From Flat to Furious
When the Flyers left the ice in Columbus last night, Coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t happy. The players weren’t happy. And, the fans most definitely weren’t happy. The team was in dire need of a strong bounce-back game against Buffalo Tuesday night, and they got it. Aside from a bit of a third period letdown, the Flyers put out their most dominate performance of the season in the 6-3 victory. The team that many had high hopes for before the season showed up, and offered a glimpse of how good they can be.
The performance was so extraordinary that no one player can be singled out apart from the others. Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux continued their hot starts, and Jeff Carter broke his silence. The team matched their season total with three power play goals, as well as a goal that was scored mere seconds after a power play had expired. For most of the game, everything seemed to go right.
There was a significant let down in the middle of the third period, which prompted Laviolette to call timeout immediately after the Sabres made the score 5-3. Any Flyers fan was outraged of course, but the importance of weathering the late Sabres run cannot be overstated. The Flyers have been a team that shows up for ten minutes, and then disappears for twenty. That is the bottom line about the season thus far. There’s no doubt that they have the talent to make big things happen on both sides of the ice, however, their inconsistency has been beyond disappointing. The talent was on full display Tuesday night, as Zherdev, Leino and Giroux dangled their ways around the ice. The defense played well, and more specifically, Chris Pronger and Matt Carle finally got back to being the pair that was the Flyers greatest strength for much of last season.
The VERSUS telecast made it known that Laviolette had called a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning, and it came as little to no surprise. In fact, the only surprise may have been that he waited until Tuesday morning to hold the meeting. Whatever he said must have hit home. For every lethargic shift Monday in Columbus, there was a hard skating shift Tuesday. For every one shot possession, there was an extended period of time spent in Buffalo’s zone. For everything the Flyers weren’t on Monday, they were on Tuesday. Hopefully, the focus, determination and energy can become a staple on the team and not just another effort at getting Laviolette off their backs.
Where do the Flyers go from here? Well, the easy answer is Pittsburgh. They will kick off another back to back on Friday in the CONSOL Energy Center, where they picked up a season opening victory. The Penguins have owned the Flyers over the last few years, including a 5-1 tail-kicking a little over two weeks ago. It won’t be an easy task to keep the run going, but it’s certainly possible. If the team can maintain and harness the confidence that they oozed on the ice Tuesday night, they may be able to start an actual winning streak. With the parity in today’s NHL, it’s essential that the team perform to their capabilities to avoid needing something wacky, like a shootout on the last day of the season per se.
As I said last night, “I would expect to see a strong bounce back performance at home against Buffalo tomorrow night. It will seem promising, I’m sure they’ll play with determination and fire. It will look like they’re the team we’ve all been waiting to see. It will seem like they’re on their upswing. Don’t rush to judgment.”
The inconsistencies still can’t be ignored with this year’s Philadelphia Flyers. Tuesday night was an important step in the right direction, but unless the team can make it a regular occurrence, it won’t matter. The trouncing of the Sabres will merely serve as the best example of what could have been.