This past week of Flyers hockey was one to remember … for all the wrong reasons.
It was a crushing week of defeats that officially put the Flyers' playoff hopes and dreams on life support.
The week actually started off well with a 6-3 win Tuesday night in Buffalo against the Sabres. But things went downhill from there with a painful 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Thursday in Toronto and Saturday afternoon's brutal 2-1 defeat to the Bruins in Boston.
Let's take a look back at the week that was for the Flyers.
• We have to start with Saturday's unbelievable loss in Boston. Goodness, gracious, what a way to lose such an important game. You have to feel for Brandon Manning, who was just trying to do his job and block a shot for his goalie. It's just instinct to do that. But it was such a harmless shot that Steve Mason would have handled easily. Easier said than done, but Manning just has to let that go. But the fact is, with the way the Bruins brought pressure in the third period and the way the Flyers sagged in the final stanza after a strong second frame, the Flyers were fortunate to even be in a position to get a point with 5.6 seconds left in regulation. Boston outshot the Flyers by a 12-4 margin in the third and had quality chance after quality chance while the Flyers struggled to get anything toward Tuukka Rask's net. It was a heartbreaking loss eerily similar to the one the Flyers suffered on a March Saturday afternoon in Boston in 2015 that all but closed the book on the Flyers' playoff chances that season. But at least the Flyers went to overtime and got a point in that 2015 game. With the Islanders' loss to the Blues on Saturday, the Flyers were 5.6 seconds away from having a chance to be within four points of the wild-card leading Leafs. A huge swing in the standings hinged on 5.6 seconds. Ouch.
• Let's chat about that no-goal call that went against the Flyers on Saturday in Boston. Jake Voracek broke in and was stoned by Rask, but Voracek slung the rebound toward the net. The puck was clearly loose next to Rask's pad and Brayden Schenn looked to have poked the puck across the goal line to open the scoring. But, after deliberation and review, the officials ruled the play dead and no-goal. How was that play dead? The puck was clearly loose on the replay and the whistle never blew. The Flyers got a raw deal on what should have been a goal. Was it the "intent to blow the whistle" call that we've heard numerous times before and is one of the most illogical rules in the league? We all intend to do a lot of things. Doesn’t mean all those things get done.
• Curious decision by Dave Hakstol to go with Michal Neuvirth in net over the streaking Mason for Thursday's important game in Toronto. In his four straight starts going into Thursday, Mason was 3-0-1 with a 1.50 goals-against average and a shutout. Hakstol reasoned his decision by saying the tight scheduled called for Neuvirth to start and that Mason's poor career numbers against the Leafs played a role. I get those facts. But when your season is basically on the line, that stuff has got to get thrown out the window and you have to go with the guy who gives you the best chance to win. With the way Mason was playing heading into the game, he was likely the guy who would have gave the Flyers the best chance to win. It's not like Mason hasn't played a bunch of games in a row before. Remember the end of last season when he lifted the Flyers toward a playoff berth? Thursday turned out to be a rough night for Neuvirth and the Flyers in another blown chance to move up the standings. A curious move by a coach who has been known to ride the hot hand in net.
• If there's one positive to come out of this tough week for the Flyers, it's the continued strong play of Jordan Weal. He was great in Buffalo on Tuesday with a goal and an assist for his first multi-point game. He added another tally Saturday in Boston for the Flyers' lone goal of the afternoon. The puck just seems to find him and he's not afraid to fire away. The thing you have to like most about Weal, though, is where his three goals on the year have come from -- the tough areas in front of the net. He's not afraid to take his 5-foot-10 frame near the crease and go to work in the dirty areas. Players typically get rewarded when they're willing to do that.
• Want a big reason why the Flyers' road trip went downhill? Ugly week for the Flyers' PK. They gave up two-power play goals to the Sabres on Tuesday that tied the game each time. Then they gave up two more to the Leafs, including an absolute backbreaker to Mitch Marner late in the third period that made the score 3-1 in favor of Toronto. And then there was David Pastrnak's opening tally on Saturday in Beantown. Sean Couturier was in position on Pastrnak, but couldn't locate the puck.
• Another week, another questionable offside review. This one came on Weal's goal on Saturday as Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy challenged that Wayne Simmonds entered the zone ahead of the puck. After a delay of several minutes, the good goal eventually stood. Why are these offside reviews taking so long? Offside should be a cut-and-dry rule. A guy is either onside or offside. At the GM meetings this past week in Florida, the GMs voted to keep the offside challenge the way it is. Why is the league insisting on creating such an unnecessary gray area for something that shouldn’t be so complicated?
Coming up this week: Monday vs. Columbus (7 p.m./CSN), Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh (7:30 p.m./NBCSN), Thursday at New Jersey (7 p.m./CSN), Sunday vs. Carolina (7:30 p.m./CSN).