Updated: 9:35 p.m.
The final four games of 2013 are pretty much meaningless for the Flyers, other than for someone trying to make an impression or earn a contract, or for the coach to experiment using people in different roles.
Friday night, the New York Rangers officially eliminated the Flyers from playoff contention with an 8-4 rout of the Sabres.
Two points won by either the Rangers Friday night or Winnipeg on Saturday or a regulation loss by the Flyers in any remaining games would have ended their playoff hunt.
Not that they ever really had a chance once the gap between themselves and the No. 8 seed hit seven points in late March, then nine last weekend after a 1-0 loss in Buffalo.
Yeah, there was a rally in between when the Flyers won four straight, but then led directly to four straight losses.
Scott Hartnell seemed in disbelief. He went through three consecutive seasons without a sniff of postseason when he first entered the NHL with Nashville (2000).
Those were the Predators. These are the Flyers. Playoff appearances are not only considered compulsory here, but so are deep runs and being among the Stanley Cup favorites.
Not of that will occur this season for the Flyers.
“It’s the first time in a long time for Philadelphia, for myself, to be eliminated not by your own doing,” Hartnell said. “It sucks.”
Simon Gagne came here to add scoring depth to an injury-riddled lineup right after Tye McGinn suffered a broken orbital bone in late February.
“It’s disappointing for all of us,” Gagne said. “I was excited to come back. On the personal side, it was good coming here even if we finish on the short side. To be part of the Flyers again, it was still a weird season … But it was a move I would do again regardless of playoffs.”
Jakub Voracek has a career-high 19 goals. Usually, guys with Flyers career-highs celebrate with postseason runs. Not this time.
“It would be nice better if I had 15 points less, and we were sitting in a playoff spot, but there is nothing you can do about it,” Voracek said. “I’m pretty sure every player in this locker room left 100 percent on the ice every game. Didn’t go the way we wanted it. We had some really bad games and some really good ones, and four games left. We have to finish on the right note and learn from it.”
Mike Knuble came aboard early when Hartnell went down with a foot fracture. Knuble said it never occurred to him that the Flyers would not be in the playoffs.
“The team got off to a slow start, but we had 35-40 games left, and you figured things would shake out,” said the 16-year NHL veteran. “When I came they were missing Scott a bit. You don’t think [missing the playoffs] happens because the success that this organization has had. You figure they’re gonna get to the playoffs. Disappointing. Everybody feels it.”
CSNPhilly.com had the Flyers ranked third-best in the Atlantic Division in January before the lockout shortened season began. That would translate into a No. 7 or 8 playoff seed.
“You’d think they'd be in a comfortable [spot], five or six, and at this point, locked up,” Knuble said. “Just be able to cruise the last week and be comfortable. I haven’t been out of the playoffs since the last time I was here, six years maybe. Yeah, it’s disappointing.”
Coach Peter Laviolette put the team through a hard practice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone even though his team is playing for draft position at this point.
“Practice today, there were things about last night’s game [against New Jersey], I didn’t like and we worked on them,” Laviolette said. “We got a game tomorrow. We want to prepare the best we can to go down and play that game to the best of our ability and win a hockey game. That’s the objective. That was the meaning of practice today – to work on things.”
So where is the incentive for players to plow through the final four games?
“Well, the same thing we’ve done the last three games,” Danny Briere said. “After we lost three or four in a row last week, the writing was on the wall and somehow we found a way to dig in and scrap a couple games. That’s what we have to do. It doesn’t matter. There are four games left. Being a professional you have to leave it all out there.
"I think the guys are ready to do that, no matter where we are in the standings. It’s frustrating, it’s disappointing, but we’re getting paid to do that, so there is no reason for us to not give it all we have left.”