Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted: 5:41 p.m.
By Tim Panaccio
DALLAS Marc Crawford gave his players a day off this week. He wanted his Stars fresh for their big game against Chicago on Thursday night.
What happened? The Stars routed the Blackhawks, 5-0.
If they keep playing like that, we'll be giving them a lot of days off here going down the stretch, Crawford told the Dallas Morning News. Right now, it is about making sure that you get any bit of energy that you can.
Now lets look at the Flyers. Peter Laviolette has probably been generous to a fault by giving his players four days off over a 10-day stretch. The Flyers record is 3-0-2.
Dig a little closer, however, and you discover they won sloppily against Edmonton, blew a three-goal lead in the third period in overtime loss to Atlanta and then didnt show up for 40 minutes in the rematch at Atlanta on Thursday night before losing in a shootout.
How can a team with this many off days to recover from the flu and everything else seem to lack energy, enthusiasm and what have you?
Yeah, Id love to know and tell you, said Claude Giroux. I dont know what it is the last few games. The first period were not really playing the way we should.
Its something we have to work on. Especially, against Dallas. At their place, its going to be a pretty good test for us. We have to come out strong the first shift and get all the boys going.
The sixth-seeded Stars have ratcheted up their play lately and are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Theyre in a fierce Western Conference playoff race with Chicago (7th seed). Both clubs have identical records and points, but the Stars own the season-series tie-breaker.
The Flyers have lolly-gagged along here against teams trying to make the playoffs and theyre getting outplayed.
When they hit the ice Saturday against the Stars, theyre going to find a team that is already in playoff mode, fighting to fend off Chicago, and knows theyre going to be in the playoffs, but wants to finish higher than 6th.
The Flyers? Theyve been the No. 1 seed in the East since Jan. 8. Maybe thats the problem. Theyve forgotten what got them there hard work, every shift, every game.
I dont know why, but its something we need to get figured out here pretty soon, said Sean ODonnell. I dont have an answer why it doesnt happen until our backs are against the wall and then we start fighting. We dont exhibit that right off the bat. Something needs to change.
ODonnell called some of his buddies on Terry Murrays Los Angeles Kings this week. The Kings are the fifth seed, a point ahead of Dallas and Chicago.
I was just talking to a couple friends of mine in LA and I told them, good luck, keep it going guys and they told me that their playoffs started six weeks ago in that Western Conference. Thats just the way it is.
The Flyers had it easy up to mid-February. Now theyve hit their annual slump a bit late and cant seem to find the right on-ice fix to get themselves going again.
We got a comfortable lead there after January, February and we kinda pulled the horse back a little bit, ODonnell said. We know what kind of test this is going to be for us come April.
Mentally, the guys are thinking OK, lets save something for that. Thats OK in February, but now we need to turn this thing around.
These next three games against the Stars, Capitals and Penguins are all against quality opponents who know theyre going to make the playoffs. Two of them are rivals the Flyers usually have no problem getting up for.
But will they?
Im excited for these next three games because theyre against teams who are going to be in the playoffs, Matt Carle said. Its a bigger test for us.
Dallas is a tough building. I played there a lot when I was in San Jose. Theyre a good team and theyve been playing well and then weve got Washington and Pittsburgh at home. These next three games should be a good gauge for us against teams of that caliber.
The Flyers limped into the playoffs last season losing eight of their final 12 games. Yet they caught fire almost immediately when the puck dropped for the playoffs against the Devils and, of course, went to the Stanley Cup Final against the Hawks.
Therein lies the problem. Carle said a lot of guys feel that the same can happen this season. That the Flyers can get hot when mid-April comes.
Carle himself believes this to be the case and says hes not worried about the Flyers current struggles even though a lot of guys in the dressing room are worried.
Obviously, first place would be great, to have home ice, Carle said. Thats what were playing for right now. But were not battling to make the playoffs right now. This is a position we want to be in and weve worked hard most of the year to put ourselves here.
Maybe if the Flyers were battling to make the playoffs instead of clinching the first seed, wed see more of that desperation that is obviously lacking in games.
Team captain Mike Richards said something after the shootout loss in Atlanta thats worth repeating. He was asked about the Flyers need to start feeling some heat.
We feel it over here when we play teams, he said. Buffalo, Toronto, you can see the intensity step up. It is a concern because at some point, it has to be us, too that is that desperate and get that mindset going.
When will it happen? Saturday? Next week at home?
We have a tough one Saturday night in Dallas, ODonnell said. I think the test is going to be the game in Dallas and then coming home against Washington and Pittsburgh and Boston.
I think that is something we really need now. Get to those teams that we consider real big rival and play them and hope it forces us to elevate our game.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com
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