Flyers' losing streak reaches 9 as fans call for Hakstol's firing
The Flyers have lost nine straight, their longest skid since they dropped 10 in a row in 2008.
Maybe they were Christmas shopping. Maybe they didn't want to miss This Is Us. Or maybe they were showing their displeasure with the way the Flyers have played lately.
Whatever the reason, there were more empty first-level seats at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night than at any time this season.
The listless Flyers made the fans who stayed home happy.
They blew another lead and suffered their ninth straight loss, a 3-1 decision to the San Jose Sharks before a sparse, boo-happy crowd.
[Sharks 3, Flyers 1: box score]
The Flyers have lost eight of their last nine home games.
"We didn't take care of the puck; we made some bad decisions tonight," said captain Claude Giroux, whose team played its fifth game in eight nights. "When you're tired, you make some poor decisions."
Playing their second game in as many nights, the Flyers were thoroughly outplayed by the bigger and fresher Sharks, and it's fair to wonder whether general manager Ron Hextall is getting impatient with coach Dave Hakstol and the roster he has assembled.
Giroux called a closed-door meeting after the game.
"We're frustrated," Giroux said. "It's not the position we thought we'd be in right now. The only way out of it is to go back to work and grind it out a little more."
The Flyers had one shot — one — in the first 17-plus minutes of the third period and looked disinterested, prompting "Fire Hakstol!" and "Let's Go Eagles!" chants.
"They can chant whatever they want, but we're in this together," Giroux said. "We're all in the same boat here. It's not on him. It's on everybody."
As for the chants, Hakstol said "you better be able to stand up and handle that."
Added Hakstol: "Hey nobody said this was going to be easy. If you don't want to be in this spot, that's a choice. That's how I react to it. There's high expectations in the market. We have maybe the best fans in the National Hockey League and they're full value for having the expectations."
Hextall said the Flyers were a tired team Tuesday but that they have not played poorly during most of their nine-game skid.
"To say we're playing poorly? No. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot at times? Yes, we are. Critical mistakes at critical times, yes," he said. "We have to find ways to win. We are going to battle through it and get through it. If we were playing very poorly, that's totally different. Losing nine games in a row is not acceptable. In saying that, as a manager, I have to be realistic with how we're playing, and right now we're playing well enough. … As a whole, we've certainly played better than our record shows."
The Flyers won just two of 13 games in November (2-5-6). Overall, they are 8-10-7. For the first time since 1969 (excluding work stoppages), the Eagles and 76ers will have more wins than the Flyers on Dec. 1.
As has been their habit recently, the Flyers blew another lead.
Giroux converted a slick Jake Voracek feed and scored 48 seconds into the game, but the Sharks answered with first-period goals by Chris Tierney and Joe Thornton to take a 2-1 lead.
Midway through the first, Tierney scored on a right-circle shot and, based on Michal Neuvirth's late reaction, the veteran goalie appeared to be screened. With 1:18 left in the first, Thornton scored from deep in the right circle, putting a shot between Neuvirth's legs while the Sharks were on a five-on-three power play.
San Jose, which is 3-0-2 in its last five games, made it 3-1 when defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic sent a screened shot past Neuvirth with 3:56 remaining in the second.
The Flyers, loudly booed as they left the ice at the end of the middle period, lacked a forecheck and cycle and spent most of the night in their defensive end. Trying to find a spark, Hakstol did a lot of line juggling, but his team had little attack time against backup goalie Aaron Dell, who was playing because of an injury to Martin Jones.
"You get booed the whole game, that's pretty embarrassing," right winger Wayne Simmonds said.
The Flyers have blown leads in seven of their last nine games, including four two-goal cushions. They continued to take too many penalties, and they again had problems clearing bodies out from in front of the net. (Paging Samuel Morin. Paging Samuel Morin.)
Their losing streak is the longest since they dropped 10 in a row in 2008. That team regrouped and reached the Eastern Conference final.