Flyers are playing like road warriors
Confidence is a funny thing.
There is a reason why the Flyers — as do most
professional sports teams — employ sports psychologists.
Most players will tell you that it’s hard to have any
sustained success without them. The mind can trump talent on most
nights. On every team, it comes and goes during the course of a
For the Flyers , it had been missing since a demoralizing 5-4
defeat on Nov. 23 in Colorado. But after a painful month-long
hibernation, it seemed to rear its head on Sunday on Long Island.
No, the Islanders, Hurricanes and Lightning won’t be confused
as Stanley Cup contenders. But as Ian Laperriere said at Flyers
practice on Monday, the only way to get confidence back is to win.
For the Flyers, life on the road has gotten them back on that
road. All three of the Flyers’ wins on this current six-game streak
have come away from home.
“We’re playing a lot better than we were,” Chris Pronger
said. “We’ve rattled off three wins in a row here that we
desperately needed. The road has been a place for us to kind of
relax and keep the game simple. We’re not trying to put on that
much of a show. We’re playing the game we know how to.”
“Sometimes you don’t try to be as fancy when you’re on the
road,” Laperriere explained. “It has worked for us in the past
Scott Hartnell said Sunday that he thinks the Flyers have
their “swagger back.” Undoubtedly, some of the team’s recent
success is owed to the players that have returned to the lineup.
While still not completely healthy — goalies Brian
Boucher and Ray Emery are still out and Ryan Parent is suffering
from back spasms that have kept him off the ice since Saturday
— the Flyers’ forward lines have filled out.
Simon Gagne, Blair Betts and Darroll Powe are big upgrades
over Andreas Nodl, Jon Kalinski and David Laliberte.
In fact, last Wednesday in Tampa Bay was the first time all
season that the Flyers’ top 12 forwards had been in the lineup at
the same time. Arron Asham was a healthy scratch for the season
opener in Carolina.
The Flyers have also cut back on penalties. When Peter
Laviolette took over as coach, the Flyers took more penalty minutes
per game than any team in the NHL. The Flyers have been shorthanded
10 times in the last three games, for an agreeable average of three
times per game.
“I thought our discipline has been getting better,”
Laviolette said. “The last three games have been very good.”
Saturday in Carolina, the Flyers entered the third period
with a 3-0 lead but coughed it up. On Sunday, they clamped down on
defense. The Flyers outchanced the Islanders 16-5 for the game, but
didn’t allow a single scoring chance in the third period.
Laviolette has been preaching baby steps for the Flyers
moving forward. He knows that taking a step back tonight at Madison
Square Garden against the Rangers, possibly distracted by Friday’s
Winter Classic in Boston, the Flyers’ three-win progression will
have meant little.
“That Ranger game, I don’t know if there is a bigger game,”
Laviolette said. “I hope we’re not jumping the gun. The Winter
Classic is a great event, but the Rangers are right there. They
beat us the last time out. If we want to take another step forward,
we’ve got to go through the New York Rangers.
“It’s small steps. You can’t play for the Stanley Cup today.
You need to keep taking steps and getting better.”
With two points, the Flyers could be right back on the
playoff bubble. For this team, that isn’t an accomplishment, it’s
just bringing them closer to their goal.
“For sure, we’ve won our last three games,” Laperriere said.
“But everyone knows we’re not where we want to be. We know we still
have a lot of work to go.”