Friday, March 4, 2011
Posted: 2:38 p.m.
By Tim Panaccio
Thats all that separates the Flyers from the Boston Bruins in the overall Eastern Conference standings.
A month ago, the Flyers were on cruise control, vanquishing every team they met. They were winning games even when they didnt deserve to win.
Now all hell is breaking loose as theyve lost four of their last six gamesthree in regulationand are actually facing adversity for the first time this season.
They are a poor 7-5-1 since the All-Star break. Flashback: They were 5-6-2 last year after the Olympic break.
Through games on Feb. 16, the Flyers had a 12-point lead on the Bruins (69 points). Now its down to three.
The challenge is to pull out of this slump in March, so the Flyers dont face another playoff positioning scramble in April like last season.
Sure, theyre going to make the playoffs. The only question is: are they going to blow their No. 1 seed?
Its better to have it now than Game 1 of the playoffs, theorized coach Peter Laviolette. What it does is, it forces you to examine everything. You examine conditioning, your game, your systems, your video and you look at things. I think thats a positive thing
Laviolette met with his players yesterday after another hard, but shorter, on-ice workout. Following Thursdays stunning 3-2 loss to Toronto, Laviolette said he was leaning toward a light skate for Friday.
So much for that.
The way I worded it to the guys is, its been pretty easy here for 58 games, he said. Fifty-five, 58 games weve had it our way. You heard me say a lot during the first 55 days that we were a pretty consistent group.
Now, were not playing as good as can play and were not winning games we should be winning. So that creates a little bit of adversityand forces us to go to work and do some things. I dont think its bad to crack down this month.
In the 13 games since the All-Star break, the Flyers have not scored more than three goals (excluding empty netters) in regulation play.
This is a talented group that is capable of scoring goals by the bunches and has 205 goals overallfourth best in the NHL.
Im completely confident in this teams ability to score goals, Laviolette said. I just think its one of those things.
One pressure indicator within the dressing room is that many players are now undressing quickly and taking off to avoid talking to reporters after practice. Thats not like the Flyers.
Danny Briere, whos always around to talk, said a little adversity is a good thing right now to test this group which most pundits believe will again play for the Stanley Cup in June.
Everything had been going really smooth throughout the year, Briere said. You dont want to start hitting adversity for the first time in the first round of the playoffs. Look at years past.
We have a group of guys, who usually respond well to adversity. Its something you want to take care of, but its not anything to panic about. You want to address the problems right away and make sure you straighten things out.
The Flyers, who have seen a flu bug go through the room, will have back-to-back afternoon games this weekend, starting at home on Saturday against Buffalo and then Sunday at New York against the Rangers.
Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo practiced Friday and are available. Jeff Carter, who also had the flu, is OK, but his grandfather died and he flew back to London, Ont. Carter may not be available until Sunday.
Two things need to happen to turn this around and theyre both connected. The Flyers need to generate goals againeven dirty ones like the game-winner Toronto gotand they also need to get their power play going. The power play is now 2-for-its-last-26.
Power play is one of them, Briere said about finding offense. Were not finding loose pucks in the offensive zone quite as well as we were earlier. And the cycle, which comes from the forecheck. I dont think weve been as good in creating turnovers in the offensive zone.
His line with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, carried the Flyers most of the season, but now, no one is carrying anyone out there.
The games our line was good, Briere said, the puck has not been going in. So thats why the struggles for our line.
Four of the Flyers losses since the All-Star break have been by one goal. In those losses, the Flyers power play was a combined 2-for-18.
A power play goal here and there can make a difference, Leino said.
As Larry Bowa once said, "I'm not gonna sit here and beat a dead horse in the mouth," but ... the Flyers power play is pulling them down.
Again, I have a lot of confidence in the people in this room and think were going to score power play goals, Laviolette said. If were looking at it now, and were examining it now because were not happy with it, we can get to it.
But will the Flyers get to it in time?
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com
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