Saturday, 5 December 2009

New Coach, Same Flyers

Peter Laviolette, fresh off the set of TSN and onto the bench of the Philadelphia Flyers, got a vicious taste of reality tonight as his Flyers battled the Washington Capitals. Well, "battled" is hardly the correct term for this team. Basically, what cost John Stevens his head coaching job is rearing its ugly head as Laviolette takes the helm. Defensive mistakes, missed assignments, poor goaltending, and poor execution are killing the Flyers as they progress through the season. And if it continues, a number of current Flyers might find themselves on the waiver wire or traded out of town.

Early on in the 8-2 thrashing handed out by Washington tonight, the Flyers were playing some acceptable hockey. 57 seconds in saw Tomas Fleischmann knock in a rebound past Ray Emery after the Flyers couldn't clear, but the Flyers didn't back down after the quick strike. Mika Pyorala responded for Philly at the 12:06 mark, breaking the Flyers' goalless drought at 172 minutes and 10 seconds. The game was tied at one goal apiece as the two teams felt one another out, and things looked somewhat good for the Flyers as they tangled with one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams.

And then Dan Carcillo derailed the Philadelphia Flyers. I'm not sure what Carcillo was trying to prove to Laviolette, but giving the Capitals a nine-minute powerplay is probably going to get Carcillo a seat in the pressbox.

Let me repeat that: a 9:00 powerplay.

Carcillo was given a two-minute minor for cross-checking, a two-minute minor for instigating a fight, a five-minute major for fighting, a ten-minute misconduct for his actions, and a game misconduct for instigating the fight. How did he accumulate 29 minutes in penalties on one play?

Matt Bradley hit Carcillo, and he took exception by cross-checking Bradley as he was getting up - two for cross-checking.

And then he dropped his gloves - two for instigating and five for fighting.

And then he sucker-punched Bradley, dropping him with the shot and ending both Bradley's night and his own night - ten-minute misconduct and the ejection at the end of the fight.

All of this happened at the 14:33 mark of the first period. Washington would play five-on-four until the 3:33 mark of the second period or less. Being that Washington has one of the most potent offences in the league, including the sixth-ranked powerplay in the NHL, you know that bad things were going to happen to the Flyers.

So after Fleischmann, Mike Green, and Brooks Laich made it 4-1 on powerplay goals, the rout was on. At 11:14, with the Flyers already playing back on their heels, the Capitals scored three times within 4:09 to make it a 7-1 score. Chris Clark scored on a brutal turnover, ending Emery's night midway through the second period. Brian Boucher came in and allowed a Nicklas Backstrom deflection past him to make it 6-1. Mike Green scored his second of the game after an offensive zone turnover led to a Capitals breakout. Green one-timed the Backstrom feed past Boucher, and it was 7-1.

Turnovers? Check.
Poor defensive play? Check.
Poor puck control? Check.
Weak goaltending? Check.
Lack of execution? Check.

If it weren't for the grinders on this Flyers team, they may have been shutout again. Hartnell and Pyorala scored a couple of goals after some hard work. Pyorala scored by going to the front of the net after the Flyers won a race for the puck, and Hartnell scored after some grinding and mucking behind the net.

I'm not saying that a team like the Flyers can't win on talent alone. But they are proving that they simply can't run with the elite teams of the Eastern Conference when it comes to their talent level. Much the same as I wrote about the Edmonton Oilers earlier this week, the Flyers need to work hard and stop playing soft. They simply don't work hard enough to earn wins, and they cannot be rewarded by the Hockey Gods for playing like it's a Saturday afternoon beer league game.

It's time for the Flyers to buckle down and start playing some smashmouth hockey. Guys who are supposed to score - Briere, Van Riemsdyk, Carter, and Richards - have to lead this team in the effort department. The grinders can't be expected to carry the offensive load, and the stars should feel responsible for the bottom falling out on this Flyers team. Ray Emery seems like he should be a bonafide star in the NHL, but really appears to be the Achilles' heel for this team at this point. He hasn't won a game on his own, nor has he helped when the bleeding starts.

Peter Laviolette will most likely put this team through its paces in the next few days as he establishes his systems and values. I'm not saying this will be easy for Laviolette, but this team needs a clean slate at this point.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Captain Canuck said...

the Flyers are a mess. They need a goalie #1. They won't be fixed until that happens.

And I'm not sure whether Bradley needs an engraved invitation or what? He was asked to go, he turned and nodded.... then stood there like a deer in the headlights and took a punch to the face.
Maybe he was waiting for gift wrapping? I dunno... ever since pee wee, when you're asked, and you nod yes... that means fight. Not stand there dumbfounded.