As the second period of Tuesday’s game unfolded, it might as well have been a carryover from Saturday’s abysmal performance in Columbus. The Flyers weren’t just losing at the worst time. They had reverted back to resemble the ghosts of season’s past.

On March 23, the Flyers dramatically defeated the Boston Bruins on Tyson Foerster’s game-winning goal with 1:29 left in regulation. Following play that day, the Flyers had a four-point lead on Washington for a playoff spot and were sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 11 games to go. Four points is hardly an insurmountable margin, but with the so-called gauntlet down to just two games remaining, it seemed that nothing was going to stop this Flyers team from finishing what they started and shocking everyone with a playoff appearance.

Cut to Tuesday night. The Flyers season isn’t officially over. Three games remain and they are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. But it’s over. A five-goal second period with four goals scored in a 3:59 span set the stage for yet another loss of embarrassing proportions. 

In just the last two weeks, the Flyers have a 4-1 loss to Montreal, a 5-1 loss to Chicago, a 6-2 loss to Columbus, and now a 9-3 loss to Montreal all in the books. It’s one thing to lose down the stretch, fade because of potential fatigue and injury, and just not be good enough talent-wise to make up for it. It’s another to completely embarrass yourself.

There’s an irony to that word. That’s how John Tortorella described the second period of the Flyers eventual overtime loss to the New York Islanders on April 1. It’s the only game the Flyers have managed a point since the gauntlet ended on March 28.

Now that the playoffs appear out of reach, the postmortems have begun. And there’s a common theme surrounding them all. Was this all worth it? 

Considering that this season was the Flyers first publicly in a rebuild, sure, they overachieved. They made it farther than anyone would have expected, and there were positive developments amongst the turmoil that surfaced throughout the season. But for most Flyers fans, this will not be remembered for any of that. In a “what have you done for me lately” kind of world, closing out the season with an eight-game losing streak that could easily stretch to 11 games, several of them resembling the teams that made Flyers hockey nearly unwatchable, that’s going to leave a lasting impression.

There is always something that can be learned from a season, and in due time, the Flyers may be able to pull positives from being this close to a playoff spot and gaining the experience of playing meaningful games in March and into April. But in the immediate, it’s going to take time to look past the collapse. A lot of time.

But at this moment, it’s gut-wrenching. To be this close to an unexpected playoff appearance and fall short is without a doubt disappointing. It’s frustrating to watch how it’s happening. And in these moments, there are two common reactions: blame and doubt.

Everyone wants a reason why things happen. And the simplest answer to why this is happening and why now is multi-layered, yet succinct. It’s everything. The goaltending, the aggressive style of play not being sustainable, trading away your most consistent defenseman at the deadline, losing three more defensemen to injury, the constant 11/7 deployment, the power play’s horrific season-long struggles and the penalty kill’s recent drop-off. 

All of it plays a role, and no one escapes blame or questioning when this happens.

But that other reaction, doubt. That stems from a decade-plus of the fan base being scarred by this franchise’s decisions – all of the coaching changes, the multiple GM regimes, the lack of present ownership. The Flyers have repaired some of those things in the past year. Dan Hilferty is a present ownership representation. Keith Jones and Danny Briere certainly seem to have their pulse on the fans’ frustration over the years and want to do right by them.

And the fans were certainly eating that up from training camp in September until even the middle of March. The “New Era of Orange” was delivering nearly instant results on the ice, as unexpected as they seemed, and the front office seemed to push all of the right buttons, or at least be in lockstep with every decision, even the ones that were the result of curveballs thrown their way.

But when you fade like this, when you end the season with seemingly more questions than answers, when the end result is so similar to the old era, it can make even the most supportive and faithful fanatics with orange-colored glasses experience deja vu with an extra shot of PTSD.

Being in a rebuild is a process, and the Flyers have spared no opportunity to remind everyone as such. But as the season progressed, and the current team remained in a playoff spot for far longer than anyone imagined, you could see the decisions being made that, even slightly, changed the plan and focused on the short-term, even as much as the long-term was the big picture.

Had the Flyers simply fallen out of the playoff race with multiple hard-fought efforts, or done so several weeks or even months ago when most anticipated, it would be a lot easier to take. But this isn’t just a free fall from the race. It’s not even a collapse that focuses on losing a relatively slim margin for a playoff spot. It’s a complete collapse in the level of play that elicited embarrassing results against the NHL’s bottom feeders.

Was it all worth it? Was the season a waste of time? Absolutely not. Everything happens for a reason. Perhaps this needed to happen to show everyone, including the Flyers brass, just how far there is to go.

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on social media @Kevin_Durso.

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