After ugly preseason, Flyers must get act together

After ugly preseason, Flyers must get act together

Laviolette: 'I want to make sure we leave camp healthy'

September 28, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Peter Laviolette and the Flyers went 1-5-1 in the preseason. (AP)

You could see the anger etched on Peter Laviolette’s face. He chose his words carefully.
“We still got work to do,” the Flyers' coach said after Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Capitals that closed out an ugly 1-5-1 preseason.
“Certainly, you wish you had won more games than you did. The real games start Wednesday. There are some good things we saw and some things we need to work on.
“Some players look on top of their game and some seem to have a little bit to go. We’ll get there. We have three good practices coming up this week. We will be ready.”
The general manager, Paul Holmgren, didn’t mince his words, when he arrived minutes later and he wasn’t smiling.
“I don’t like the record or the way we played some nights,” Holmgren said. “We got to move on now. It’s obvious now, it’s got to be better. We’ve got some work we got to do and clean up some things as we prepare for the regular season.
“Nothing we can do about it now. I am obviously not happy. I don’t even know what our record is. We had five losses. That is not good and it has to be better. Players understand that. They got work to do now.”
If last January’s start to the lockout-shortened season looked bad, so did this. The difference is, these games don’t count and the Flyers had some built-in excuses.
Of the seven games, only two saw them with a lineup that they’ll put on the ice Wednesday against Toronto. In both those games -- against New Jersey and at Washington -- the Flyers lost.
Hindsight is 50/50, but you can make a case that having 60-plus players on the roster to start camp was a mistake in that it didn’t allow enough time to get a real lineup in place for more games to shed rust.
Also, a flu bug hit the club in Lake Placid, then worked its way through the dressing room the entire past week with players vomiting on the bench, Holmgren said.
Those are all rational excuses, but now the preseason is over and the Flyers need to get their act together.
A report from the Denver Post said the club was trying to move a defenseman -- Andrej Meszaros perhaps? -- for fourth-line center John Mitchell, who played left wing most of last season. If the Flyers deal, the object is two-fold: strengthen their wings, lose salary on defense.
Laviolette’s club didn’t score enough goals in camp -- 15 in seven games. Their defense between the dots was a mess, start to finish. Their overall team defensive schemes saw too many gaps, too much open ice.
“We got to go over video and look to improve our [defensive] system and our execution and anticipation of where we are on the ice,” said forward Adam Hall, who was waived by the Flyers on Saturday afternoon.
“That goes into building chemistry and is not something that ends when preseason is over or at the All Star Game. It goes all the way through the playoffs.”
The Flyers' defense in front of their net was so poor, it was hard to get an accurate read on goalies Ray Emery and Steve Mason. Mason didn’t look like the dominant goalie he was last spring and Emery didn’t look like the guy who went 17-1.
Again, it’s early and there was chaos in front of them, but it’s still a concern.
“It’s part of getting used to each other and the system we are going to play,” Emery said. “Even by making mistakes, you are learning what not to do. It’s trial and error kind of things … we’re just getting kinks out.”
Said Mason on Thursday night after losing in New Jersey, “We shouldn’t be happy. This is second to the last of preseason games and we need to be better.”
A number of players said the team needs to take their 1-5-1 record to heart and be embarrassed by it.
“Hopefully, we get it out of the way and guys get a little pissed off about this record and start playing better this Wednesday,” said team captain Claude Giroux, who played in just two games recovering from his right hand surgery in August.
Added Scott Hartnell, “Guys have to get amped up. I’m not saying it’s a switch you can turn on, but guys have to amp it up.”
The Flyers likely would have had Sunday off under better circumstances. Now they’ll have three days of intense practices to get ready for the season opener against Toronto.
Hartnell said he felt the one tangible that lacked in preseason was the Flyers' ability to win little battles and it carried over on the ice.
“In all the games, look at little battles along the boards, not in front of the net,” he said. “Just the little ones that make them have the puck more than us.
“If you look at our team. Puck-moving defensemen, the skill we have on our forward lines. We need the puck to be successful and when we don’t win the battles, and protect it and things like that, you will be chasing puck around all night.”
Much like last season, the Flyers had poor starts, dominant second periods and tepid third periods. That, too, needs to change in a hurry to playing a 60-minute consistent game.
The general feeling is that if the Flyers tighten up defensively, things will fall into place. While the power play wasn’t explosive, puck movement was good. The penalty-kill units were superb and actually led the NHL in the preseason at over 90 percent.
Yet there remains a ton of work to do to make this team presentable for prime time.
“Sometimes, it’s the lineup, but we have got to tighten up for sure all over the ice,” Holmgren said. “This is where you get down to your team and start working on these things. ... We have to get better.”
Quickly, too.

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