Flyers Eliminated From Playoff Contention by Rangers Despite Frantic Final Push

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NEW YORK -- The Flyers' frantic scramble at the very end to make the playoffs despite long mathematical odds officially ended Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
 
The Rangers' 4-3 victory eliminated Dave Hakstol's team (see Instant Replay). That's now three times in five years the Flyers have failed to make the playoffs.  
 
The list of reasons are many and varied:
 
• A top-rated power play that only once hit No. 1 in the NHL this season.
 
• A penalty kill unit that for the third consecutive season underachieved.
 
• A group of players up and down the lineup, including their goaltenders, who all simultaneously had poor seasons.
 
• And most of all, outright inconsistency in their play from the very beginning to the end.
 
"We had a lot of opportunities this year to get some points," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "In some tight games, in the third period, we weren't able to get it done. I think it happened too often and that is why we are in the situation we're in right now."
 
In this one, the team that had been playing on sheer emotion and willpower over its last five games seemed gassed from the very start.
 
"Yeah, I'm not going to use it as an excuse but when you have a back-to-back, it's a little harder," Giroux said, "but we are not going to take that as an excuse."
 
You can only play catch-up hockey for so long.  
 
"Everybody emptied the tank the last few minutes to tie it up," Hakstol said. "You knew coming in, we're 6-2 in our last eight and they were hard games. Guys have pushed very hard. We knew back-to-back we didn't have the advantage of energy but the will was there."
 
The problem was, the will wasn't there to raise their game and raise their focus far too often this season.
 
"Ever since December, it's been kind of inconsistent," Brayden Schenn said. "Where we are right now in the standings, we're officially out. It's inconsistency. You can't be good up until December and then win one, lose one till the final 10 games or so.
 
"It's disappointing. We played some pretty hockey of late. If we had done that 25-30 games ago, we'd be talking a lot different."

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That 10-game winning streak before Christmas buoyed hopes of a playoff year -- very misleading. They now have become the first team in league history to win 10 games in a season and not make the postseason later.

"I think from after that 10-game streak to mid-February or March, we had a hard time scoring goals and that obviously didn't help," Sean Couturier said. "We were scoring an average of one goal a game. You're not going to win a whole lot of games [that way]. That definitely didn't help. We should have been better."
 
As tired as they seemed, the Flyers gave one final burst in the final 2:06 with a pair of goals, trailing 4-1 to make it close.
 
With an empty net and on a power play, time pretty much ran out as Valtteri Filppula kept dancing with the puck trying to find an open shot and couldn't in the final 15 seconds.
 
"That's what it looked like, huh?" Filppula said with a laugh, saying he knew the time on the clock. "I was aware. I was trying to look for an opening and couldn't find one."
 
Then the time ran out on him and the Flyers.
 
The Rangers had lost eight straight at home yet it was New York that came out flying and shooting on Anthony Stolarz, who once again was sharp in goal at the start but collapsed at the end with turnovers around him.
 
The Flyers came into the game playing their best hockey of the second half down the stretch -- four wins in five games -- and could have easily caved when they were eight points out more than a week ago.
 
But they didn't. They tried to fight back. That fight needed to take place two months ago.
 
General manager Ron Hextall said he has been watching how the team handled the impossible, knowing they were alive mathematically but not realistically.
 
"We're watching for a while," he said. "There was a point there where you could have said, the odds are against us and you play particular attention, so that won't stop."
 
What did he learn over the final two weeks?
 
"It tells you we have character and heart," Hextall said, "but there are still things that matter because we missed the playoffs."
 
In a word: inconsistency. There's that word, again.
 
"It's been our biggest issue this year," Hextall said. "We've had good pockets. But our bad pockets have not been very good and quite frankly, too long."

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