Flyers look to snap daytime funk this weekend

Flyers look to snap daytime funk this weekend
March 16, 2012, 9:38 pm
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BOSTON Simply stated, the Flyers are creatures of the night.

How else do you explain how they have 36 wins when playing night games and only five wins in games that start before 7 p.m.

Even more perplexing, the Flyers have enormous difficulties winning early-afternoon games and it just so happens theyll play at 1 p.m. Saturday against the struggling Bruins and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday against the hottest team in the NHL -- the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Flyers are just 3-8-1 in games that start between 1-3 p.m. Thats not reassuring.

The Pens game is the first 12:30 p.m. start all year and it could determine whether the Flyers regain the fourth-seed over Pittsburgh and move closer to the sliding Rangers, who still occupy the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Maybe its because we should be taking our nap at 1 p.m., Jaromir Jagr offered, when asked why winning by daylight is a challenge to the Flyers.

Its tough to say. You do things differently. Wake up earlier, eat too early, and players are not used to it, even though we should be. Plus, its not the same. We dont have a morning skate.

Everything is different for an afternoon game. Instead of breakfast, a morning skate, then lunch and a pregame nap, its rise, have a breakfast, a quick team meeting, then go play hockey.

Theres a difference, coach Peter Laviolette said. Seven hours, sometimes six. Its the preparation, I guess its abnormal to get up and play that early. Being in a fight with somebody by 12:37 or 1:07.

There is a difference there. But there never is anything that can become an excuse if both teams have to do it. The opposition has to get up at the same time. They got to get out and play at the same time we do.

There really is no excuse. We got to be better and weve talked about it. But so far, we have not done a good job in the afternoon games.

The Flyers have a lot of things going for them this weekend.

Theyve won seven of their last eight games. Their defense just got Kimmo Timonen back. The offense got Jakub Voracek back. Their special teams have shown improvement.

Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is playing out of this world and just set the clubs all-time shutout record of 249:43.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, that is second-longest shutout streak by any goaltender in the NHLs expansion era (196768 to date), behind the 332:01 run posted by the Coyotes Brian Boucher in 200304, when he set a modern league record with five consecutive shutouts.

The Bruins appear to have hit a major wall, which is not an uncommon occurrence from a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final or won the Cup the year before, as Boston did.

Look at what happened to the Flyers late last season. Same thing. They hit a wall a year after going to the Cup Final. The cumulative effect of all those games starts to catch up to a club.

Boston is 3-7 in its last 10 games.

All this should benefit the Flyers on Saturday, but not if they are unprepared to play at 1 p.m., which has happened so often this season.

Danny Briere says the major adjustment is the Flyers routine actually begins the night before. For instance, Laviolette had his usual day-of-game prep meetings on Friday morning and afternoon instead of Saturday because he wont have time.

Getting ready for afternoon games is weird, Briere said. Were playing earlier Sunday than we are tomorrow. Sometimes, its tougher to get into a mindset, but its not an excuse. Both teams are in the same situation.

The Flyers are 0-4-1 in their last five afternoon games, overall.

Weve been playing better but at the same time, it is something that were aware of and know we have to be better, Max Talbot said. Preparation-wise its different but its different for both teams so theres no reason we the other team should have more jump than us.

That seems to be the consensus from players. That what they have lacked in theses afternoon games is the energy to compete as if they were night games. How much of that goes back to mental preparation is debatable.

Andreas Lilja, who played a lot of afternoon games in the Western Conference as a member of the Detroit Red Wings, said that the lack of a morning skate may be one reason why some teams -- even the Flyers -- dont get into gear right way.

He also said that players have to force themselves to get into their usual routine even if the routine isnt the same.

You have to be ready to play, Lilja said. Wake up early. Eat your meal early, be ready for the game.

Laviolette said this weekends afternoon matches against the Bruins and Penguins come down to one thing.

The bottom line is, we have to be better in our performance, he said.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net