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Empty Cup: Flyers' title drought goes on with Game 6 loss
By DAN GELSTON
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Flyers fans spent the final minutes of another empty season doing what boorish fans do with elimination on deck. They chucked beer cans and threw trash and hats and whatever objects were within reach onto the ice. Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan admonished fans - just as he had two years earlier when giveaway bracelets were hurled on the ice - but there was little anyone could do to stop them.
This is how the season ends in Philly, not with a Stanley Cup hoisted in a championship celebration, but with a call for the cleaning crew to pick up the mess.
The Eagles, Phillies and 76ers have all won championships - along with Villanova, the Arena Football League's Soul, and Philly horse Smarty Jones - since the Flyers last won back-to-back Cups in 1974 and 1975.
The only banners raised to the rafters are for retired numbers or a Hall of Fame entry.
So it goes for the orange-and-black, trudging along without a Process or parade.
The Flyers' season ended with an 8-5 loss in Game 6 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Flyers haven't reached the second round since 2012 and haven't played in the Cup finals since 2010. Under third-year coach Dave Hakstol, this season's berth was considered a mild surprise, especially when the team lost 10 straight games in November/December and all seemed lost.
"We came into this playoff series and into (Game 6) very confident that we could not only take this series to a seven-game series, but also win the series," Hakstol said. "We didn't do that so we came up short. There's one season that ultimately is successful, and obviously we didn't accomplish that this year. There are a lot of real positives that we're going to be able to go back and evaluate."
The Flyers clearly aren't in the class of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. The Flyers and Penguins are often touted as one of the NHL's fiercest rivalries. The truth is, the Flyers are nothing to the Penguins but a pesky gnat easily swatted away and quickly forgotten.
There's talent in Philly. But enough to win a championship? That's for general manager Ron Hextall to assemble in the offseason and the years ahead.
Here are more things to know as the Flyers head into a long offseason:
Hakstol, a shocking pick to coach the Flyers out of the college ranks, has led the Flyers to two playoff berths in three seasons but not much else. Angry Flyers fans chanted "Fire Hakstol! Fire Hakstol!" in the playoffs and he's aware the fans at least want him on the hot seat. But Hakstol and Hextall are tight - Hextall's son, Brett, played for Hakstol at North Dakota. And there's little reason to think the GM is going to acknowledge his biggest gamble was also his biggest bust of a move. Hakstol had a reputation from developing young players and there are enough on the roster to merit at least one more season.
"It took a lot of young guys growing throughout the year to be able to put together the stretch run that we did have," he said. "At the end of the day, we didn't come into this playoff series to make steps though. We came in to win the series."
The Flyers may have gone as far as they can with the core of Claude Giroux, who was a Hart Trophy candidate, Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek. Simmonds, a former All-Star, could be on the market if the Flyers are committed to a true youth movement.
Giroux is the last player left from the `10 finals team and had just one goal and two assists in the playoffs.
"We're gonna keep building here and we're going to come off strong next year," Giroux said.
The Flyers could look to Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 draft, to play a more pivotal role next season.
WHO'S NO. 1
Look no further than Philadelphia's usual unsettled goaltending to understand why the franchise has gone 42 years without a championship. The Flyers signed former Calgary goalie Brian Elliott to a $5.5 million, two-year deal and he was a bust in the playoffs. Michal Neuvirth and mid-season pickup Petr Mrazek weren't true No. 1s, either.
The 28 goals scored by the Penguins set a new Flyers franchise record for goals against in a six-game series. It tied the franchise record for goals against in any length of series, joining the 1979 New York Rangers team that scored 28 in a five-game series win.
Who's next in net?
More AP hockey: https://apnews.com/tags/NHLhockey
Updated April 23, 2018