Last night, ProHockeyTalk published three reasons why the Flyers are struggling. Quickly summed up, they believe the Flyers aren’t desperate enough, the scoring has dried up, and the team can’t seem to close out games in the third period. PHT also points out that the goaltending is not to blame here. For the most part, I agree with the article but I also think it goes a bit deeper than that.
The Flyers are in self-preservation mode. The memory of all the fatigue and injuries suffered towards the end of the ’10 season and throughout the playoffs is once again fresh in their minds as the regular season winds down. Nobody wants to see Jeff Carter go down with a broken foot, or Chris Pronger run out of gas just short of the finish line, especially not Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger.
That’s not to say that they are playing scared but they might be in somewhat of a state of hibernation. They’re resting up for the playoffs and individually doing what they can to make sure they remain healthy.
That being said, not all of them are healthy. This time of year, players are plagued with bumps and bruises but they ignore it and push forward. That’s the case with Sean O’Donnell. He was rumored to be out for a few weeks with a knee injury before Scottie Upshall destroyed both Oskars Bartulis and the heart of every fanboy in Philadelphia with one crushing blow. Just like that, OD made a miraculous recovery and returned to the lineup. Since that point, he has not looked like the same player. Peter Laviolette recognized that and responded by steadily decreasing his ice time each game. From February 24 through yesterday’s game, O’Donnell’s TOI dropped nearly four full minutes, or one minute per game.
At this point, it would be in everyone’s best interest if O’Donnell got the rest he needed and Nick Boynton saw his first action in orange and black.
The Flyers face an identity crisis for the first time this season. Are they the unstoppable superheroes who owned the first half of ’11, or are they this struggling, listless team that may not belong atop the Eastern Conference? How have other teams adjusted to cover the Hartnell – Briere – Leino line that has been slumping mightily? Furthermore, what affect has Nik Zherdev’s antics had on the team? How is newcomer Kris Versteeg fitting in, and has this had any impact on the confidence of Andreas Nodl?
There are many difficult questions the players need to answer both on and off the ice but this is a positive situation. The Flyers need to overcome a bit of adversity to help them grow and now is the perfect time to go through this. They will struggle together and, once it is all said and done, this team will come out stronger, hungrier, and primed for a chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.