RALEIGH, N.C. – Pride. Opportunity. The culture.
If you are looking for things that the Flyers can play for during their final four games of the season, you certainly can start there.
Let’s take them one at a time.
First, there’s pride. You hear non-playoff teams talk about that all the time. It could be cliché sometimes, but the fact is, it’s pretty legitimate.
When you’re competing against the best players in the world at your sport, there should never be a feeling of disinterest. If there is, then maybe you don’t belong at that level.
And for the Flyers, there is certainly a feeling of wanting to play well enough over the final week of the season to go into the summer with a feeling of not letting their pride down.
“We’re a group that wants to win no matter what,” said Jake Voracek. “Everybody always gives 100 percent. It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings. If we didn’t have that attitude we wouldn’t be here right now. We just got to play for the win and leave it all out there.
“Its not where we want to be. Like I said, we have to learn from it. It wasn’t the best season but we have to make sure we finish it on the right note.”
They can start that way by getting back in the win column Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes, another team who won’t be going to the playoffs this season.
And they can continue it with strong efforts next week in home games against Boston and the New York Islanders and the season finale next Saturday in Ottawa.
If thy win those four games, the Flyers can take solace in the fact that they finished the season on an 11-7-2 stretch, which, if they played at that pace all season would have them in the playoffs.
“It’s an awful feeling,” said Brayden Schenn. “We expected more at the start of the year and it’s been a tough year. We have games left though and we have to play for pride.”
But it’s not just that. Players are also always playing for jobs – not just with the Flyers, but possibly with a new team next season, if they don’t return to Philadelphia. As such, turning lackadaisical at this time of year would be a bad idea.
“You always have to go out there and play hard because you are always being evaluated always being looked at,” said Schenn. “As individuals guys are looking to accomplish a few things, but we should go out there and play hard.”
And some players are going to be given an opportunity to do just that – and maybe in some instances in roles that they weren’t in prior to this point in the season – as the team tries to make evaluations on players’ futures.
“We’re still going to prepare and practice to win a hockey game first and foremost,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “But can you look at certain things? Yes. You can try some personnel in different situations, maybe on the power play and the penalty kill. There is some opportunity to do that, but the front burner is still to prepare and to play.”
But perhaps most importantly is to make sure that losing doesn’t become a part of the culture.
It never has in Philadelphia, where this is only the ninth season in the 45-year history of the franchise where there won’t be playoffs. And with a good portion of this team’s core likely to stay intact, it’s important that they don’t get comfortable being where they are right now.
“Frustration is definitely a word that comes to mind,” said Luke Schenn. “It’s not a position that coming into the year we thought we’d be in.
“I just think the level of compete and urgency and the things you need to have in this league haven’t been there all year… but you can sit here and make lists all day… but it’s inexcusable at the end of the day and now we have a few games left and we have to finish off strong.
“You feel a lot better about yourself when you get wins… The biggest thing, if you do want to start looking to next year, is you don’t want losing to become a habit and become acceptable. You have to finish off strong and play hard for your teammates because winning is always a lot more fun regardless of the standings.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37