Monday, March 7, 2011
Posted: 1:35 p.m.
By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has been around long enough to recognize signs of mental and physical exhaustion.
Fatigue and flu are often behind-the-scenes components of any prolonged losing skid, and six losses in eight games four in succession qualifies here.
Thats not an excuse, but it seems apparent watching this team. Look no further than how the Flyers arent getting back on odd-man rushes and seem to be giving up. Theyre gassed.
That fatigue is why, even after suffering the Flyers worst shutout defeat at Madison Square Garden in franchise history, Laviolette gave his players a day off on Monday, instructing them to stay home and rest, then come ready to play Tuesday when another NHL underling, the Edmonton Oilers, visits the Wells Fargo Center.
If everyone is honest here and look at the loss as an isolated game, we had no gas, Laviolette said during a conference call. We had no energy. To bring them in again, the mental part of it and physical part, I just didnt see any good it was going to do.
Weve seen this before. When players lack physical energy, the mental sharpness goes, as well, and given the colossal number of mistakes from both the defense and forwards lately, its apparent the Flyers are worn down. How much of it is flu-related we dont really know.
We were drained and to get a day off, even under the toughest of circumstances, a tough loss like that, I really feel the benefits will be seen on Tuesday, Laviolette said.
Only a few weeks ago, the Flyers were running away with the Eastern Conference title. They had a 12-point lead on Boston, their nearest rival. Now its been whittled down to two points. Both Boston and Pittsburgh (84 points each) can catch the Flyers this week if the losses continue.
Laviolette said he blames himself for the team not having any pop against the Rangers. He alluded to the teams three strenuous practices last week intended to get them conditioned, even though players were already a tad worn and some were sick.
I have to take 100 percent responsibility here for what happened yesterday, he said. We came in for the month of March and wanted to push. We pushed hard for three days and well continue to push hard.
But yesterday we felt the effects of that. We came in and we didnt have the jam we needed in order to play a team that had plenty of it. That type of game is really tough to take. Its one of those losses that you leave it and want to get sick over. Its one game and we need to get that energy back up to a really high level.
That said, Laviolette believes the work his team did last week will benefit them long-term. He admitted the combination of those practices plus three games two of which were back-to-back took more out of his club than anticipated.
You need to look no further than Im the guy who gives them the time off and time on, he said. In saying that, when we get the next opportunity, were going to push and go hard.
He insists that the team will need to stay conditioned for the long playoff road ahead of them, regardless of how things turned out this past weekend.
Although these past several weeks would given you some pause (alarm?) about the goaltending, it needs to be mentioned that things have been so helter-skelter in the Flyers defensive end lately, both Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky are under siege. Theyre being forced to make, not the routine saves, but numerous outstanding saves in succession.
For instance, Braydon Coburn is minus-7 in his last six games. Chris Pronger is minus-5 in his last four games. The walls of penetration have broken down in front of the net.
Theres no question we can do a better job defensively, Laviolette said. We can tighten up in front of our goaltenders. You need to remove yesterday. Prior to that, even those two games at home against Toronto and Buffalo, if were giving up 15 scoring chances that are quality, Id like to trim that number down to 10, maybe single digits.
Thats when were on our game. When the chances are 18-9 in our favor. When it gets to be 16-16, you roll the dice a little bit.
And lately, its been all snake eyes for the Flyers.
Laviolette wants to get Nick Boynton some games, but he doesnt think anyone on the blue line is being overused. He said that the minutes are fairly well-balanced, even down to sixth man Sean ODonnell. I dont feel any of our defensemen have been taxed, even Sean for that matter, Laviolette said. Although Danny Briere does not have a goal in eight games and Scott Hartnell has just two goals in his last 16 games, Laviolette said he is reluctant to break up the Briere line with Ville Leino because of past accomplishments. They may not be getting those bounces, he said. The easy thing to do sometimes is to blow everything up. I want to try and remain patient and help these guys through it. I believe in that line. Asked what was missing from that line, he said its more theyre in a drought where consistency and flow are gone.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org
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