VOORHEES, N.J. – On the day after, the Flyers took the ice to practice, still searching for answers.
There was certainly a different feel to the practice. It wasn’t intense, like the ones leading up to Pittsburgh that cost the Flyers Danny Briere (concussion) and Nick Grossmann (upper body injury). But it wasn’t flat and lacking focus either.
It was… just a practice. The players skated. The coaches coached. The drills were repetitive, but necessary.
And if you put a pair of blinders on and just watched, it would be no different than any other team competing for a playoff spot in the regular season.
But there is that pall that hangs over the Flyers - the one that reminds them that they are seven points out of a playoff spot with 16 games to go.
That’s why we went on the ice – to go out there, break a sweat and move on from [last night],” said coach Peter Laviolette, who is charged with finding a way to bring the Flyers back from long odds to make the postseason following what Scott Hartnell called a “demoralizing” loss to the New York Rangers yesterday. “It’s tough. We’re at a point where all losses are tough. It’s never a good thing. It’s never an easy thing. When you get into a situation where you need to be successful and your not, I understand why Scott says that. But, you have to continue to move forward. Nobody is happy with what happened last night and we have to make a choice to change it and do something different.”
What that something different is though, is not immediately apparent.
But if there’s something to credit these Flyers for, it’s their unrelenting pursuit of figuring it out.
“It was a tough game to swallow,” Matt Read said. “It was a long night. You have to watch the film and learn the mistakes and move forward. Tomorrow is a big game. We have to take it one game at a time and try to win one game and go from there.”
And to do that, the Flyers have to stop bearing the burden of negative statistics.
Case in point:
“We were 0-11 going into that game trailing after the first period and you’re not going to have any success no matter who you are having stats like that,” Hartnell said. “You got to play hard. You can’t get down during the game. If they score the first goal you can’t think it’s over five minutes into the game. Last year, we would get down in three-quarters of the games and won a lot of them. It’s been frustrating to have a stat like that.”
“I don’t know if it’s confidence, but you feel the pressure,” said Jake Voracek. “It’s the biggest game of the season and your down 3-0 in the middle of the game, it doesn’t feel good. But, if they can score three goals in 30 minutes why can’t we do the same thing? That’s the way we have to look at it.
“We just have to believe. [The score] doesn’t matter. You just have to keep going. You have to still make sure you do everything properly and make as few mistakes as possible. I think that’s our problem… Last year we were able to hold on to [leads] and come back from [would-be] losses. We just can’t do that this year.”
And that stems from an understanding that every situation in this truncated season has an element of do or die, and it’s something that some players feel has been missing.
“You say urgency – that’s something that has been lacking – right from the first shift of the game through the last shift of the game,” Hartnell said. “There’s no urgency in a big game – and last night was the biggest in many of our careers – and we let that go by the wayside. It’s frustrating. It’s demoralizing. It’s everything. And things have to change.”
Kimmo Timonen is fond of saying that a lot of times a lack of success in hockey comes from inadequate individual preparation.
With a young, yet talented team, it’s easier to be off base on the mental side of the game than the skill side of the game, and that could be another cause for the Flyers struggles.
“You have to get ready for a game,” Read said. “You’re in the NHL. If you don’t know how to get ready for a game at this level they have the AHL and the East Coast League for that. If you’re not ready for a game, I don’t know what to tell [you]. As a group we have to just get going. There are no excuses for coming out slow or coming out unprepared.”
Laviolette met with the team before they practiced today and the general theme of his message, according to a few players, was the season isn’t over, and the team needs to stick together.
It seems basic, but if they’re going to have the needed success over the final 16 games of the regular season, it has to start there.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37