There are many different theories and thoughts on what is causing the Flyers latest (and really only) slump this season. One thing is for sure, and that is the team is growing sick of it and it’s starting to bring out the worst in the players. It’s bringing out the worst in their play, the worst in their attitudes, and their worst habits. The tide will need to change tonight as the Flyers face the Edmonton Oilers. It really doesn’t get any easier on Thursday when the Flyers will visit Toronto (who would have thought I’d ever say that?), since the Leafs are fighting for the playoffs and on a nice roll and getting solid goaltending from Reimer. The Flyers will need to end this string of losses tonight to avoid falling into a black hole of losing.
While it has been a very frustrating time for all involved, sometimes the way you handle adversity is just as important. For the Flyers, in a time like this, you look for your captain to lead by example both on and off the ice. Blaming captain Mike Richards for the recent string of struggles isn’t the right thing to do, but he definitely could be handling himself better during the down times of the season this year. Richards has had numerous incidents of unprofessional behavior toward the media this year and in some cases on the ice when things aren’t going the Flyers way. We saw a glimpse of this a few times this year, notably when he gave a sarcastic answer to Hall of Fame journalist Helene Elliott from the Los Angeles Times, and recently when he seemed to take his frustration out on reporters after the 7-0 loss in New York City against the Rangers.
While everyone in the room understands Richards frustration, he needs to handle himself better. There has been a lot of media and management around the league questioning his maturity when it comes to these types of situations. Nobody is questioning Richards’ effort on the ice, where he has proven to be a warrior. However, being a captain who can handle adversity is important. Yes, “speaking up” may be overrated, but the way you carry yourself can change the attitude of the team. On the ice, Richie seems to have great instincts on what he needs to do to keep the attitude of the team going. Off the ice, he could definitely use improvement. With Chris Pronger reportedly calling a closed door meeting with teammates, the Flyers got a little kick from the leadership and know how important this game vs. Edmonton Tuesday night has suddenly become.
Peter Laviolette largely took the blame for the Flyers effort in New York the other night, basically saying the team was “out of gas.” Laviolette admitted he may have worked his flu-ridden team too hard heading into the game in New York off of a tough string of games. Laviolette gave the team off Monday, telling them to be ready to play when they came to the rink Tuesday. “I think we were drained,” Laviolette said. “To get a day off, even though it’s under the toughest of circumstances and [after] a tough loss like that, I really feel the benefits will be seen on Tuesday by not having to mentally and physically come into the rink.” For the sake of this ugly streak the Flyers are on, they hope their coach is right.
The Flyers know tonight’s game is big. Great teams take care of business at home against bad teams. The Flyers know they have to win tonight, or else a 5 game losing streak could become 6, or 7, or 8. Look for a much stronger effort tonight.
Pre-Game Notes vs. Edmonton:
* Jeff Carter is expected to return to the Flyers lineup tonight after practicing today. He had missed time due to a long bout with the flu.
* Both Andreas Nodl and Nikolay Zherdev will be scratched from the Flyers lineup for tonight’s game.
* The Flyers will look to break a long string of losses versus Edmonton tonight, as they have not beaten Edmonton since 2001.