Flyers’ season continues to fall apart with dreary defeat to Devils

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By beating the Devils, the Flyers wouldn’t have guaranteed themselves much of anything. But losing to the Devils, especially with a loss as ugly as the 4-3 defeat on Tuesday, makes it that much tougher to imagine the Flyers turning things around.

Whether the Flyers find a way to salvage their season or not, Tuesday presented yet another clunker against a loose Devils team that looked faster and more dynamic. Not good. The 4-3 score ended up very misleading.

Devils win in another poor effort from the Flyers

In closing out a back-to-back set after losing to the Islanders in OT on Monday, perhaps the Flyers just didn’t have much gas in the tank as they faced the Devils. There were certainly times when it looked that way.

Through the first period, the Devils nearly doubled the Flyers’ shots on goal total (14-8). It was difficult to fault Carter Hart for many of the Devils’ goals, as they Flyers hung him out to dry. That includes a pretty opening goal finished by Michael McLeod.

When Joel Farabee put in the extra effort to complete a power-play goal, it seemed Philly might be able to fight through the fatigue and malaise. For a Flyers special teams that has been substandard, a PPG must’ve felt nice. Unfortunately, late goals only gave the Flyers a higher hill to climb.

With just four seconds left in the first period, Kyle Palmieri connected for a power-play goal. Travis Zajac also scored a 4-1 dagger with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second.

That middle frame had to really sting. While there was still some sloppiness (the Flyers were whistled for four penalties through the first 40 minutes), Philly created chances. From Sean Couturier hitting the post to crucial puck bobbles, they just couldn’t get it done.

And Flyers fans couldn’t help but voice their displeasure.

Can you really blame them?

While it didn’t look forceful, the Flyers did make a third-period push to rally vs. the Devils. After Sean Couturier hit the post during a golden opportunity, the two-way center scored twice in the final frame.

The Devils nearly folded under the Flyers’ late-arriving pressure, but New Jersey held on to win in regulation.

Miserable March might doom Philly

On paper, the Flyers still have an opportunity to make up some ground.

The Flyers can salvage some of March if they take care of business in ways they failed to vs. the Devils. With their next two games against the Rangers and then two vs. the Sabres, Philly faces teams on the lower end of the East Division spectrum. These are games you’re supposed to win.

Few games look like layups for Philadelphia right now, though.

Memorably, they dropped that 9-0 disaster to the Rangers. Don’t be surprised if that game propels Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and the Rangers to become a regular spoiler threat.

No doubt, things are even more dire for the Sabres. That said, dropping any games against Buffalo would only make matters worse for Alain Vigneault & Co.

Soul-searching time for the Flyers after dire Devils defeat

After losses like this one to the Devils, it’s fair to ask tough questions about the Flyers. Consider how March has devolved:

  • So far, they’ve only held an opponent under three goals once in March. Even then, the Flyers fell to the Islanders in overtime.
  • That 9-0 blowout wasn’t the only ugly loss. The Flyers also fell to the Islanders 6-1, allowed five goals in losses to the Capitals twice, also gave up five in defeat to the Penguins, and then dropped this clunker to the Devils.
  • They’ve allowed at least four goals in seven of their last nine games.

After these tough times, the Flyers are now 15-12-4 (34 points in 31 games played). Despite playing in three fewer games, the Bruins hold fourth place with 36 points. Nights (and months) like these can cost you a playoff run.

It increasingly looks like the Flyers should sell at the trade deadline, or do very little. Even with the Alain Vigneault era being brief so far, it’s fair to ask deeper questions at just about every level of this organization.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.