Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Posted: 3:12 p.m.
By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com
Its within the fabric of hockey, Rick Tocchet used to say.
Passion, according to Kimmo Timonen, is the essential element that has been missing from the Flyers for quite a while now.
And unless they rediscover it quickly, their playoff run will be short-lived.
Flyers captain Mike Richards addressed his teammates after the shocking 5-2 surrender in Ottawa.
He said the right things and I dont see the purpose why everybody would have to talk, said Timonen, who does occasionally address the team, as well. We addressed the issue and passion is the biggest one.
We have to find the passion within our game. We cant just go through the motions like we have been. We have to find a way to win games. Only us, the players, can do it.
Down the stretch, the Flyers have not resembled the team that led the Eastern Conference for most of the second half. Since Feb. 26, they are 6-8-5 in their last 19 games. Over that span of 13 losses, they have just 17 points.
Theyve lost four games in succession and face the fiercely-competitive Sabres on Friday in Buffalo.
Lindy Ruffs club has been playing playoff hockey for two months now. Theyre where the Flyers were last season: survival mode to make the playoffs. The Sabres level of passion is several degrees higher than the Flyers.
A year ago, the Flyers went into the playoffs having lost eight of their final 12 games. Yet one thing that was different with that team versus this team is that the Flyers were in survival mode the entire stretch run, trying to gain points.
This club, as players have admitted this week, has been in cocktail mode, sitting atop of the East watching everyone else scramble for playoff positioning.
Now, the Flyers suddenly find themselves in a precarious situation in which they could fall all the way to the fourth seed.
Its hard to compare every year, but this year was different because weve been pretty much leading the conference the whole year, Timonen said. Its human nature to drop down a little bit from the first 60 games we played.
Now its time to put it back together. For me, I bring this passion up all the time, because passion brings everything. If you bring it in the game, you usually play well. The skating issue is our second issue.
Richards also addressed skating, as well. The Flyers outskated Pittsburgh a week ago in their building and pretty much did the same to the New York Rangers last Sunday.
Against Ottawa? Wasnt there.
It doesnt matter who you play against, Timonen said. If the other team is outskating you, they are going to win the game. Thats been an issue over the last 10 or 15 games. We do it sometimes, and then we dont. And we dont, we suck.
The regular season ends with the back end of the back-to-back Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has been remarkably restrained in not lashing out at his players like he did back on Oct. 25 after a 2-1 loss in Columbus in which the Flyers failed to show up.
Over the past two months, Laviolettes criticisms have been guarded, or muted a bit, as he works toward trying to keep a positive mood around the team, regardless of the situation on the ice.
He said it was more than passion that carried the Flyers in the first half of the season when they had 71 points at the All-Star break.
I feel like a good heavy dose of work and competitiveness will take care of a lot of things, Laviolette said. If we ratchet up our intensity and our speed and our passion. All those intangibles that are so important to a game.
Not the passing, or the turnovers, or the power play, but more of what makes us great as a team or makes you great as an individual. If we could harness some of that. We need to do that.
His 2006 team in Carolina had some of these very same issues late in the season and still won the Stanley Cup.
We staggered down the stretch with less than .500 hockey, he recalled. That doesnt make it OK. Its not OK. What we do here, we have a lot of pride in it and Tuesday night was upsetting for everybody.
Were not happy with it, the teams not, the organization is not, and I know the fans arent. Were going to strive to be better.
Richards said its not like turning a light on and youre in playoff mode.
Its not just flipping a switch, he said. Its doing all the right things and having a mindset of doing it. In the game, your mindset has to be to try and outwork the other team.
There are a number of potential playoff opponents for the Flyers. One of them is Buffalo. Another is the Rangers.
Given the bad blood between the Flyers and Rangers, you wonder if the latter wouldnt be a better first-round opponent. Flyers-Rangers remains one of the nastiest rivalries in sports. If ever passion came into play, its Flyers-Rangers.
But what if the Flyers play Buffalo? Or Tampa Bay? Can either of those teams elicit the same kind of on-ice response from the Flyers that John Tortorellas club can on Broadway?
Probably not. But dont tell that to Laviolette.
The playoffs bring that out in you, Laviolette argued. Youre either winning in the first round or going home. I think that comes with the playoffs itself. Thats why we play the regular season
And Kimmos right. You dont really need to know the game that well to figure out what happened last night. We got outworked. We need to be more accountable to our work ethic as individuals and the group and I think we will.
Bob starts playoffs
Less it become an unnecessary distraction on what is already a tense time these days, Laviolette announced that rookie Sergei Bobrovsky will be his playoff starter and Brian Boucher will be the back-up in Game 1.
Beyond that, it could change. Remember, Laviolette used both Michael Leighton and Boucher last spring.
Bob will also play in Buffalo on Friday. Although Leighton cleared waivers on Wednesday and the club wants to get him a game this weekend, because of the nature of the standings, that may not happen.
Center Danny Briere skated, but held back a bit and remains questionable for Fridays game in Buffalo. He has soreness in his groin. He said how he feels over the next two days will determine his availability. Were expecting a long run in the playoffs and theres no reason to push it and then drag that injury through the playoffs, he said. Blair Betts (left knee) did not practice and is doubtful for the Sabres. Defenseman Nick Boynton has sat the past two games, presumably, as a healthy scratch. Yet he wore the yellow no contact jersey in practice. Boynton has a pinched nerve in his neck but feels he can play Friday. Jody Shelley wore a full grid-cage to protect his left eye (orbital bone surgery). Shelley said he expects to get medical clearance to play either Thursday or Friday.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org
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