"It has to be the most embarrassing game I've been involved with [this season]," captain Claude Giroux said. "We didn't win any battles, and they just moved the puck around us."
There's no question the Flyers have a right to feel sorry for themselves. The league compressed the schedule so tightly to account for the Olympic break that every team is skating tired and hurt right now. Some teams are talented enough to get through it, however, and some teams aren't. Regrettably, the Flyers are in the latter group.
Right now, they look even slower than usual, particularly at the defensive end, where they have no speed under the best of circumstances. Being a step behind leads to penalties, and the Flyers had to face five more shorthanded shifts Saturday, giving them a league-high total of 215 this season. The Bruins scored three times on the power play, and the Flyers spent the dreary afternoon chasing the game without a prayer of catching it.
"Eventually, you'll get scored on if you keep taking penalties," coach Craig Berube said. "Whether your penalty kill is good or not, you'll get scored on."
Meanwhile, from his balcony lair, general manager Paul Holmgren is deciding if his team is just going through a lull that might be rectified by the actual Olympic break, or if the Flyers need a significant shake-up at the trade deadline just to make the playoffs. Missing the postseason for a second straight season isn't something the organization would swallow easily - for both competitive and financial reasons - and while Homer's job might not be on the line, there's no guarantee of that this time.
The deadline is March 5, just a week after play resumes, so Holmgren and his staff will have to draw their conclusions during this ugly period when the Flyers are playing as if the vacation has already started. The schedule offers them bleak hope of a turnaround in the interim, and apparently the team has already tried changing coaches, so the GM will be expected to come up with something fast. Good luck with that. The Flyers, as noted before, don't do fast very well.
"It's a skating game," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said, "and we got outskated by a mile today. We lost today by every category there is in hockey."
They also lost with predictable reactions. Immediately after the Bruins made it 3-0 and then 4-0, the Flyers provoked fights, as if those momentary displays of caring about the game would camouflage the 60 minutes in which they let the game drift away in a muddle of bad passes, missed assignments, and step-slow reactions.
Scott Hartnell said the Flyers could feel it wasn't their day as early as midway through the first period, when Boston cycled the puck in its offensive end for more than a full minute at even strength without being seriously challenged.
"There's your answer. He felt that way in the first period. It's confidence. We're not very confident right now. That's our mind-set," Berube said. "We're a fragile team. That's what I see. It doesn't look like we want the puck."
Well, that's not a very good way to play hockey, but it does summarize how the Flyers are approaching things. They want the puck to go away. They want the games to go away. They want someone to light the torch in Russia so they can take off their skates and feel sorry for themselves in peace.
If they keep this up for the next two weeks, however, the only thing that will go away is their season. And, unlike everything else about the Flyers, it will happen speedily.