PHILADELPHIA – The Flyers leadership group is concerned. Very concerned.
And the team that plays with them would be very wise to listen to what their captain, associate captain and alternate captain have to say.
Because after a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday, the fifth time the team had a chance to reach the .500 plateau this season and failed, they were expressing concern with where the team stands at this point in the season.
“We can talk in the room as much as we want, once we go on the ice, everyone has to show up and [have a sense of urgency],” said Kimmo Timonen. “It comes from the 20 guys in this room to do it on the ice, not here [in the locker room]. “We can talk about the urgency, whatever great word you want to make up but it has to happen there [on the ice].
“For some reason we haven’t been able to do that. Like I said it’s been two periods, 35 minutes, 30 minutes, maybe once or twice in these 21 games we’ve played a full 60 minutes so far.”
And he’s right.
For the past four games the Flyers have gotten behind by two goals in each game. They’ve come back twice, but twice they haven’t, and those are critical points they are leaving on the table because they are choosing not to play a hard game from start to finish.
“We talk about it before games,” said Scott Hartnell. “We talk about it after the first five minutes of the game when we don’t show up to play. Any team in this league is too good to only play 50 minutes or 55 minutes or even half a game.
“It’s been talked about too many times. It’s got to change fast. We can’t get down 2-0 every game and expect to win especially a team like Toronto. They are playing really well. It’s just frustrating to be a part of it.”
And the problems seem to be in different places each game. Monday it was the defensive zone, where mistakes cost the Flyers.
Toronto scored the first goal late in the first period when Phil Kessel surprised Timonen by catching him from behind and lifting his stick to win a loose puck battle.
Kessel made a quick shot and beat Bryzgalov. It was a fine play by the Leafs forward, and once again put the Flyers in a hole.
“We need to find a way to get that first goal. Our starts have to be better and when we get the starts we want we keep the momentum. Like I’ve said we play a lot of games in not a lot of nights so we need to put this game behind us and get ready for next game.”
Nick Kulemin made it 2-0 late in the second period when Nazim Kadri hit him coming off the bench with a pass. Luke Schenn had drifted too far to the middle, giving Kulemin an open lane to the goal and he snaped a shot off the post and in past Ilya Bryzgalov.
“It’s certainly not where we want to be,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “It seemed we were off to the first part of the first period the way we wanted to, we couldn’t score, they came back and caught a few of their chances so we’ve got to have the lead and move forward from there. But there isn’t anything you can do about it, you’ve got to continue to fight for it, work for it, move forward and look for a win. “
To their credit the Flyers fought back.
Hartnell scored his first goal of the season re-directing a beauty of a pass from Jake Voracek past Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens at the end of the second period to cut the lead to one.
But, a blown defensive coverage in the third period allowed Mikhail Grabovski to get open in the slot and pot home the rebound of a Clark MacArthur shot to make it 3-1.
Thanks to former Flyer James van Riemsdyk taking two penalties on the same play, the Flyers were able to get one back when Voracek scored on the power play, and although the Flyers were buzzing at a pace the Leafs struggled to keep up with over the final 10 minutes of the game, they couldn’t get the equalizer past Scrivens and finally gave up the ghost when Jay McClement scored an empty-netter.
“We’re not going to make the playoffs if we keep playing the way we are,” Hartnell said. “We talked about it after the game. If we don’t learn fast - as in Wednesday night - it’s going to be a long season. Guys have to realize that. Every point counts, game 20 or game 30. We have to wake it up.
“When we play like we did in the last ten minutes I don’t think there is a team in the league that can play with us. We were skating. We were hitting. We were beating them to the pucks, winning battles. That is something in the first 50 minutes that we hardly did.”
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