After a second consecutive weekend in which the Philadelphia Flyers came away empty-handed against two formidable foes, gathering zero out of a possible four points on both occasions, the scenario is looking a bit familiar. With a 1-4-1 record in their last six games, 2-4-2 in the eight contests since the NHL All-Star break, and 3-4-3 in their last 10, Philadelphia is experiencing a similar difficulty competing down the stretch as was displayed last season.
It's a skid that has seen the Flyers drop from a possible shot at the Eastern Conference lead a week ago to trailing the New York Rangers -- a team in which they dropped a pair of ugly 5-2 decisions, one in each weekend -- by eight points. Philadelphia is now closer to eighth place (Toronto Maple Leafs, with 62 points) than they are to the Rangers.
Coupled with a 7-2-1 streak by the once-fading Pittsburgh Penguins, Philly now finds themselves tied with the rivals from the western part of the state with 69 points. A year ago, the Flyers were barely able to hold off a late Pens' charge. The teams eventually finished tied in points, but Philly won out in the tiebreaker because they had garnered less points via the overtime / shootout route (There is one positive to being so bad in the extra time).
Paramount in the club's recent struggles is a failure of the special teams -- they've failed to score a power play goal in their last four games (0-13), while the penalty killing unit has yielded six goals in the last three contests (6-16). During a stretch over the weekend, the PK gave up five goals in just nine opposition attempts.
Head coach Peter Laviolette held a conference call Monday to address some of the issues surrounding the club, and the following is the transcript:
Q: What do you think is the biggest problem with the power play and PK?
PL: "I think there’s always different things. It’s not necessarily one thing. There are things we can do better in the neutral zone, as far as PK goes and end zone. Like I’ve said before we have a lot of new faces and different pieces in place here and we will continue to look at. We have a good opportunity to do some teaching over the next couple days and get ourselves back ready. Our penalty kill has been decent all year. I think Craig does a good job of teaching it and the players have done a pretty good job. But obviously, it has been a little bit of a stumbling block this weekend. But I have a lot of confidence that we’ll get it back on track. I would say the same thing holds true for the power play. We got lots of looks and opportunities but didn’t get it to go."
Q: During the broadcast last night Mike Milbury said ‘it would be nice if Bobrovsky would make a big save once in a while’. Are you satisfied with the way Bobrovksy is playing?
PL: "Without commenting on Mike’s quotes because I didn’t hear him and I hate going off on not hearing exactly what was said. With regard to Bob, he did make some big saves. You go back to the Ranger game and he made some huge saves for us. I think certainly as a group and as individuals, and everybody, I said this before, everybody gets included in this, all of us, we can be better at what we are doing. We aren’t happy with the way the weekend went. We can play better in front of Bob and I think there are things that he can do better. We will work on it. It is a long year and through the course of a year you go through ups and downs. When it doesn’t go your way over a weekend you get back to work. You look at it, you work at things on the ice you work at things through watching video. You just go back at it. We have another game coming up and we have to be ready to play. Certainly we are disappointed over the weekend. We played a couple of big teams and we didn’t get the results we were looking for. We’ll go back."
Q: Were you OK with what Kimmo said after the Rangers game on calling the team out a little bit?
PL: "You guys would have a better view of that. I wasn't there. I trust Kimmo's judgment. When you are playing a team that you haven't beaten and you are vying for 1st overall in the conference and trying to work your way up, and that was a game that would help propel you, there is frustration that sets in. Kimmo has been around and he is an experienced player. I have no problem with him putting his voice out there. He's one of the leaders on this team. I didn't hear him, I wasn't in on it. But catching the gist of what you guys said, I have no problem with that. I said the same thing. We can be better. We are making mistakes and mistakes are costing us. We need to clean it up."
PL: "You guys would have a better view of that. I wasn't there. I trust Kimmo's judgment. When you are playing a team that you haven't beaten and you are vying for 1st overall in the
conference and trying to work your way up, and that was a game that would help propel you, there is frustration that sets in. Kimmo has been around and he is an experienced player. I have no problem with him putting his voice out there. He's one of the leaders on this team. I didn't hear him, I wasn't in on it. But catching the gist of what you guys said, I have no problem with that. I said the same thing. We can be better. We are making mistakes and mistakes are costing us. We need to clean it up."
Q: In Pronger’s absence, will there be any thought of giving the captaincy to somebody else?
PL: "It has not come up. Right now Chris Pronger is the captain of the team.. He’s injured. We have experienced leadership in the room with Kimmo and Danny, Scott Hartnell, Claude, Jaromir, we have lots of leadership in the room. We are coming off a weekend where it didn’t go our way. Lots of conversations could come and have come up. I have a lot of confidence in the leadership in the room."
Q: How concerned are you with Danny and Jaromir. They seem to be struggling. I’m not sure if it is coincidence or not but they both seem to have struggled after coming back from injuries? Do you think they are 100%?
PL: "The 100% thing, I’m not sure. Most of the time players are not at 100%. There is usually something that is bugging them or bothering them and there is an ice bag or heat pack on them somewhere. We are coming off a tough weekend and we can be better as a team. We have a couple of days of trying to improve and we will work at this."
Q: I know you are never happy after a loss. But do you think the team played better vs Detroit than the previous game. Did you sense an improvement?
PL: "I told you after the Ranger game, they scored three power play goals in the first two periods. What I had a hard time with in the Rangers game was the third period. We didn’t generate anything. We gave up too much. Once they scored that goal early on we really faded and that was disappointing for me. I thought we came back and responded, played hard, but there were mistakes and we will continue to work on those things. That’s what we are here to do. We are here to teach and to become better. There’s a lot of that going on this year. We’re working to get better on what we are doing on the ice. If you are asking me if it was a lack of effort in Detroit, and that is why we didn’t win the game, no. I think we made some mistakes and we need to work to clean up those mistakes."
Q: Bryzgalov was the back-up last night. Is he getting closer to starting?
PL: "With regard to players and their injuries, you can take that up with Paul Holmgren."
Q: Wayne Simmonds continues to be impressive. Does he continue to impress you?
PL: "What’s really impressed me is his ability to hang on to the puck and make plays along with his physical presence. He’s in a real good run right now and playing with a lot of confidence which is nice. I would like to continue to see him go down that road. But to me his confidence is really high with the puck right now and good things are happening now when he’s on the ice."