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Flyers Steadier This Season Thanks to Lessons Learned

Wednesday, 02.18.2009 / 2:12 PM ET / News
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com
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Flyers Steadier This Season Thanks to Lessons Learned

A year ago this week, the Philadelphia Flyers' season appeared to be spiraling out of control.

Just when the orange and black appeared to be a lock to earn one of the top eight seeds in the Eastern Conference, the club embarked on its worst losing streak in franchise history, going 0-8-2 from Feb. 6-23. In the process, the Flyers dipped in the standings and seemed destined to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season.

That never happened, of course, as the Flyers righted the ship and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell in five games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A need for the Olympics

Shutting down the NHL for two or three weeks in February once every four years so NHL players can skate in the Olympics is worth it, according to Flyers captain Mike Richards.

"I think it's great for the NHL to kind of have the world's best on the ice at the same time," he said. "I know as a Canadian you always feel honored to put the Canadian jersey on, and talking to people from different countries, they enjoy it, too. It's just a good thing. Everyone gets excited for the Olympics, players and fans, so I think it's a good thing for hockey in general."

At this point, Richards feels it's too early to project favorites for the Vancouver Games.

"I'm not too sure,'' he said. "I've never really looked at or thought about it too much, but I think Sweden, being the defending champs and having so many great players, has to be the favorite. To tell you the truth, I think with the players in the NHL right now, you can look around the League and see superstars on every team from different countries.

"It's going to be hard to name a favorite and going to be hard to kind of say which team you're going to have problems with because every country has different superstars."

-- Mike G. Morreale

"I think everyone learned from that last year," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "I don't think anything needed to be said this season because everyone kind of remembered the situation we put ourselves in. As long as we don't do that this year and keep on the path we're on, if not improve, I think that's the biggest thing right now. We don't want to stay the same; we want to keep improving as a team."

Lessons learned from that rocky road have helped the Flyers remain focused throughout much of the 2008-09 campaign. Since Nov. 11, the club has not suffered more than two consecutive losses at any point while compiling a 26-10-6 record during that span.

"It's nice to see that we can bounce back after a loss but, that said, it seems like we can still do a little bit better with consistency in a winning way and not have those letdowns after a big win or two big wins," Richards said. "It's encouraging to see how the team responds after a loss. I still think we have a little bit of a ways to go to get better, but we like the team's drive right now."

The Flyers will look to remain in the playoff hunt and perhaps even catch the Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey Devils, with whom they still have two games remaining. The club plays consecutive home games this week against Buffalo on Thursday and Pittsburgh on Saturday. Richards, who returned to the lineup Feb. 11 and after missing three games with the flu, knows the club must play better.

"It's always tough throughout the year (to remain consistent) because you play so many games that you're not going to have good legs, you're not going to play well and get the bounces every single night," he said. "It's just putting yourself in position to win the hockey games, and with injury problems and the flu bug going around pretty heavily right now, it's different people stepping up in different situations. We've had that all year. Hopefully we can continue doing that, and hopefully we get healthy pretty soon."

Richards, who centered Scottie Upshall and Darroll Powe in his first game back before moving back to usual partners Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble, has 20 goals, 52 points and a plus-18 rating. He leads the team with 99 hits, and leads the team's forwards with 58 blocked shots.

Flyers defenseman Ossi Vaananen wasn't a part of last season's losing streak, but knows the players are adamant about not allowing history to repeat itself.

"Consistency is the key, but we don't want to let our guard down," Vaananen said. "We've played a lot of hockey already, but that's when the professionalism comes into play. You have to stay focused and keep it up night in and night out; there's no letting down. Right now, if you can keep your level high, you're in good shape because a lot of teams are tired."
We don't want to stay the same; we want to keep improving as a team." - Mike Richards

One consistent part of the Flyers this season has been special teams. The power play is ranked fourth in the League at 23.9 percent, while the penalty-killing unit is seventh at 83.4 percent.

"Our penalty killing is good because of the pressure that we put on the teams," Richards said. "We don't give them too many opportunities to set up, and when they do, I think our goaltenders make big saves and we collapse the middle and do a great job of getting in the way and blocking shots. If you don't give the other team time to make plays, they're sometimes going to panic and make plays that they normally wouldn't make."

That's the reason Richards leads the League with five shorthanded goals -- including his NHL-record third career three-on-five goal Sunday against the Rangers -- and teammates Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne have four.




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


J. Voracek 82 22 59 1 81
C. Giroux 81 25 48 -3 73
M. Streit 81 9 43 -8 52
W. Simmonds 75 28 22 -5 50
B. Schenn 82 18 29 -5 47
S. Couturier 82 15 22 4 37
M. Del Zotto 64 10 22 -5 32
M. Read 80 8 22 -4 30
M. Raffl 67 21 7 6 28
V. Lecavalier 57 8 12 -7 20
S. Mason 18 18 11 .928 2.25
R. Emery 10 11 7 .894 3.06
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