Sometimes, things look much better on paper.
When the whiz kids in the Flyers marketing department conjured up Saturday's Halloween-themed arena entertainment last summer, they couldn't have anticipated that it would blend into what was happening on the ice. The Flyers finished last season strong, added a big free agent in the offseason, and had more goalies than they knew what to do with.
Well, no one was scared much by the Halloween trappings on Saturday.
The hockey team?
That was a whole different house of horrors, as the Nightmare on Broad Street continued into its 11th game.
Vincent Price's loudspeaker laughter only accentuated the latest Flyers flailing and failing, as they lost, 6-1, to an Islanders team that entered the game entrenched in their own heads. New York had lost four of five games and appeared at least as jittery as the home team at the start of the game, but the harrowing truth is there may be no more-lost team in the NHL than your 4-7 Philadelphia Flyers.
"We've got too much going on in between our ears right now,'' Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said after the drubbing. "And I see that in our game. That's my job to clear some of that out, so they can go out and play the game with a clear head. It's really hard to play the game when you have too much going on.''
The Flyers trailed, 2-0, after the first period, marking the 10th time in 11 games they have surrendered the first goal. They did this despite being afforded two power plays and playing in front of the home crowd.
When you're not getting pucks to the net, that hardly matters. When you're best players operate as though they're recently promoted minor leaguers, that hardly matters. Shayne Gostisbehere, Claude Giroux, and Ivan Provorov – three players known for their puck control – made some of the most egregious unforced errors in the offensive zone to contribute to the malaise, throwing the puck blindly to an opponent (Giroux), fanning on a shot (Ghost), or over-skating the puck (Provorov).
In his first game of the season, Michal Neuvirth stopped 16 of the 22 shots he faced.
"We get down goals, we go into this hole where we're not clicking, and we think the world is going to end,'' said Gostisbehere, who was on the ice for two of the Islanders' goals. "We've got to get back to the basics. Make the simple plays, and the bounces will come.''
Said Scott Laughton, "We're cheating for pucks. We're cheating all over the zone, we're hoping the puck gets out of the zone so we can get going, myself included. We've got to move pucks quicker.''
The power play, after an 0-for-3 Saturday, has scored just once in its last 20 tries. That is fragility in full view.
Entering the third period down 3-1 — the game still salvageable thanks to a goal by Jori Lehtera — the Flyers surrendered three straight goals to scare away much of their matinee crowd. Truth is, the crowd has become a little scary these days too, their boos cascading down before a goal for either team was scored, lustily when that first period ended, and throughout the three incredibly disjointed Flyers power plays.
For the second game in a row, Comcast Spectacor CEO David Scott was seen in the press box and in the general manager's booth, seated beside Flyers president Paul Holmgren. For more games than that, a vocal segment of the ornery crowd has urged that the coach be fired.
The Flyers took a flight out west after the game, launching an eight-day trip with the first of four games on Tuesday in Anaheim, offering that embattled coach another opportunity to rid those demons plaguing his team, to clear some heads. It was a similar trip last season, in early December, in which the Flyers emerged from a similar hole, reversing the effects of a 10-game winless streak with six in a row, launching them into an exhausting run to the playoffs and creating great expectations for the start of this season.
"Everyone's got to take a deep breath, look in the mirror and see what you have to do to get better,'' Laughton said. "That's what's going to get us out of this.''