in the second period. Why not wait to make a change at intermission, if you feel one is required, to limit the embarrassment of a guy who has been the team's MVP?
"Aside from the one goal there, I was happy with my game, I was feeling good, I was making some good saves," Mason said. "Chief made the move, tried to gain momentum, but unfortunately it didn't go our way tonight. I was (caught off-guard). At the same time, we're at the point where you'll do anything to try and get a win."
Berube said he believed the game was even until the Flyers started taking penalties.
"They don't like the way they played," Berube said. "So, they wanted to talk about it, obviously. How would I know?"
Since the wheels fell of their season in Boston on March 7, the Flyers have sleepwalked through a 1-4-3 slate, with the No. 29-ranked team waiting them further north in Edmonton. If Thursday wasn't ugly enough, a national Hockey Night in Canada audience against one of the worst teams in the league could be another low water mark.
"I think we've got to realize, assess the situation," Simmonds said. "This is the best game in the world. It's a privilege to play in this league. It's not a right."
On Twitter: @frank_seravalli