The Flyers, losers of five of their last six games, are in danger of fading out of the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt unless they make a major turnaround on their five-game road trip.
"Our goal is to make the playoffs," defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said after the Flyers fell to the New York Rangers, 3-1, on Sunday night. "Nothing is going to change until we get there. It's how we respond now. We have to turn some negatives into positives."
Gostisbehere, arguably the team's MVP even though he was not recalled from the minors until mid-November, has done his part. He has developed into one of the Flyers' few offensive weapons, putting together a 12-game scoring streak, an NHL record for rookie defensemen.
But in the most crucial part of the season, the Flyers' offense has dried up.
After scoring four goals or more in three straight games, including a 6-3 win in Nashville, the Flyers have managed a total of seven goals in their last five losses.
That's just 1.4 goals per game, which is much worse than their paltry season average: 2.35 per game, tied for 26th in the NHL.
In the loss to the Rangers, the Flyers' top line, centered by Claude Giroux, was stymied by defensemen Marc Staal and Kevin Klein, among others. When the Flyers' No. 1 line is blanked, they don't have much offensive depth to pick up the slack, especially with second-line center Sean Couturier sidelined until early March.
The Flyers have just three wins in the 15 games that Couturier has missed (3-9-3).
They will try to regroup Tuesday in New Jersey against a defensively sound Devils team that scored a 2-1 overtime win Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.
"We have to throw more pucks at the net," Gostisbehere said.
They did fire 70 shots Sunday. Problem was, 28 missed the net, and 20 were blocked. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was forced to make just 22 saves.
After playing in New Jersey, the Flyers have road games in Montreal on Friday, Toronto on Saturday, and Carolina next Tuesday.
They are 24-21-10 for 58 points. Assuming it will take 95 points (a conservative number) to make the playoffs, the Flyers would need 37 points in their last 27 games to sneak in. That means a 16-6-5 run might get it done.
They did play near that level for more than two months, going 16-8-3 from Thanksgiving until Feb. 4. But they also had Couturier and Michael Del Zotto healthy during that stretch.
In other words, the Flyers - who sit seventh in the eight-team Metropolitan Division - are much more likely to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years, and in all probability, general manager Ron Hextall will be trying to deal veterans (Mark Streit? Nick Schultz? Matt Read?) before the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Read injured his left knee blocking a shot in the closing seconds Sunday, but Hextall said it wasn't anything serious. . . . Coach Dave Hakstol on Gostisbehere: "I don't think I coached a player at North Dakota that is like Ghost on the back end. His start has been exciting; it's been impactful. As long as he keeps his feet on the ground . . . and as long as he's hungry to improve and get better every day, he'll continue to answer the question about what he brings. That's exciting."