For all intents and purposes, we've reached the final curtain on this Flyers season.
While the Flyers are not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, their postseason hopes are just about cooked after another typically inconsistent week of action.
The Flyers fell to the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-3, Monday night, ran roughshod over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-0, Wednesday and finished up the week with a 6-2 blowout loss in New Jersey to the Devils on Thursday night in a game that wasn't even as close as the final score dictated.
After all that, the Flyers find themselves seven points back of the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs for the last wild-card spot with 12 games left heading into Sunday's contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Let's dive into the week that realistically ended the Flyers' playoff hopes.
• This week, in so many ways, was a microcosm of the inconsistency that has plagued this group of Flyers all season long, and for the past few years, for that matter. There's a long list of flaws to this Flyers team. Go ahead and take your pick. But the inconsistency has been the most pressing and fatal flaw. You just don't know which Flyers team is going to show up on which night. You could get the team that showed some fight but ultimately fell to the Jackets in a hard-fought loss Monday. Or you could get the team that hit on all cylinders and stifled the Penguins at every turn Wednesday. Or you could get the team that barely showed up and was pasted in embarrassing fashion Thursday by a conference-worst Devils team that entered the contest on a 10-game losing streak. That inconsistency is a huge anchor and a glaring sign a team isn't playoff-worthy. Every team has an off night every now and then. Look at the Penguins on Wednesday. But with a playoff-worthy team, you know the team and effort you're getting 99 percent of the time. Even with the inexperience of the young Maple Leafs, you know they're going to scratch and claw for points almost every night. Steve Mason summed it up nicely Saturday after the lousy effort vs. Devils. "We can't go from having one of our best games of the year against Pittsburgh and then come around the next night against Jersey with that kind of outcome and overall team game," he said. "That's what makes good teams and separates them. Consistency on any given night, what kind of effort they have." And that's also what separates a playoff team from a team sitting at home on the couch come mid-April.
• Travis Konecny had the best offensive showing of his very young NHL career Monday when he potted two goals against the Jackets. He ripped a wrister past Sergei Bobrovsky in the first period, then showed great patience in the second period as he held on to the puck and fired it past Bobrovsky short side in the second period. But he had a rookie learning moment when he made a crucial mistake in the third when he hit a Blue Jacket on the way to the bench and was whistled for a penalty. Brandon Dubinsky netted the winning goal on the ensuing power play. With the flashes he shows, it can be tough sometimes to remember Konecny is a rookie who just turned 20 years old. Monday's mistake is something to learn from. In his defense, though, I'll say this: At least he outwardly showed some grit this week.
• Another week of struggles for the Flyers' power play. The power play had a disheartening 1-for-8 showing Monday against the Jackets. The Flyers lost that game by a final of 5-3, and that was with a late empty-netter for Columbus. So if the Flyers had hit on just one more of those power plays, we could have been looking at a whole different story that game and a whole different story this week. So Dave Hakstol switched up the units Wednesday, putting Ivan Provorov on the top unit and dropping Jake Voracek down to the second unit. It worked once in four tries against the Pens as Wayne Simmonds picked up a power-play tally. But it floundered again in Jersey, getting zilch in three chances. Dating back to March 2, the Flyers are 3 for 33 with the man advantage in their last eight games. They're 3-4-1 in that span, with four of the five losses coming by two goals or less. That stings.
• Much like Konecny, Provorov experienced rookie ups and downs this week. On Wednesday, he made an excellent play when he kept a bouncing puck in at the blue line during a Flyers power play in the second period. Moments later, Simmonds potted his 15th power-play tally of the year. But he made a critical mistake Thursday in Jersey when he turned the puck over behind the goal line and it wound up in the net courtesy of Adam Henrique. Provorov has had a very good rookie season and has stepped into a tough top-pairing role on a struggling Flyers’ defense. And he’s excelled. In fact, heading into Sunday's matchup with Carolina, Provorov leads the Flyers in ice time with 21:50 per night. There's something to be said for that for a 20-year-old. It can be tough to remember he's a rookie, too. His play this year should give confidence that those bumps in his game will be smoothed out with more experience.
• If only Sean Couturier could play the Penguins every night. He was great Wednesday with a goal (just his third in 18 games) and a career-high eight shots on goal. He had those eight shots on goal through two periods, too. And, of course, he held Evgeni Malkin pointless and to just two shots on goal. In 25 regular-season games against Pittsburgh, Couturier has 13 points (two goals and 11 assists). And there was that hat trick in Game 2 of that ridiculous first-round playoff series in 2012. You just notice Couturier on the ice way more when he's playing against Pittsburgh.
Coming up this week: Sunday vs. Carolina (7:30 p.m./CSN), Tuesday at Winnipeg (8 p.m./CSN). Thursday at Minnesota (8 p.m./CSN), Saturday at Columbus (2 p.m./CSN).