Flyers fading from playoff consideration

UNIONDALE, NY -- For the second straight game a promising start led to a disappointing finish for the Flyers. Two games in a row now the Flyers have scored the game’s first goal only to allow the final four.

The latest was Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum that has many writing their playoff obituary.

The Flyers are five points out of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with nine games left. It’s not impossible but won’t be easy, especially if the Flyers can’t do a better job on the offensive end.

“We’ve come up empty the last two games and that is not what we wanted,” forward Mike Knuble said.

Not it isn’t.

Coach Peter Laviolette didn’t question the Flyers effort.

“I thought the guys played hard and it was fast game both ways and wasn’t a lot of room either way,” Laviolette said.

Of course there is a difference between playing hard and playing well. The Flyers didn’t play particularly well, especially in the beginning of the third period, facing a 2-1 deficit.

The Islanders were the early aggressors and then scored two late goals when the Flyers had to open things up in an attempt to get the equalizer.

Now the question is whether the Flyers are good enough to make the playoffs.

“We are a good team,” said Claude Giroux, who sounded as if he were trying to convince himself of this fact. “Obviously the standings may not be showing it, but we are a good team.”

Giroux, who sent Jake Voracek on goal for the game’s first score, then added, “We can play with any team in the league.”

Many NHL teams can make the same claim. Being competitive with teams and beating them are two different stories.

Giroux talked afterwards about how the Flyers have to play a full 60 minutes.

Should this really be a problem 39 games into the season?

Steve Mason made his first start in goal for the Flyers and Laviolette said he was pleased with the play of the 24-year-old goalie. One has to wonder who will play goal on Thursday against the visiting Ottawa Senators.

Either way, it’s not so much who is in goal but rather who can score a few goals.

This is the second time this season the Flyers have scored a single goal in consecutive games. The first came Jan. 27 in a 5-1 loss at Tampa Bay and Jan. 29 in a 2-1 defeat at the New York Rangers.

That was back when the Flyers were beginning the season by losing six out of their first eight games. It was their worst stretch of the season, by far.

Unlike then, there is now no margin for error. The Flyers aren’t out of the playoff hunt, but at this point, there also isn’t a lot of reason to be feeling very optimistic about their chances.