Flyers hit with the reality of 2020-21 season falling well short


The underachieving Flyers had their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff chances officially put to bed Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

As the Islanders and Bruins picked up victories, the Flyers got their inevitable boot from the postseason race with a 5-3 loss to the Devils.

The Flyers (22-21-7) have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns.

In 2019-20 and Alain Vigneault's opening year at the helm, the Flyers won their first playoff series since that 2011-12 season and came one win away from the Eastern Conference Final. As a result, expectations were considerably high for the Flyers this season and the club fell considerably short of them.

"Definitely not the way we saw this year going," Scott Laughton said postgame. "Had very high expectations and it just didn't happen. I think some nights we were worked and some nights we worked hard and not smart.

"It's frustrating. Couldn't get anything going, seems like we chased the game a lot, we're down a couple of goals and it's hard league to come back in.

"Definitely disappointing and you want to be better. What can you do now? You've got to work hard, play for the guy next to you and continue to battle."

The Devils (16-27-7) have picked up back-to-back wins over the Flyers after losing 10 games in a row. New Jersey has outscored the Flyers in the head-to-head matchup this season, 22-21.

• The Flyers entered March with an 11-4-3 record and East Division-best .694 points percentage.

Since then, they've gone 11-17-4 as their season has plummeted.

In 2020-21, the Flyers have allowed the most goals per game in hockey at 3.56, a year after they were tied with the Lightning for yielding the seventh fewest at 2.77.

It has simply been a bad, confounding and challenging season for the Flyers. They clearly have holes and flaws, but did anyone truly envision them being this gaping and alarming? When the Flyers lost all-situation defenseman and Stanley Cup champion Matt Niskanen to retirement, it was fair to believe they were in danger of taking a step back in some key areas like the penalty kill and goal prevention.

But you'd be astoundingly omniscient if you believed they'd give up the NHL's most goals per game, have the league's worst save percentage and the 30th-ranked PK after what they did in 2019-20.

So there is a lot of important work to do in the offseason.

No excuses for the Flyers, of course, but the team's COVID-19 shutdown, its aftereffects and a crammed schedule should not be completely ignored when evaluating the club's 2020-21 season.

• The Flyers allowed two more power play goals Thursday night. They've surrendered a league-high 41 of them.

Kevin Hayes, one of their best penalty-killers, was scratched for the first time in his Flyers career.

The Flyers' PK ranked 11th in the league last season.

"One thing I will say is we're trying to work some of our young personnel in and it has been a learning experience," Vigneault said postgame. "Last year, we had a couple of more veteran players there that had killed a bit in those situations before. This year, we're working in a couple of guys. Phil Myers, for an example, last year never killed; it was Nisky or [Justin Braun] over the boards. This year, we're throwing over the boards him and ... I don't want to get into specific names there, but obviously trying to work in some personnel and it's made our penalty-killing a little bit more challenging."

• A couple of the Flyers' backbreaking issues this season remained painful Thursday night.

Following a goal scored, the Flyers have allowed the opposition to respond far too quickly and easily. It happened again after Laughton cut the Flyers' deficit to 2-1 in the second period. New Jersey countered 1:46 minutes later as Jesper Boqvist cushioned the Devils' lead back to two.

The Flyers have also had a nightmarish time in the first period, particularly since March. New Jersey's two power play goals put the Flyers in a 2-0 hole at first intermission. Going back to the beginning of March, the Flyers have been outscored 46-19 in the opening 20 minutes of games.

They must find a way to have better starts in 2021-22.

• Laughton, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny provided the Flyers' goals.

Laughton's marker was the Flyers' first shorthanded goal of the season. Last season, Hayes put up four himself and the Flyers finished with eight as a team.

Couturier's marker brought the Flyers within 3-2 at second intermission, but they never drew even.

• With Carter Hart being shut down Thursday because of an MCL sprain in his left knee and Brian Elliott having played a ton, Alex Lyon got the start against New Jersey. He made 14 saves on 18 shots.

Devils netminder Mackenzie Blackwood converted 21 saves and improved to 5-0-2 lifetime against the Flyers.

• The Flyers have six games remaining. They finish this stretch of four straight against New Jersey when they host the Devils on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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