VOORHEES, N.J. – A little more than six weeks have passed. It’ll have been 45 days to be exact. Another 20 games have passed. Over the course of a long season, it should easily be a distant memory.
And yet it’s not.
The events of November 1, an embarrassing 7-0 loss at home to the Alex Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals, are singed into the recesses of the brain like a fraternity body-branding ritual.
Steve Downie fought, took a bad punch, suffered a concussion and landed in the hospital for a couple days.
The fans chanted for the firing of the general manager.
Wayne Simmonds kicked off a line brawl that resulted in a jaw injury for Vinny Lecavalier and a goalie fight, if you want to call it that, that earned Ray Emery some unwanted national attention.
The Flyers took a beating in the press after that night. So many challenging their approach, their culture, the very fabric of what has made them such a proud and storied NHL organization.
It was an outcry of convenience really, collectively persecuting the franchise as if it were an organized pogrom. However, it has since quelled.
Going 11-6-3 and climbing to within striking distance of a playoff spot will do that for a team, keeping the wolves at
|The Flyers may have been down and out the last time they played the Caps, but Wayne Simmonds and Company are taking a diffent approach to this meeting. |
But now, with a home-and-home series against the Capitals on tap, it is sure to be revisited and remembered.
Heck, we’re doing it in this very space.
But what is different here than probably everywhere else, is that it should be noted the Flyers aren’t looking back at that game while preparing for the next two.
Sure, they’ll remember the score – they’ll want to use that as motivation when they take the ice against the Caps, who now have Ovechkin back in the lineup.
But the other stuff – the fighting, the animosity, the can of worms that would allow for the journalists to again construct the gallows in the town square – is not even on their radar.
That was most evident when the first question posed to coach Craig Berube following practice Saturday asked if there was going to be any “carry over” from that last game when the two teams meet again tomorrow – as if that kind of thing takes place every time two teams play.
“No, why,” Berube asked. “What do you want us to do? We are going to try and win the game. They should have in the back of their mind that we got embarrassed 7-0. That’s it though. You don’t want to lose a hockey game like that at any time. That’s the way you have to approach it and nothing more than that.”
In other words, if you’re expecting the Flyers to go into the game with the Caps feeling like it could be a gong show of fights and cheap hits and trash talking, they’re not.
This game – and the next against them Tuesday back at Wells Fargo Center – are far too important to be thinking about the extraneous stuff that has little bearing on a game when it is preconceived.
Look, fights happen in hockey – more often its for a reason and not planned in advance – but there’s a reason they are fewer and more far between in the playoffs than in the regular season – because of the importance of the games.
These days, the Flyers can’t afford to treat games – especially those within the division – as just another regular season game. They have to almost take a more playoff-oriented mindset into these games.
After all, the Flyers are six points behind the Capitals in the standings. Win both, and they’re two points out of second place in the division. Lose both, and they’re 10 points back.
That’s a pretty big swing, and one that has far more relevance on the season than a notion of the games being round two or three of a heavyweight boxing match.
“We have to go in there and play a strong game,” said Simmonds. “They’ve been pretty hot of late, so we have to go in there and play a fundamentally sound game.”
Usually, a fundamentally sound game is one where discipline is sharp, not reckless; where focus is on the system, not retribution.
To a man, that’s how the Flyers were talking. And Berube is the one preaching that discipline in these games louder than anyone – and all his players are buying in.
“I think we’ll be prepared,” said Emery, who will be watching from the bench at the start of the game, much like he did at the start of that game in early November. “You want to win hockey games. I think that’s all we are going to focus on.”
So, don’t expect another donnybrook, unless something happens in game to spark it. Instead, expect the Flyers to play this one with valor while keeping their emotions in check.
Because at this point, it’s all about the winning, nothing else.
NOTES: Sean Couturier missed practice to attend the funeral of his grandmother. He will rejoin the team in Washington and will play tomorrow. Jay Rosehill filled in for him at practice… For those assuming the Flyers will activate Rosehill for this game as a sort of security guard against any shenanigans, while possible, it’s more likely that Rosehill remains a healthy scratch and the Flyers go with the same lineup that they used so effectively against Montreal Thursday… The players’ fathers were again with their sons at practice and will accompany the team to their game tomorrow. Jeff Schenn wore Luke’s jersey during the 2-1 win against Montreal and will don Brayden’s jersey for the game in D.C. despite protestations from his elder son. “I told him that we won wearing my jersey so he had to stick with it again tomorrow,” Luke Schenn said. “He’s not going to though. His excuse is he’s not superstitious. I tried.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers