Kris Versteeg gathered the puck in the defensive zone early in the second period of Sunday’s Flyers-Rangers contest at Madison Square Garden.
From his own slot, the newly acquired forward tried to brainlessly push the disc through hard-checking Rangers’ forward Ryan Callahan, who easily scooped it up and fired top corner into the Flyers’ net to give the Rangers the 4-0 lead. The Blue Shirts would further their advantage to seven before the final whistle mercifully rang.
“Turnovers are what’s killing us,” Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger told the media after Sunday’s game. “We can look at second-effort and all the rest of that after, but turnovers, we have to get the puck in deep and forecheck and get some sustained pressure down in the offensive zone and start grinding on teams as we’ve done in the past. Until we do that, teams are going to pick us apart like they have been. ”
The miscue that turned a loss into an embarrassment was a microcosm of the past week for the absent-minded Flyers, who have seen four straight regulation losses in the last eight days. Although, lack of effort, motivation and intensity have all been diagnosed as the issues causing the sudden slide. It’s the true problem of giveaways and missed defensive assignments that have been the ultimate plague in slowing the soon-to-be-former Eastern Conference-leading Flyers.
“We were late getting to pucks,” said Flyers’ captain Mike Richards on Sunday. “We were turning pucks over, missed coverages.”
Maybe it is mental fatigue or basic lack of focus, but Saturday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres displayed the same head-scratching problems. Buffalo’s Jason Pominville redirected the game-winner from Thomas Vanek mid-way through the third, when he edged backchecking Flyers forward Scott Hartnell in a charge for the net. This came after Sabres’ defenseman Andrej Sekera scored a wrap-around goal that had the Flyers doing their best Three Stooges impression, falling over themselves around the net. Just another failure to execute defense away from the puck — something that haunted the Flyers often against both Buffalo and the Rangers.
“There is no question that we can do a better job defensively,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette in a conference call on Monday. “I think I said it in the press conference at the Buffalo game or the Toronto game. I think I said that after the game, that there is no question that we can tighten up in front of our goaltenders and do a better job.”
To do that, however,will take focus and preparation. Now, that would be the true slump buster.