Key to beating Colorado: get Varlamov moving

Key to beating Colorado: get Varlamov moving
February 5, 2014, 2:45 pm
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Wayne Simmonds signs a puck for staff sergeant Nicholas Hetrick. Troops from McGuire-Dix Lakehurst visited Flyers practice Wednesday. (Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers) 

The last time the Flyers met the Avalanche was Jan. 2 in Colorado.

Matt Read missed the game with a concussion. Michael Raffl took a check along the boards from Gabriel Landeskog in the first period and was done with a concussion, as well.

What really stood out, however, was Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov standing on his head most of the night, especially late in the third period of the Flyers’ 2-1 loss.

Up until then, the Flyers had not made it especially difficult on him, with Steve Downie and Sean Couturier each getting pretty good scoring chances.

Afterward, Flyers coach Craig Berube complained about a lack of shots in the third period. The Flyers had just three in the final five minutes of the game. It’s noteworthy because during the Flyers’ video session Wednesday on Colorado, the emphasis was about shooting and making Varlamov work.

One thing is certain: This recent West Coast swing was all about hard skating, so the Flyers should be well-prepared to match the Avs in that department.

“It’s a fast skating team,” Berube said of Colorado. “They’ve been playing well all year. We’re gonna have to skate and find our legs. ... [Varlamov] played a good game. The object is get out there and fire pucks at the net. Get traffic. We go over all the goalies and certain areas you maybe take advantage of. General standpoint, it’s shooting pucks at people at the net. That’s how you score goals.”

The Flyers had 30 shots on Varlamov in Denver.

Vinny Lecavalier said the key is to play the same way the Flyers played during their 5-2 rout of San Jose on Monday.

“We brought speed, we were physical, we played in their zone, we were active and our defensemen were active in the offensive zone,” Lecavalier said. “It made a world of difference to keep that puck where we wanted it, in the offensive zone.”

The Flyers remain tied with Columbus in points -- 62 -- in the Metropolitan Division, but are ranked fourth (out of the playoffs) because the Blue Jackets have played one fewer game.

These two games should see some momentum carryover before the Olympic break, and the players themselves want to go into the break secured in a playoff spot.

“If you play the right way you can beat the best teams in the league,” Mark Streit said. “The two wins gives us a lot of confidence. ... We've got to keep going the same way these two games at home. They’re big. The standings are tight. Every point is crucial this time of the year.”

Berube doesn’t want his team changing the way it played in California. Strong puck support, hard physical play along the boards, and skating with purpose.

“When we left for the road trip, our confidence level wasn’t there,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “For us to play against good teams like we did and get some wins was huge for us. We played smarter with the puck. We supported each other with five guys. We played good defensively and that’s when we had our chances offensively. That’s why the last game we scored some goals on the breakout and our attack.”

Members of the Fort Dix/McGuire Air Force Base had their annual visit to Flyers practice. They watched practice, mingled with the players and collected autographs and pictures. They also ate lunch with the team and Berube after practice.