After a listless 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, the Flyers’ management gave the team absolute hell. General Manager Paul Holmgren called out individual players and coach John Stevens searched for ways to get his team motivated with just a handful of games remaining and playoff seeding in jeopardy.
But thanks to the schedule makers, the Flyers will have a chance for redemption tonight, as they host the Leafs at 7 p.m., in what can’t be called anything less than a must-win game.
“We have a stand up group and our guys know we have to play better, but that has to start now,” said Stevens. “This team has always responded and there is no reason to believe they won’t.
“Every time we stumble it seems to be the same thing. We’re going out there and working but we’re not competing. When you compete you combine work with will and that’s what we need to get back to.”
With six games remaining in the season, the Flyers have lost the last three of four and have fallen to a tie for fifth in the Eastern Conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins, two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for fourth. But it has been the surprisingly poor level of play that has sent some in Flyerdom into panic mode.
“When our backs are against the wall we do respond,” said Stevens. “We need to go out with an intention to attack the game instead of waiting to see what happens.”
During the losing streak, the Flyers looked careless and uninterested. Many times during Wednesday’s Toronto game, the Flyers turned the puck over in the neutral zone with errant passes. There was next to no hard work done along the boards and many players tried to jump opposition passing routes like Asante Samuel, only putting themselves out of position and giving the Leafs chances at the other end.
“Our execution was poor; our passing was the worst I’ve seen it all year,” said Flyers’ forward Joffrey Lupul, yesterday after practice. “We didn’t execute, and we didn’t even really work that hard.
“We know what we’ve got to do tomorrow, and I think everyone is pretty focused. It seemed that way at practice today, and we’re going to have a good effort tomorrow.”
But despite the chronic lapse in desire during the most important part of the season, Flyers’ captain Mike Richards believes the team is just fine.
“We obviously have to start getting better,” he said. “But if we relax and play our game and stop blowing things out of proportion, we’ll be fine.”
Notes: Claude Giroux has been the hottest Flyer of late, with a two game goal and assist streak. Stevens used Giroux as a work horse at the end of the game on Wednesday and will likely play his hot hand often tonight.
Toronto prospect Christian Hanson will make his debut tonight for the Leafs. Hanson is the son of Dave Hanson, the star of the famous hockey movie Slap Shot. He recently left the University of Notre Dame to go pro.