Thursday, January 24, 2013

Splitting Hairs: A Flyers-Rangers preview

With the Flyers staring down the barrel of another key divisional matchup and a fourth straight loss to open this lockout-shortened 2013 season, the question remains.

Just what is the worst commencement to a season in franchise history?

If the Orange and Black should lose tonight against the resurgent New York Rangers, they will have dropped the first four games in regulation for the first time in their 46-year NHL tenure.

However, there are a few other contenders for the crown of "worst-ever start."

Four and a half seasons ago, in John Stevens' second full season behind the bench here, the Flyers began without a win in six games. They lost them all, but managed to record three crutch points with overtime losses in Pittsburgh and San Jose and a home shootout loss to San Jose, making that poor start officially 0-3-3.

In the first season which included the new Millennium, 1999-2000, Roger Neilson's club limped out of the gate without a win in their first six games as well. The lone points in that 0-4-1-1 start came in a tie at Boston in the third game and an overtime defeat home against Montreal two contests later.

And of course, the 0-3-0 runs to begin the 1989-90 and 1995 seasons were quoted in full force after Tuesday's 0-3 loss in New Jersey.

One other sour note to tonight's proceedings is that the Flyers have lost eight straight times to the Blueshirts -- the longest winless stretch since losing a franchise-worst 10 in a row to New York from November 28, 1971 to January 14, 1973.

That spate of futility made up the majority of a 13-game winless run (0-11-2) which ran through December 26, 1973.

Karma from the hockey gods being what it is, things have come full circle in this rivalry.  Under Mike Keenan (with some earlier help from Bob McCammon, the Flyers owned the Rangers to the tune of 11 straight regular-season wins from March 17, 1984 until December 7, 1985. That included a perfect 7-0-0 record in 1984-85.

Only six players remain from the last time our home team beat up on the Manhattanites at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 2011: Braydon Coburn, Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros. Dan Carcillo was credited with the game-winning goal and Kris Versteeg posted an insurance tally.

The Flyers have also come up empty at home against the Rangers since a 4-1 win on December 18, 2010, going 0-3-1 since then.

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