It was a season of peaks and valleys for the Philadelphia Flyers.
From the depths of a 1-7-0 start, they finished third in the Metropolitan Division to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after sitting out the 2013 postseason.
Captain Claude Giroux went from zero goals, seven assists and a minus-12 rating in his first 15 games to finish as the League's third-leading scorer and a Hart Trophy finalist.
In their Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Rangers, they peaked with their backs to the wall to win Game 6 at home, 5-2, but there was one final valley, a 2-1 season-ending loss in Game 7 one night later at Madison Square Garden.
Here are five reasons the Flyers have gotten an earlier start to their offseason than they hoped.
1. Lack of speed
One constant in all seven games was the Flyers' inability to keep up with the Rangers when they pushed the pace. It was most evident in the neutral zone and in the offensive end, as the Rangers' speed on the backcheck forced the Flyers to dump pucks in rather than carry them into the New York end. And when the Flyers were able to get pucks deep, they weren't quick enough to create enough quality scoring chances.
"They've been smothering us down low," forward Wayne Simmonds said after Game 5. "As soon as you get the puck you turn up and they've got three guys on you right away. … They have their two players in there right away and … if you don't get your other guy in there, the third guy comes in and picks up the puck."
2. What happened to the offense?
The Flyers were eighth in the League in scoring during the regular season, led by their seven 20-goal scorers, and they averaged more than 30 shots per game.
However, most of that offense disappeared in seven games against the Rangers.
They averaged 25.6 shots per game, the second-fewest in the League, and their 2.29 goals per game was 15th among 16 playoff teams. They scored two goals or fewer in five of the games, and one goal in three games, including Game 7.
And those seven 20-goal scorers combined for 10 goals; however, Simmonds accounted for three of them with his hat trick in Game 6.
3. Where's the top line?
Voracek had two goals and four points, but one assist in the final three games. Giroux, who tied his career best with 28 goals in the regular season and was third in the League with 86 points, had two goals, but one was an empty-net goal late in the Game 6 win. He didn't have a shot on goal in the first two games.
Hartnell was held to no goals and three assists. He set up the first goal of the series and had another assist in Game 2, but mostly was ineffective. He even was moved from the top line in the third period of Game 5 when the Flyers were pushing to tie the game late, and played on the second line in Games 6 and 7.
"I haven't been effective at all hardly this series," Hartnell said the morning of Game 6. "I need to be better."
4. Defensive-zone mistakes
The Flyers committed 60 giveaways in the series, but the mistakes in their own end piled up. Some of the most egregious came when the Flyers least could afford them.
Trailing 2-0 in the second period of Game 5, Braydon Coburn's pass through the defensive zone went off Hal Gill's skates between the circles and turned into a loose puck that the Rangers' Dominic Moore jumped on and scored what became the game-winning goal.
They had nine giveaways in the first period of Game 6, but goalie Steve Mason was there to bail them out. In Game 7 there was more of the same, including a first-period giveaway by Coburn with a pass behind Brayden Schenn that resulted in Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis getting open looks with four minutes left.
And both Rangers goals in Game 7 came on plays the Flyers could have stopped. Mats Zuccarello's spinning backhand pass to Daniel Carcillo went through the skates of Andrew MacDonald and Coburn for the first goal, and on the second goal center Sean Couturier and defenseman Erik Gustafsson let Benoit Pouliot skate past them through the slot to one-time Derick Brassard's pass.
5. Not even at even strength
The Flyers had the better of special-teams play with six power-play goals and a penalty-killing unit that canceled out the Rangers' final 20 man-advantages.
At 5-on-5 however, the Rangers were the superior team. The Flyers managed 10 even-strength goals in seven games and had one even-strength goal in five of the seven games.
When the teams were even in numbers, it's where the Flyers' lack of speed most stood out. The Rangers were quicker all over the ice, including the way they were able to get into shooting lanes and deny Philadelphia scoring opportunities.
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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