CARVE THE DATE of death on the epitaph of the Flyers' 2014-15 season as Jan. 15, 2015.
In truth, the Flyers' season was finished weeks ago, when they limped home from an eight-game road trip with five straight losses to some of the NHL's least impressive competition.
Or, maybe the death knell truly began in November, when the Flyers staggered through a 1-8-1 stretch that saw coach Craig Berube throw darts seemingly around the entire locker room to determine healthy scratches on an underwhelming roster.
No matter. There will be plenty of time over the next 3 months to dissect when, where and what caused the Flyers to unravel.
What cannot be debated is that last night served as the first obvious moment when the Flyers stopped believing. With atrocious body language and even less energy, they were shut out for the second night in a row and whipped, 4-0, by a Vancouver team that had scored only two goals in its previous three games.
It didn't take much more than one goal allowed to make the mentally fragile Flyers to crumble.
"It's concerning; we're battling for the playoffs and that game got away from us pretty quickly," Jake Voracek said. "We had a really tough game in Washington. It was a physical game. But everybody goes through that; everybody has back-to-backs; everybody is traveling.
"I wouldn't say the season is getting away. With every loss, it's getting tougher and tougher."
As per usual, the Flyers' league-worst penalty kill contributed to the loss. Vancouver struck twice on its first two chances. With the latest loss, the Flyers fell to 2-6-1 on the second night of back-to-back games.
Even a 25-9-3 run between tomorrow and the April 11 regular-season finale is unlikely to be enough to save the Flyers, according to SportsClubStats.com.
"It's not the best thing to look at the standings right now," Mark Streit acknowledged. "Everybody knows what kind of spot we're in right now. It's a tough situation."
With swaths of empty seats throughout the Wells Fargo Center, few fans bothered to stick around until the end of the second period to even boo the team. They were as apathetic as the product they paid to watch.
Just about the only Flyer to show emotion and effort was Wayne Simmonds, who fought tough customer Kevin Bieksa in the first period.
The rest of the roster just simply seemed resigned. Some players banged their sticks on the boards in frustration throughout the game. Others sulked and slumped. The Flyers were routinely beaten to loose pucks, second into board battles, and sloppy by nature. Their body language said it all.
"With no reason at all," Streit said. "I know we had a rough loss \[Wednesday\] night, but there shouldn't be a reason to hang our heads or lose our sense of urgency out there. After those two goals, it felt like we let each other down. We got too passive. We let them have the puck and we let them play way too much.
"I don't really have an answer. It's tough to explain. I don't know why we stopped playing. There is no reason, with the team we have."
Sean Couturier said it has been a constant theme all season, the Flyers "getting frustrated or discouraged after just one goal."
"The thing that bothers me about it all is that it is only 1-0 there is a lot of hockey left, you know play and compete and work," Berube said. "That is the one thing that you can control, how hard you compete, and, you know, we stopped doing that."
Fans chanted "We want Zepp" after Emery's second goal allowed, even though it came off an impressive last-second redirection by Canucks captain Henrik Sedin.
Backup Rob Zepp didn't take long to arrive. Emery was summoned after Radim Vrbata sniped him a little more than a minute into the second period. After allowing three goals on 12 shots, Emery now has an .863 save percentage, 3.71 goals-against average and 3-8-0 record in his last 12 appearances. He was yanked for the second start in a row and has let in nine goals on his last 35 shots faced.
"It's not fun, losing more games than you win," Emery said.
Zepp, the 33-year-old rookie, was warmly welcomed with a breakaway from Jannik Hansen only 22 seconds after he entered the game. Hansen scored on his first shot.
Zepp settled in after, you know, finally getting a chance to stretch. His audition to be Steve Mason's full-time backup next season was just about the only development worth watching in what has become a nightly rerun. Sadly, there are still 37 episodes to go.
"You never give up," Streit said. "We've got to gather ourselves and shake it off ... There's nothing else we can do. Don't look at the scoreboard, but just play and have fun and have a lot of energy. Right now, it's tough."
Injured goaltender Steve Mason watched the first period from the assistant coaches' box in the balcony at Wells Fargo Center with goaltending coach Jeff Reese … The Canucks were without defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who was Flyers property from June 19-25, 2010, and decided not to sign here … Defenseman Kimmo Timonen will visit doctors today and undergo a full-body CT scan to determine whether the multiple blood clots discovered in August have been full absorbed by his body.