The Flyers talk about their struggles on the road
The Flyers have lost five straight (0-3-2) on the road and are 6-9-1 overall this season. (USA Today Images)
They’ve won nine straight on home ice. Now the challenge for the Flyers is to put a similar winning streak together during their nine-day West Coast road trip that begins Saturday in Edmonton.
The Flyers will play five games out west, then return home for a couple of days of practice in early January and travel to New Jersey for a Jan. 7 matchup before settling in at the Wells Fargo Center again.
Problem is, Craig Berube’s team has not fared well against the Western Conference this season, with a 4-6-1 record. Overall, the Flyers are also 6-9-1 on the road and have lost five straight (0-3-2) away from home.
That simply has to change during this trip, which takes the Flyers through Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Denver and Phoenix.
“You look at our last road game [at Columbus], it was 2-2 going into the third period and ended 6-3,” Scott Hartnell said. “Not finishing games, not playing 60 minutes, every cliché you want, you can’t make excuses.
“You’re in hostile environment, and we’ve got to thrive on that. We have to take the energy at home and create something with it on the road.”
Only one of the Flyers’ road opponents is playing well, however: the Vancouver Canucks, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Vancouver defeated the Flyers, 3-2, back in October. So did Phoenix, 2-1, that same month at the Wells Fargo.
Edmonton is 3-6-1 in its last 10 games and features former Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov, who debuted for the Oilers in late November, in net. The Flyers beat the Oilers, 4-2, on Nov. 9.
Edmonton is using Devan Dubnyk on Friday night against the Flames in Calgary, so Bryzgalov should play against the Flyers.
“I’m sure they’ll play him,” Hartnell said. “Better story, better for Hockey Night in Canada, and it gives everyone something to talk about. The main thing is for us to get two points and make this a great road trip.”
Because of last season’s lockout, the Flyers have not been to Western Canada since February 2012.
It’s a bit of a homecoming for Braydon Coburn, who is from Calgary.
“It gives my family and friends a chance to come watch a game," he said. "It’s always fun for me to play in Edmonton and Calgary.
“Coming into the New Year here, we can solidify our game more on the road. We’ve learned some good lessons, especially since the last road trip. We’ve got to make sure we play a simple game.
“Playing teams in the West we don’t see a lot, we have to stick to our plan. No matter what happens, just hammer out close games.”
The Flyers had first-period leads in both Dallas and Chicago earlier this month yet ended up getting blown out in both contests.
“Those two games, we had the lead, had good first periods and then we kinda got away from our game,” Coburn said. “We got away from the structure of our game. When you are on the road, structure is something really good road teams rely on.”
Berube was born in Calahoo, Alberta, about 40 minutes from where the Flyers will land outside Edmonton. He plans to visit his family Friday night.
Berube thinks the momentum at home could carry over despite three days off for Christmas break.
“We’ve been talking about this and getting some key points in there about things we need to be better at on the road,” he said.
“Be a better road team on this trip. From the last road trip, there are lot of things we show [on video]. Just little things we need to do on the road to be sharper at and get wins.”
Captain Claude Giroux has a seven-game scoring streak on the line, and linemate Jakub Voracek’s point streak is eight games.
“It’s a huge road trip,” Giroux said. “It’s our last big road trip of the season. Those wins are going to be huge. One thing we can’t do is to think of the Edmonton Oilers as not having a great season and we’ll have an easy game.
“They’re a great team. The last game they played, they won 6-1. They are a really offensive-minded team. If we’re not ready for them, they’re going to score a lot of goals.”
Truth is, the Flyers need to be careful in not underestimating anyone on this trip.
“If we’ve learned anything in past games we would shoot ourselves in the foot,” Hartnell said. “You look at the Rangers. They started on the road nine, 10 games and had a poor start.
“We had a lot of home games, had a poor start, but got back to where we wanted. If we let that slide on this road trip, we’ll be scratching ourselves come April and wonder what did we do wrong.
“This road trip could be the turning point. We’ve got to focus and get prepared, work hard and get points.”