Flyers facing last chance to escape 'Groundhog Day'
VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers spent Monday off the ice, breaking down the tapes of what went wrong in Game 4 of their conference semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
The tape likely looked the same as the one from Game 3, which likely looked the same as the one from Game 2.
All three games featured the Flyers being out-shot, out-hit and out-worked in all three zones, and the result is a 3-1 series deficit heading into Game 5 Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
"We're a little out of sync the last game -- last three games, actually," Kimmo Timonen said.
The problems have been obvious in a number of areas, most clearly in a lack of offense that has started with an inability to break out of the defensive zone and then create sustained offensive pressure. Three times in the series the Flyers have had stretches of eight minutes or more without a shot. In Game 4, they went 12:51 before they got a shot in the second period.
FLYERS VS. DEVILS
Devils take 3-1 series lead with 4-2 win
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer Dainius Zubrus scored a pair of goals -- including the decisive goal late in the second period -- and a suffocating defense did the rest as the New Jersey Devils scored a 4-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal on Sunday at Prudential Center.READ MORE ›
"They're skating harder and they're making better plays with the puck," Timonen said. "That's the key nowadays. If you look at not just our series, but the other series, it's about skating and forechecking and putting the puck in the right place. They really pressured hard. I've got to be honest, I feel like I've been playing defense the last three games and not much offense."
The Flyers have had just two regulation periods of the 12 in the series with double-digit shot totals, including eight straight single-digit periods that was snapped when they had 10 shots in the third period of Game 4. The 10 single-digit shot periods in four games equals the amount they had in six games in the first round against the Penguins.
"I think Marty [Brodeur] has made tremendous plays breaking out of the zone that at times has made it tough for us to forecheck," Danny Briere said. "But just like the last three games we haven't played as units of five. We send one guy on the forecheck, sometimes two guys, and we have nobody in between. We've got three guys, sometimes two guys way back. We haven't been playing as blocks of five, moving up and down the ice. We have gotten spread out. It's been one of our strengths all year, our skating to keep up with each other."
As the mistakes of one game have carried over to the next game and the next one, the snowball has gotten bigger and bigger.
"I think our composure with the puck the last few games hasn't been where it needs to be and where it should be on a team like ours," Briere said. "We've seen all year, we know we can make plays. We're now … sometimes you start going down that slope, it's tough to recover. It just seems like it's been getting worse and worse for us."
"We were frustrated," Timonen added. "We were a little bit out of sync. We weren't skating. Lot of little details we did all year long, and the last three games we haven't done it."
The focus among the players and coaching staff Monday was figuring out how to get out of their personal "Groundhog Day."
"Now it's time to go back to basics," Timonen said. "Do the little things better than them and we'll be fine. This is a situation where you're down 3-1; it's a really desperate time for us. [Game 5] is a good test for us. If we can overcome [Game 5], it's a new series. Go game by game and focus on [Game 5]. And be really desperate."
Despite their deficit, the belief remains that they can win the series. The task will be that much harder to accomplish without leading scorer Claude Giroux, who was suspended for Game 5 for his second-period hit to the head of the Devils' Dainius Zubrus in Game 4. But adversity is something the Flyers believe they thrive on.
"It's the belief first of all in your teammates," Briere said. "We've shown all year we can come back. We've faced adversity all year and we've shown we can come back from it. Obviously this is the biggest challenge of the year. But we've shown all year we're not quitters. And that's what makes me believe that the guys are not going to just quit at this point.
The character that we've shown all year I really believe is going to come out [in Game 5]."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK