Flyers have no excuses for being on brink
The Flyers have excuses to hide behind -- the brutal schedule against playoff teams, the fatigue that comes with countless back-to-backs in the final weeks, injuries (both known and unknown as of tonight) and so on.
But they have no excuses. Being in a prime playoff position with 10 days remaining in the season is not the time to start lacking in effort, and the Flyers slow starts and struggles throughout games to teams of varying talent is no excuse for playing as poorly as they have.
One week ago, the Flyers were right up there with Pittsburgh as the most dangerous team in the league, playing their best hockey at the right time. Then, the dagger: a demoralizing loss in Pittsburgh, their third of the season to the Penguins, followed by back-to-back losses to Detroit on the road and Toronto at home.
Even with the point in overtime, the Flyers needed seven points over their last five games to make the playoffs. They have one since.
The number they need now is four, which they can only get themselves with wins at home against Pittsburgh and on the road in Brooklyn, but given the way Pittsburgh is playing, that seems astronomical at this point. Which means the Flyers would need help, and they've gotten very little from around the league.
And that's where the Flyers playoff story hits its turning point. You can get into the playoffs by going backwards. The Flyers are about to learn that the hard way.
You can look at the Flyers playoff odds from a week ago -- nearly at 80 percent -- and say this was a choke job. But in reality, the way the Flyers were playing showed signs of a team better than their first half indicated, and their first half, and lack of consistency throughout it, are the reason these final games matter so much.
It is why at this point, you see the tank empty. You see nothing left for this team to offer. They gave everything they had, hoping that maybe some luck would find them. But sometimes, you have to just be good, so in the same sense, the Flyers weren't good enough, despite Steve Mason's yeoman play in goal and Shayne Gostisbehere's tremendous rookie effort and Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn putting up career years.
So now it comes down to facing the Penguins on Saturday, where with a loss, pending the results of the Red Wings and Bruins games earlier in the day, the Flyers could be eliminated and that final game could mean nothing.
All of that being said, when the week began in Pittsburgh, the Flyers started talking a big game, and talked all the way through Thursday. They said the had Wednesday's game against Detroit circled, then were a no-show. They said they felt good about Thursday because the task at hand was still in front of them, still in their control.
It remains in their control, but just barely, and the Penguins are probably still laughing at the showing the Flyers put on in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
It's not over officially, but it sure feels that way, and it's a bitter way to end an unexpected and exciting ride that looks like it will ultimately fall short.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.