A day after an embarrassing, fate-sealing, 5-3 collapse to the NHL-worst Sabres, the Flyers lost teammates at Monday's trade deadline because of their underachieving season.
A day after the deadline selling, the Flyers' effort was questionable at best to start Tuesday night's game. The listless club ended up losing, 6-1, to the first-place Capitals at Capital One Arena.
Since the start of last season, this group hasn't offered many performances in which you question its effort.
But this was one of them.
The Flyers were flat, lethargic and porous. You expected them to at least show a ticked-off energy. After all, one of the two sacrificial departures Monday was the hard-working, well-liked Michael Raffl, a Flyer since 2013. And he was sent to the division foe the Flyers were playing Tuesday night.
"I can't answer how the players feel, I'm not a mind reader," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said postgame. "I will say this was our sixth game in nine nights and that's a tremendous amount of hockey."
No doubt, the Flyers (19-17-6) had a tired, play-out-the-string look to them when they're actually still in a playoff race mathematically. Tuesday night marked their fifth 6-1 loss of the season.
The Capitals (28-11-4), in win-now mode, are really good and played like it.
• While general manager Chuck Fletcher admitted the obvious that his deadline motives were about the longer term, a shift toward next season, he said the Flyers were "still in the fight" this season.
Because technically they are. They do have games that matter. But there was little to no fight Tuesday night.
The GM sounded like he was trying to motivate everyone playing for jobs next season. And with that, maybe they see a spark over these final games. But any hope of that continued to flicker, starting in the first period of this game.
The Flyers are in sixth place and six points out of a playoff spot with 14 games left. The Bruins hold the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division, have two games in hand on the Flyers and own a favorable schedule.
On Monday, the Flyers were in no position to buy whatsoever.
"It was what to be expected," Vigneault said before the game. "We as a team — and when I say we, I say myself and my players — haven't shown the consistency that a playoff team needs to bring. We can start tonight by being in the moment and showing that consistency. Because we hadn't shown the consistency, management did what they had to do. And I totally understand that. But I do believe there's still a lot of hockey to be played, I definitely believe that we're a playoff team and it's up to us to go out there and show it. Bring all areas of our game consistently at the same time — we can do that, we have a good team. We can start tonight by doing it against one of the best teams in the NHL."
The Flyers could have sold harder at the deadline but they believe they can rework things and contend again in 2021-22. But they need to show something the rest of the way this season.
Tuesday night's result should bring more change, which will be to the lineup. Sit who you have to, start playing more kids, give a lot of them opportunities and intensify the evaluation for next season.
"Obviously I think we're going to find out a lot about this group in this next coming while here," Vigneault said. "We're not in the position that we had anticipated to be, but at the end of the day, we all still have a job to do and we have to do it. We're going to put our focus on that."
• Including the round-robin matchup, the Flyers went 4-0-1 against Washington last season and allowed only eight goals.
This season, through five matchups, the Flyers have surrendered 10 goals in the first period alone against the Capitals. Washington is 4-1-0 against the Flyers this season and has put up 23 goals on them.
On the season, the Flyers have a minus-31 goal differential. They had a plus-36 mark last season, fourth best in hockey.
• Anthony Mantha made his Capitals debut and finished with a goal and an assist.
Conor Sheary (one goal, two assists), Alex Ovechkin (one goal, one assist), Nicklas Backstrom (one goal, one assist), Tom Wilson (one goal, one assist) and John Carlson (two assists) also had multi-point performances.
Raffl, who is a bit banged up, did not play as Washington didn't want him to jump into action just yet.
The game was briefly tied when Sean Couturier scored in the first period.
"No matter what, you should be prepared every game," Couturier said of the team's focus down the stretch if it continues to fall out of the race. "It's part of being a pro. It's not going to be any different — I hope everyone knows that."
• Brian Elliott had to withstand the barrage from the Capitals as he made 26 saves on 32 shots.
The Flyers were down 4-1 at first intermission as Washington put up 19 shots.
"We didn't play hard enough in front of our goaltender," Vigneault said.
"Brian's an experienced player, he's always giving us his best effort. We had to find pride in our game here to stop the onslaught that was going on."
Washington netminder Ilya Samsonov made 29 stops and committed a mistake on the Flyers' lone goal.
• The Flyers fly to Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning ahead of a matchup with the Penguins on Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
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