Flyers left standing at 1-7

Posted: October 18, 2013

ON THE big screen above center ice between periods, Lauren Hart was again belting out her song, "Last One Standing." Video clips of Flyers scoring, celebrating, scoring and celebrating again accompanied her first-line voice, and by the time the song was halfway through, two things were painfully clear.

The video clips were not recent. Most of them, anyway. And . . .

"Last One Standing" has more than one meaning.

The Flyers scored one goal again last night, losing 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game their captain targeted for a turnaround, a game that preceded a week without games - and now, a lot of conjecture about firings and trades and the direction of a franchise that has again appeared to have overestimated its talent.

"Tonight's gonna be a game to bring the fans back on our side and show them that we're a good team and can win games," Claude Giroux told reporters after the morning skate yesterday.

"Obviously, that's how I felt," Giroux said after the Flyers fell to 1-7. "I think if we had won that game it would have been a big turning point, but it didn't happen, so . . . "

It wasn't just that it didn't happen. It's how it didn't happen, and how delusional they all seemed about that afterward. Five minutes into the first period, the Flyers still were looking for their first shot and Giroux already had spent 2 minutes in the penalty box, hooking Evgeni Malkin to prevent a great scoring chance.

They went the first 9 minutes of the second period without a shot as well. At that point they were being outshot, 22-8, and, well, the fans were not back on their side.

Mostly because they had not even planted a hint that they were a good team or that they can win games.

More and more, the Flyers' start this season looks less like a funk than a gross miscalculation.

They tried their butts off last night.

They're just not good.

They don't go to the net, they miss easy bunnies like the empty net Brayden Schenn managed to avoid last night, they cough up pucks behind their own net like Braydon Coburn did in the third period, leading to the punctuating goal Sidney Crosby scored.

They commit penalties that are less about stupidity, and more about making up for a lack of ability. And they lean on their desperate play after falling behind as a tonic for their malaise, conveniently ignoring that their opponent was playing to protect that lead and wait for the inevitable mistake, which eventually came last night, and usually does.

Rather than luck and bounces, it boils down to this: On their current active roster, they have two playmakers. One is Giroux, who set up their only goal in the final seconds of the second period after checking the clock above him. The other, at least right now, is goaltender Steve Mason, whose acrobatics have masked this team's impotence even amid an awful start.

Unfortunately he also has as many goals as 14 other Flyers - which, thus far, is none.

Giroux is one of the 14, as is free-agent signee Vinny Lecavalier, whose slow start was followed by a lower-body injury that has forced him from the last three games, and probably that many more. Perhaps, as his career suggests, he will prove to be another playmaker when he's healthy. But at 33 and already on the shelf in this young season, that seems more prayer than promise right now.

He's not the only prayer. With each unproductive game, this team resembles a rosary. This is not to say that Brayden Schenn or Matt Read or even Sean Couturier won't be productive players somewhere else, particularly for a team deep enough to be happy with their third-line level of productivity, or in a smaller town that may allow them to mature at a more natural pace.

But Philly has devoured dozens of players with as much or more talent than each of them, whether through pressure or big-city lifestyle.

"The only guys who are going to dig out of this hole are the guys in this locker room," new coach Craig Berube said. "They've got to start believing in each other and believing in themselves and going out and playing hockey like they can."

And if they don't? Or if they can't? Well, they can look up players like R.J. Umberger or Scottie Upshall, guys who started off their careers here promising stardom, leveled off (or worse) and are toiling for teams elsewhere.

The Flyers' brass believed last summer that they had assembled a team that personified Ms. Hart's anthem.

The nightly highlights, though, the ones playing on the ice and not above it, suggest a more cynical interpretation of the song.


On Twitter: @samdonnellon


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