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Breaking Down the Flyers’ Breakdown

Last night the Philadelphia Flyers got their butts handed to them on home ice. The previous two games they had lost had been close, an unlucky bounce there, a failed clearing attempt here, but they were actually in the game. So what happened last night? What went so wrong that the Flyers lost 4-1 and were down and out before the second period really even started?

The Flyers came out with every advantage that mattered in game three. They were outshooting the Bruins, they scored first, and two of the Bruins’ key players, David Krejci and Adam McQuaid, were injured early and would not return. How is it then that the Bruins looked fresh and ready to go and the Flyers looked drained and defeated?

Bad Coaching
When Peter Laviolette was brought in this season he was brought in for the purpose of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals, he was one of four coaches in the first round who had guided his team to the Cup previously. Jacques Lemaire, Mike Babcock, and Dan Bylsma were the other three. Laviolette’s team eliminated Lemaire’s team in 5 games. Babcock is currently facing the same grim situation that Laviolette is, down in the second round three games to none with one last game on home ice before having to travel again. Bylsma is the only coach whose team is currently ‘up’ in their series. So with all his experience, what went wrong?

The Flyers suffered three crucial injuries in their series against the New Jersey Devils. The first two happened in game four when Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne were both injured and required surgery right away. Despite the big loss the Flyers still grabbed the W. Then in game five Ian Laperriere was injured with a mild concussion and brain contusion. A mild concussion with brain contusion is eerily similar to a severe concussion due to the bruise in the brain which is subsequently bleeding in the brain. The Flyers had recalled a few Adirondack Phantom players to fill the void. So far those players have been hustling, scoring, and creating chances. The problem is, the rest of the players.

This stems from the bad coaching of Peter Laviolette, but the fundamentals are breaking down for the Flyers. With three top players out he has increased the playing time of everyone else except his last two lines. While Chris Pronger may be used to playing 30 minutes or more per game, this is playoff hockey and the intensity has to be there every stride, every shot, every faceoff. Here’s some of the areas the Flyers have struggled in. At the end of game two the Flyers had almost cleared the zone. Then Dan Carcillo had the opportunity to put his stick on the puck and just keep it moving out of the zone. Instead he let it go by. The ever opportunitistic Bruins were there and held the zone. The very tired, overworked Flyers players would allow the Bruins to move freely in their zone for the next minute until they scored the game winner. The Flyers had one goal in those last two minutes, stay alive till OT, they failed to make it and failed to win. Then in game three the fundamentals started breaking down early on.

Here’s the five biggest problems from last night.
1) Sloppy Passing – Give the Bruins credit, they were hustling to the Flyers’ passes and their sticks were active. But the Flyers didn’t change how sloppy or mis-timed their passes were nor did they put forth any additional effort to get there first. These passes costs them a large chunk of the game.
2) Lack of Hustle – I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand more times. Heart can make up for lack of talent. The Bruins and the Flyers are pretty evenly stacked, there are strengths and weaknesses on each side. The Bruins, however, are playing like they want it. The Flyers appear to have already given up. When there is less than one minute in regulation and you are skating the way you would when you finish practice you’re saying I don’t really care. Your butt better be busting down to get the icing. Win or lose the Bruins have given it their all every single step of the way. Sometimes they get outplayed by the Flyers for about five minutes but their consistent effort and hustle appears to do more damage than the Flyers lack of effort coupled with short bursts of effort. There was A LOT of standing around on ice.
3) Failure to hold the offensive zone – I’m not saying it’s easy to hold the offensive zone but there were at least five big surges the Flyers had that were completely broken down by their own inability to hold the zone. Not talking about when the Bruins were able to clear the zone, talking about bad passes to each other, bad puck handling, and not hustling; all without the Bruins within ten feet of them. Losing the zone due to pressure or due to the other team clearing the puck is acceptable. Losing the zone because of your own ineptitude, unacceptable.
4) Failure to clear the zone – While this wasn’t as big of a deal last night as it was Monday night, the Flyers did a lot of standing around in their defensive end.
5) Forgetting to screen Rask – Rask has proven to be a solid goaltender, shooting at hime when he can see the puck the entire way will not beat him. The Flyers need to not only get in his way and screen him but also shoot before he can get positioned. Setting up plays works well, well to be honest in the playoffs never. These goals are not going to be pretty, they need to fast, unexpected, and he can’t see them coming. Anything less than that will continue to get stonewalled. Quick one-timers with a screen ready for the rebound who can actually lift it top shelf is the way to go.

After a goal by Arron Asham a sloppy neutral zone turnover led to the demise of the Flyers. First  it was youngster Blake Wheeler capitalizing on the Flyers going for the hit and not the puck and tied up the game at one a piece. Less than 1:34 later it was veteran Miroslav Satan with the game winning goal. Mike Recchi had the go ahead goal and Patrice Bergeron put the final nail in the coffin with his empty net goal to make it 4-1. Tuukka Rask was spectacular yet again, always in position never rattled. He earned that W.

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