Epitaph on the Flyers' season:
Teased fans that they would end a 35-year Stanley Cup drought by playing terrific hockey for the first five months. Stumbled in the last six weeks of the regular season and carried the inconsistency into the playoffs. Went from 2010 overachievers to 2011 underachievers.
So what does management do now? Just some tweaking because the team did finish with the NHL's third-best record in the regular season?
Or a major overhaul because of its hideous performance in the Eastern Conference semifinals?
The puck is in your court, Paul Holmgren.
My two cents: Get a bona fide No. 1 goalie, but do not - repeat - do not give up on Sergei Bobrovsky as the coach did early in the playoffs against Buffalo.
If the Flyers land a legitimate No. 1 goaltender in the offseason, then the three-ring circus (read: seven in-game goalie changes in 11 playoff games) can at least have a redeeming quality.
The Flyers' season ended, of course, with a humiliating four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins. It demonstrated, loud and clear, that it's very rare when a team can turn the switch on after playing mediocre hockey down the regular-season stretch.
The Flyers blew the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed by winning just seven of their last 21 regular-season games (7-8-6) after Feb. 26. They regrouped and barely beat Buffalo in seven first-round playoff games, then were outplayed from Beantown to Broomall as they were outscored by the Bruins, 20-7, in the conference semifinals.
Boston concluded the series with a 5-1 win Friday night. The final score was misleading - it was 1-1 in the third period, and the B's scored a pair of empty-net goals - but the four-game sweep wasn't.
Seven goals in four games. That's an indictment of an offense that struggled toward the end of the regular season and carried that struggle into the playoffs.
Granted, a lot of fingers can be pointed at the defense, which dearly missed Chris Pronger, and goaltending for the late-season swoon: 11 wins in their final 32 games, including the playoffs.
But the offense was even worse. Witness the two 1-0 losses in Round 1 against Buffalo and its youngest-in-the-league defense. (Yeah, yeah, Ryan Miller was great, but the Flyers had a way of making a lot of goalies look great this season. For all their scoring prowess, they were shut out nine times, including the playoffs.)
Including the end of the regular season and the playoffs, here are the gruesome numbers:
Claude Giroux, whose playmaking was excellent in the postseason, had two goals in his last 21 games.
Mike Richards had one goal in 11 postseason games and three goals in his last 20 games. On Saturday, Holmgren revealed what had been suspected: Richards played injured (wrist), so we'll give him a pass.
Ville Leino had five goals in his last 25 games.
Jeff Carter had three goals in his last 14 games. Carter also gets a pass for having just one playoff goal in six games because he was bothered by a painful knee injury.
Oh, and Kris Versteeg and Scott Hartnell each had one goal in 11 playoff games.
In addition to the lack of offense, the Flyers goaltending struggled mightily in the postseason. Some of it had to do with the way coach Peter Laviolette shuffled the goalies like a deck of cards. Some of it had to do with poor play.
It says here that Bobrovsky, the 22-year-old rookie, is a keeper despite his second-half dip, but he needs to be eased into the team's plans. Signing Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov, a soon-to-be free agent, would be the perfect complement to "Bob." Bryzgalov is also Russian, and he would help Bobrovsky's development, on and off the ice.
The Flyers will need to be creative to sign Bryzgalov, and it may mean that they can't re-sign Leino, and that they have to move one of the high-priced defensemen to clear cap space.
Do it. End the goalie madness. Play Bryzgalov, say, 55 games and Bobrovsky - who has the potential to be great down the road - the other 27.
If it's too difficult to get Bryzgalov under the cap, then deal for Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier or Vancouver's Cory Schneider, second-stringers with their respective teams only because they are behind first-rate goalkeepers. (Kings assistant John Stevens would love to be reunited with Richards or Carter.)
Washington's Semyon Varlamov, another Russian, also could be available, and he quietly had a 2.23 GAA and .924 save percentage as an understudy this season.
The Flyers skaters wouldn't admit it, but there had to be a feeling of uncertainty, a feeling of being outmatched, created by all the in-game goalie switches in the playoffs.
That's not fair to the team. It deserves better.