Discussing the slump

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.

  • Bob H

    I guess the short answer is, they’re somewhere in between the injury-riddled team of last year and the Ubermen of the first 3/4 of this season.

    That suggests, to me, a very solid team that is most likely NOT going to reach a Stanley Cup Final — which makes last year’s run all the more frustrating and surprising. That, and the fact that history and the morass that is the Eastern Conference come playoff time is simply not on the Flyers’ side.

    The trouble with adversity that crops up at this time of season, especially when Philly has been at the top this long, is that the competition might reveal the true character of the locker room. That usually means some ugly truths might be revealed within. This is where real bonding and commitment is forged.

    Vancouver seems to be going through the same thing…like in Die Hard when Hans quotes the ancient line that goes something like “When he looked upon the breadth of his domain, Alexander wept for he had no more worlds to conquer.”

    I think the big problems are:

    1)the lack of veteran leaders on the forward line: no Gagne, no Laperriere.

    2) The power play which won’t really be solved until there’s a system drawn up where the defensemen don’t start out near the blue line separate from each other, and so far separate from the forwards.

    Although I think confidence is a fragile thing to some players, I’d hope that Andreas Nodl understands that the Versteeg addition means the pressure to score is taken OFF his shoulders with a Cup winner added.

    It’s weird that since KV has been acquired, he’s made the biggest noise offensively while everyone else has largely been quiet.

    I also think that NZ’s “antics” don’t mean a thing except for a little peripheral drama. Based on what was reported, how he handled the situation didn’t really have an impact on anyone except himself and Laviolette. Z’s play on ice is what ultimately has a chance to affect the team, but obivously not so much given their record and that wonderful thing called a “healthy scratch.”

    The Flyers are basically ON NOTICE from now until their playoff run ends. They need to find intensity somehow or they’ll just get bounced early to an inferior team.

  • Bob H

    I guess the short answer is, they’re somewhere in between the injury-riddled team of last year and the Ubermen of the first 3/4 of this season.

    That suggests, to me, a very solid team that is most likely NOT going to reach a Stanley Cup Final — which makes last year’s run all the more frustrating and surprising. That, and the fact that history and the morass that is the Eastern Conference come playoff time is simply not on the Flyers’ side.

    The trouble with adversity that crops up at this time of season, especially when Philly has been at the top this long, is that the competition might reveal the true character of the locker room. That usually means some ugly truths might be revealed within. This is where real bonding and commitment is forged.

    Vancouver seems to be going through the same thing…like in Die Hard when Hans quotes the ancient line that goes something like “When he looked upon the breadth of his domain, Alexander wept for he had no more worlds to conquer.”

    I think the big problems are:

    1)the lack of veteran leaders on the forward line: no Gagne, no Laperriere.

    2) The power play which won’t really be solved until there’s a system drawn up where the defensemen don’t start out near the blue line separate from each other, and so far separate from the forwards.

    Although I think confidence is a fragile thing to some players, I’d hope that Andreas Nodl understands that the Versteeg addition means the pressure to score is taken OFF his shoulders with a Cup winner added.

    It’s weird that since KV has been acquired, he’s made the biggest noise offensively while everyone else has largely been quiet.

    I also think that NZ’s “antics” don’t mean a thing except for a little peripheral drama. Based on what was reported, how he handled the situation didn’t really have an impact on anyone except himself and Laviolette. Z’s play on ice is what ultimately has a chance to affect the team, but obivously not so much given their record and that wonderful thing called a “healthy scratch.”

    The Flyers are basically ON NOTICE from now until their playoff run ends. They need to find intensity somehow or they’ll just get bounced early to an inferior team.