WE'VE SEEN THIS BEFORE...
PHILADELPHIA – Flyers Fans need a jolt of optimism.
I understand it’s hard right now, what with the team losing six of the first seven games, scoring just 10 goals and switching coaches already.
But it’s that last part that I want to focus on for a minute here.
Let’s go back to the last time the Flyers made a coaching change. The circumstances were definitely different, but not as different as you might think.
It was the 2009-10 season when John Stevens was fired and replaced by Peter Laviolette.
Those Flyers didn’t get off to a bad start. On the contrary, they got off to a pretty good start.
Instead of being 1-6-0 as the current team is, they were 4-2-1 after seven games. As a matter of fact, they started the season 12-5-1 under Stevens that season, looking like the team they were expected to be.
But then something happened. Something eerily similar to what is happening now.
They went 1-6-0 in a span of seven games.
They lost three straight, not looking good defensively in any of them, won a game against a bad New York Islanders team by a score of 2-1 (sound like the Florida game last week?) and then lost three more in a row, scoring a total of three goals in those contests, making it five goals in four games.
With that, Stevens was canned.
In came Laviolette, a coach with a new system that he had to teach a group of underachieving players (sound familiar?)
In Laviolette’s first 10 games, the Flyers were pretty dreadful, going 2-7-1. Things really looked bleak for that team as they hit rock bottom in the Eastern Conference with a 16-22-2 record just before Christmas.
But at the end of that bad run, the Flyers were starting to get Laviolette’s system and play it well – including a thrilling game against Pittsburgh at the Wells Fargo Center then ended in a 3-2 shootout loss.
That’s not to say that history will repeat itself tonight against the Penguins, but it was a strong effort by a floundering team.
They followed that up with a tough 2-1 loss at home to the New York Rangers (ironically their next opponent too) in a game in which they dominated New York, outshooting them 37-24 only to have the game taken away from them by the stellar goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist.
However, after that initial 10 games for Laviolette, the Flyers went on a solid run. Over the next 25 games, they went 17-7-1 leading into the Olympic break.
They had figured it out. They had righted the ship. And although it was pretty topsy-turvy the rest of the season (9-10-3) the Flyers still found a way to make the playoffs on the final day of the season with a shootout win over the Rangers.
From there it was the dramatic playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Suggesting that could happen again this season, especially at 1-6-0, is definitely getting way ahead of ourselves. Actually, it is understood that this poor start is very difficult to overcome.
Consider only three times since the creation of the shootout in 2005 has a team more than four points out of a playoff spot on Nov.1 made it to the postseason.
With extra points being given out like Halloween candy, it’s tough to make up even a marginal difference. So, this Flyers team certainly has a hill to climb.
But in the same way you can sense a winning streak coming to an end because of bad habits sneaking into good team play, so too can you sense a losing streak nearing it’s conclusion when a team plays well but still comes up short.
That’s been the talk around the Flyers for the past week, Each game they got a little bit better, despite losing.
And then today, Claude Giroux made a reference to the past – to that 2009-10 season in fact – to describe where the team thinks they are right now.
“What’s going on right now makes me think of when we played Boston in the playoffs [in 2010],” he said. “We were down 3-0, but we were talking to ourselves and we were like, ‘How the hell are we down 3-0? We should be up 3-0.’ We just stayed with it and came back and won the series.
“It’s a long season. If you think about it, we still have 75 games left. That’s a lot of games.”
And it all starts with one win – and they’d love to get that tonight against the first place Penguins.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37