I don't care about the last four games. For that matter, I don't care about the better part of the last month. I honestly don't. I care about the next four games, and the next several months.
Coming off their worst loss of the season, the Flyers were given the day off yesterday by coach Peter Laviolette. They were gassed on Sunday, he said. A grueling day of practice would have done them no good. They just needed a break. Lavvy took responsibility for that loss, but I read as much into that as I do every time Andy Reid takes responsibility after the Eagles lose. A 7-0 loss is no single person's fault. But each player and coach better be taking responsibility for tonight's game right now, before it starts. If players are out of sync with the system, I'm guessing they've heard about it from the law offices of Lavs, Richards, and Pronger.
I think this team has the leadership and the experience to halt a slump, and that's part of why I think we'll see them pull out sooner rather than later. Perhaps even tonight against the Oilers, who are no slouches these days.
The Oil have won their last three games and scored a combined nine goals in their last two. They're not currently the cupcake they've been for much of the season. Look at all this red. The Flyers no doubt know the Oilers are playing better than that right now though, and more like the teams that have been beating them over the past two weeks. The Oilers will have seen the tape of how the Rangers made the Flyers look like they were standing still in the defensive zone and clueless on offense. But Lavvy was right—they did look tired. Tonight, after a day off, we'll see if fatigue was the biggest issue, or if there are more lasting concerns to be addressed. Probably a combination of both?
Early word is that Bob will be in net, and Zherdev and Nodl will be scratched. Nodl's production has tapered off considerably, but he's still been a solid two-way forward. Jody Shelley and Dan Carcillo will suit up if those scratches come true, which will annoy some fans who don't see those two helping with the whole "got shut the hell out" problem from Sunday. True enough, but Shelley was a positive force that day, drawing two minor penalties and winning a fight. He can't be expected to then score on the power plays he drew... I can't speak to Zherdev, who hasn't responded well to being scratched, but Nodl did earlier in the season, as did James van Riemsdyk. I'm more than willing to let Lavvy work his scratch magic again and see if it pans out.
Which Flyers do you think should be scratched, if not the ones Lavvy has picked? There's been talk of getting Nick Boynton some ice time, so we could see Sean O'Donnell rested. I think he's been scapegoated a bit by fans, although he's not playing quite as well as he had been earlier in the season. The Briere line really needs to have a big game soon though. They've been non-existant offensively, and victimized at times in their own end. Lavvy has appeared patient with them so far though, indicating he'd like to wait out their slump within a slump rather than break them up:
"I think the easy thing to do sometimes is to blow those things up. I want to try to remain patient and help these guys get through it. I believe in that line. I believe in Danny Briere, Ville Leino, and Scott Hartnell. Instead of dismantling it, I want to try to see what I can do to help it."
Good enough for you, or is it time to shake things up?