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by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

PHILADELPHIA – The pitchforks and torches are back.

The cries for the heads of general managers, coaches and players alike litter the internet in the same way an oil spill messes up a shoreline.

After am embarrassing 6-1 loss on home ice to the Boston Bruins, it’s to be expected.

Not just because it’s just been one game that was this ugly, but several now in a stretch of games that, when looked at collectively, deserve a series of raspberries from onlookers.

Yes, 2-5-2 is not good – by any stretch. Falling out of a playoff spot after busting your tail to get back into the picture is disheartening. Losing three straight games in regulation, meaning no points in the standings, is not met well by anyone in the organization or those cheering for it – even if it’s the first time that’s happened since October.

The chortling masses scream that the Flyers look slow. That their defense is inadequate, that their puck possession is fleeting and that their discipline is non-existent.

And if you want to say that’s the case the last handful of games, you wouldn’t be wrong.

But, you don’t go 22-10-4 in a 36-game stretch- as the Flyers did – if those problems were so darn chronic.

Sure, they’ve cropped up intermittently, even when things were going well. And there’s no doubt they need to be addressed, and they will – why else would there be a practice called for on the morning of the Flyers Wives’ carnival?

Teams go through stretches like this in sports where they look awful – and can still rebound nicely. Don’t take that as a prediction that these Flyers will suddenly become a league powerhouse in the next couple weeks, but rather take it as a pumping of the brakes on the “everyone into the lifeboat” mentality.

Claude Giroux still believes the Flyers will be a playoff team, despite their recent struggles.

Climb into the DeLorean, give the flux capacitor a jostle and speed up to 88 MPH and come back to October 21, 2013.

The Flyers were 1-7. They looked like the worst team in hockey. The captain, Claude Giroux emerged into the locker room and declared that the team would make the playoffs.

To many, the declaration seemed outrageous. It seemed laughable. It seemed impossible.

And yet, there the Flyers were, in less than two months, holding a playoff spot. The hoi polloi were silenced. A playoff push became the focus. The Flyers were back.

And now, a speed bump - a pretty sizeable one for sure. The kind you see behind grocery stores so the delivery trucks don’t get out of control.

But for now, that’s all that it is. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s why Giroux still believes in the team.

You see, the captain is not backing down from his prediction.

“We’re a good team and any good team will have bad stretches during a season,” Giroux said. “We had one at the start of the year and we’re having one now. But, we’re a character team. We’re a team that has guys that care so much that they won’t back down. I’m not worried that we won’t start winning again. Once we start playing the right way, it’ll be O.K. We want to do the right thing, sometimes we just don’t go out there and do it, but it’s only a matter of time until we start doing it again.”

The other positive note is, he’s not alone.

“The overall confidence of the team is here,” said Mark Streit. “We have a great team in that regard. It’s just the mistakes on the ice that are hurting us right now. We have confidence we have skill and talent and we know that – that’s always been here. Everybody goes through stretches where they aren’t playing well, but it’s not from a lack of confidence, but we do have to make adjustments and play better hockey overall.”

Now, it’s easy to argue back, ‘But what about coach Craig Berube calling the team fragile?’

And that’s a fair point. But the fragility he refers to is more systematic and less their approach to the game.

“Right now, I look at our team as a fragile team out there,” he said. “That’s what I see, but we could correct that and we can get going in the right direction again. I don’t know why that happens. It shouldn’t. We’re a great hockey team and you are going to go through some stretches where good teams lose three in a row. They all do.”

In other words, these Flyers tend to make mistakes when they try not to make mistakes or try too hard to make something happen. That’s where they are fragile. They get outside of the system that’s in place and make the mistakes on which the opposition capitalizes.

Berube later clarified his point:

“I don’t view this as a crisis," he said. “We’re in a little bit of a hole here and we have to dig our way out of it. We’re right there. All these teams are tight. We’re all bunched in together in a playoff spot or some teams who are out of a playoff spot are only a few points out too. To me, it’s not a crisis, but about getting back to doing things proper. When you do that, we’ll win some hockey games.”

And the loss to the Bruins just might have been the shakeup the team needed, much like the 7-0 bludgeoning suffered at the hands of the Alex Ovechkin-less Capitals on Nov. 1 was.

“If that loss doesn’t open eyes…you don’t even have to look at the standings,” said Kimmo Timonen. “We have to look at that game and what happened. That’s one of the top teams in the league, and they showed that to us. So if that’s not a wakeup call for us, you’re not supposed to be on this team.

“We started the season pretty bad, but then we came back, and we played as a team and we skated. We beat a lot of teams by skating, and forechecking and creating turnovers. The last four games we haven’t done that… We’ve got to find a way to play as a team, skate as a team and pass as a team. We lost today by every category there is in a hockey game.”

To contact Anthony SanFilippo email or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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