Stevens looking to fix Flyers’ inconsistency woes

Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Flyers have proven to be notoriously inconsistent,  typically following up a  Stanley Cup caliber performance with one or two energy-lacking clunkers. And with only three points separating them (fourth-seed) from the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, the serious lack of energy shown this crucial time of year, has not evaded  coach John Stevens, who pointed it out after the Flyers dropped the first two games of a very important four-game road trip.

“We need to skate,” Stevens said. “We’ve got a good group of skating forwards. We need to pursue the puck and be a lot more aggressive, with and without the puck. I didn’t think we did that the last two games.”

Most recently, the Flyers put together a solid performance in beating Atlantic Division rival New York Rangers, 4-2, in Philadelphia in Saturday.  But instead of build off of it, the win was followed up by an embarrassing 4-1 lost the Rangers the next night.  And despite a close game in Detroit on Tuesday, the Flyers 3-2 loss to the Red Wings was emotionless from beginning to end.  The team didn’t hit, they didn’t skate hard and they didn’t work. And that’s a problem coming into the final stretch of the regular season.

“There’s no time for moral victories this time of year,” Stevens said. “Up until the first New York game, I thought we played aggressive. I know we’ve had five games in eight days, and that’s not an excuse, but we need to play with energy.”

But Stevens doesn’t have many options to fix the problem.  Line changes are a coaching staple, but with the Flyers’ first two lines producing so well together (off and on), Stevens would be hard pressed to make a major change.

“I think we might shuffle some things around here, try to get some balance on our front lines, get (Danny Briere) more involved than he has been up to this point,” Stevens said.  “We’re looking at Danny as a healthy player now. It seems like we get one line going, then (that one stops) another gets going. I think we need some continuity.  I think if we have size, experience, different ingredients for each line, it will bode well for us.”

Unfortunately for the Flyers, Briere has done little to earn a trip to the top-6 forwards. And rather than be the answer to fix the lack of aggressiveness,  he may be one of the problems.  Since his return from a season-long battle with a groin injury, Briere has been listless and has showed no energy.  In seven games played since the All-Star break, he has zero points and is a minus two.

“It’s going to take some time, but I do think he’s starting to come around,” A hopeful Stevens said. “It will take some time for him to get back to the level we’re accustomed to.”

With 13 games left to play in the regular season, the Flyers need to figure something out.  With so many teams eyeing up a playoff spot and others josling for the perfect position, it’s going to be a dog fight until the final game.  And right now, the Flyers don’t seem interested in participating.

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Filed under 2008-09 season

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