Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted: 5:20 p.m.
By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com
Danny Briere looks around the Flyers dressing room and realizes that most of the team that clawed its way back into the playoffs, then went on that magnificent run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring, is still here.
The problem is, the Flyers are still here physically, but mentally, the team that played every game as if it were their last all through March and April in 2010 hasnt shown up yet.
And its getting a tad late, too, with just seven games remaining.
Most of the guys who were here last year are still around us and know what it takes, Briere said. If I had the choice, Id like to come into the playoffs on a little run and win the last seven games.
Come in with a lot of confidence. That would be the best case scenario. But at the same time, I do have a lot of confidence in the guys sitting beside me.
The concern is wed like to play a little better, but I dont think theres reason to panic. Were still in control of our own destiny and still in good shape. Were first in the conference. Sometimes, it feels like were last.
Which brings us to Tuesday when the Penguins as their coach Dan Bylsma predicted last week in Philly can finally tie the Flyers in points with a win at Consol Energy Center.
The Flyers have 100 points; the Pens are two points behind. Both teams have 45 wins. A Pittsburgh victory would still keep Pens second in the Atlantic Division even though they would have more wins, only because the Flyers have a game in hand.
Seriously, is there anyone out there in Flyerdom who thought Pittsburgh would even be this close right now after Sidney Crosby went down with a concussion and then Evgeni Malkin blew out his knee?
No. And yet, the Pens and Washington Capitals have turned up the heat on the Flyers who dont seem to be feeling it.
Obviously, teams are desperate for the points and thats where we need to match up that intensity, Briere said. I dont think weve done a good enough job in that department. Thats one thing wed like to get better at.
The Flyers keep talking about desperate situations. This would seem to qualify as one. That said, maybe we can expect a different approach from the Flyers on Tuesday. Perhaps a more aggressive one than the passive game they played against Boston.
Weve talked about desperation for a while now, coach Peter Laviolette said. On some nights, weve overcome that. Some nights we havent. Other teams have played more desperate than us and they are desperate.
Thats something that you cant fabricate. We need to go out and play good hockey because thats what were here to do. Desperation for us like we had last year we have to do it for other reasons.
Those reasons, he said, are to finish first with home-ice advantage. Its different than the reasons last spring which was to just qualify for the playoffs.
Laviolette was very clear on Monday in saying he does not feel this group has played with any sense of desperation recently because its been atop the Eastern Conference since Jan. 8 without interruption.
You need to play with a lot of intensity, you need to play playoff hockey, he said. When the playoffs roll around there should be, and will be, desperation in our game because now youre talking about either winning four or losing four. But its hard to manufacture that.
It shouldnt be hard to manufacture it against Pittsburgh because the Flyers are in real danger here of losing both their lead in the division and No. 1 spot this week. Washington, ranked second overall, is just two points behind the Flyers, as well.
If the Flyers finish second overall in the East, they could be facing a very tough, very physical New York Rangers in the opening round of the playoffs instead of Buffalo.
So when faced with this, shouldnt it be easy to play desperate hockey right now?
Yeah, I would think wed play a different game against them, Laviolette said. No one is happy with the Boston game in here. We didnt play very well. Tomorrow is an opportunity to go back in there and play a good hockey game and look for the results that we didnt get.
Its a good thing. Were going to Pittsburgh to play the Penguins. Theyre hot right now. Lets see how we do.
Yes, lets see.
Theres something essentially wrong with the Flyers offense when their most talented individual player this season, Claude Giroux, musters just one shot over the past three games.
Or Ville Leino has no shots on goal over the same amount of time.
How many of Brieres goals this season are off plays that began with Leino? A lot.
Where has the offense gone? When this team isnt dumping and chasing, but trying cute, fancy passes that dont work, the Flyers dont get physical, dont get to cycle the puck and their offense withers away.
Our offensive zone time, really is, I think, the staple of our identity, Laviolette said. That grind and that attack its a lot of work, a lot of movement, a lot of opportunities at the net, fighting for second opportunities, fighting for space in the tough areas.
Our opportunities I think have been low for a while now, probably a few games, except for the one Washington.
Among the season-high 20 turnovers in Sundays 2-1 loss to Boston were a number of blind passes intended to be catch the Bruins by surprise. Didnt happen.
You know we had opportunities in the offensive zone or on breakouts and we took the puck and whipped it, Laviolette said. Youre right.
We just kind of threw it and hoping as opposed to going through that grind and that work and the movement for each other and support of each other, I do agree with that. We put the puck in bad areas, not bad areas, but areas that we didnt check to see if they were safe yet or not.
If the Flyers continue doing it, its going to cost wins at the end here.
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