KICK IN THE PANTS
Losing 6-1 to the Bruins might be the wake-up call the Flyers need
PHILADELPHIA -- Practice is called for 10 a.m. Sunday, on Carnival Day, because charity begins at home.
“It doesn’t look like we want the puck, the support is not there, the team play is not there. To me, when that happens, that’s confidence.
“Go to practice tomorrow, work at things, try to get them confident again. That’s my job.”
The rookie head coach performed it well to get the Flyers past a 1-7 start to a 22-10-4 run that got them solidly into playoff position, until four losses over the last six days have suddenly put themselves on the outside looking in.
“Everybody needs to wake up, we’re out of the playoffs now,” said Scott Hartnell. But if, after being badly outplayed this week by middling Carolina and Columbus teams, the Flyers needed the shock treatment of being taken apart Saturday by powerful Boston, 6-1, they need to look in the mirror, not at the standings, for their inspiration.
|Vinny Lecavalier looks on as Tuukka Rask makes a save. THe Flyers didn't test the Boston goalie enough in a 6-1 loss to the Bruins.|
It is true that with Detroit coming in Tuesday, followed by a trip against the three strong California teams, the Flyers are in immediate and serious danger of coming home to an insurmountable deficit. In this league, the loser of a game still can get a point. But that kind of self-imposed pressure on a team its coach calls “fragile” will not be as productive for the Flyers as good day of practice Sunday and Monday.
The bad habits that Nick Grossman says crept into their game while the Flyers were scrambling through in third periods and overtimes are only partially correctible through pangs of conscience and film study. These guys need practice days. During an Olympic year, they are in a short supply for every team, but really are most missed when a team sinks to level the Flyers have this week.
“We lost today by every category there is,” said Kimmo Timonen. “We have to find a way to play as a team, skate as a team, pass as a team.
“We were doing that the last two months. We beat a lot of teams by skating, forechecking, creating turnovers, but the last four games we haven’t done that.
“I don’t know what the reason is for that. We shouldn’t be tired. The [Bruins] play as many games as we do and they look pretty good.”
Boston got help Saturday starting with consecutive power plays in the first period. No sooner had the Flyers killed a chintzy one called on a nudge along the boards by Grossman than did captain Claude Giroux take a gratuitous neutral-zone swipe at the back of the leg of Shawn Thornton, forcing Philadelphia back to the kill again. This time Zdeno Chara banked one into the goal off Braydon Coburn.
The Flyers didn’t immediately cave, actually played their best stretch of the game for the rest of the first period. But when Jarome Iginla beat Steve Mason over the glove with 18 seconds to go before intermission, a 2-0 deficit that as recently as Wednesday night was a molehill for a team of nine third-period comeback wins became Mount Bruin.
Iginla’s goal was the only one Mason had much chance of stopping. Reilly Smith beat Grossmann one-on-one up the slot and banked one off the post and the back of Mason’s leg. Patrice Bergeron slammed in a rebound after Giroux lost the puck and at 4-0, an already long day became interminable. The 33-26 Boston shot advantage actually flattered the Flyers, who rarely had the puck.
“If we played that game again, it would be hard to lose as many battles as we did,” said Hartnell. “First line through fourth line, [the Bruins] twist and turn and it seems like it [took] us a second to react to what they are doing.
“It’s not our defense or our forwards, it’s everybody. We watch the pass go out and then glide up to them. That’s not the way our system is supposed to be played.”
The Flyers played that system efficiently for a two-month confidence-building stretch, and then got away for a time with some slippage. They are not getting away with anything now, which is the way it goes for all teams over the course of 82 games.
“I’ve seen it for years,” said Berube. “You lose a few games and you get fragile.
“You look at our team right now, we are a fragile team.”
Which, in it’s own end has become china.
“You guys have been getting it wrong,” argued Timonen when the first question to him was about the bad breakouts, pointing out how the Flyers didn’t skate with Boston in any of the three zones, not just the defensive one.
No argument there, except that how do you ever generate any speed without the good first pass that the Flyers aren’t making, causing not the quickest defense in the league to look slower than it is.
These defensemen not moving it quickly enough need someone there to receive that pass, too. Support has disappeared, and with it appears to be the will to fight through a bad time. And while it appeared the Flyers had gotten past that stage, no team ever really is.
Of course, some more talented ones, with a Zdeno Chara on the back end, work through these crises more easily. The Flyers have to do it as a team, which is why they will be at work Sunday morning, their only way out.
To contact Jay Greenberg, email firstname.lastname@example.org