It has been a long and draining couple weeks for the Flyers.
Close losses in important games, including four head-scratching defeats in their last five tries, had the word collapse on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
But with the bad taste of their near-meteoric fall down the standings rinsed away by an Atlantic Division title clinch, the second-seeded Flyers, thanks to nearly a week off before Game 1 at the Wells Fargo Center against the No. 7 Buffalo Sabres, get a chance to wipe the slate and prepare for a brand new season.
Mike Richards hasn’t exactly had a stellar season.
Despite amassing 65 points in 79 games, the 26-year old has appeared closer to being the Flyers’ problem rather than their solution during the late-season plummet. His sporadic production and even more sporadic physical effort had many wondering what type of leadership the quiet captain was providing. If not off the ice, where?
But on Tuesday night, something changed.
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. ”
Sitting second overall in the gritty Western Conference with 47 points, the Vancouver Canucks are no slouch of an opponent. But when the Flyers hit the ice tonight at 10 PM at Rogers Arena, they might just have history on their side.
Dating back to 1989, when (now general manager) Paul Holmgren was the head coach of the Flyers and the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, were eight-years-old, Philadelphia hasn’t lost a game in Vancouver. The odd and probably coincidental statistic spans 10 games, the last being in Oct. 2007, which was a memorable 8-2 Flyers victory. The contest was highlighted by a then-Flyer Jesse Boulerice cross-check to the neck of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, which earned the enforcer a hefty suspension.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” said veteran Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell. “I mean, they don’t play very often.
“I think it’s meaningful when you see a stat about not having beaten a team in 10 straight, when you play each other a lot, because it’s pretty much the same personnel. But when you stretch it out over 20 years or more, it’s just a bizarre coincidence.”
“He’s (P.K.Subban) a guy that’s come in the league and hasn’t earned respect. It’s just frustrating to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he’s better than a lot of people. You have to earn respect in this league. It takes a lot. You can’t just come in here as a rookie and play like that. It’s not the way to get respect from other players around the league.” — Faceoff.com
After dropping the bitter 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, Flyers’ captain Mike Richards did not shy away from sharing his thoughts on the talented Canadiens’ rookie defenseman. Subban,21, in the final moments of the lopsided contest, was all over the ice during and after the play, pushing and slashing at the Philadelphia players.
But what Richards took exception to, was not that Subban, a rookie, was playing an in-your-face style and trash talking with the game in hand, but that he wouldn’t ‘earn respect’. In other words, Subban wouldn’t drop the gloves and back up his intense demeanor.
“Hopefully someone on their team addresses it, because, I’m not saying I’m going to do it but something might happen to him if he continues to be that cocky,” Richards continued.
As Greg Wyshynski (Puck Daddy) of Yahoo! Sports pointed out, Richards received five fighting majors in his rookie season, including one against noted fightsman Arron Asham.
With the memorable 2009-10 season complete with the Stanley Cup still not in Philadelphia, attention is now immediately turned to next year’s Flyers team and what, if anything, will change with regards to personnel.
During the “clean-out” day on Friday morning, Philly general manager Paul Holmgren made one thing clear — whether minor or major, change is coming.
Philadelphia Inquirer writer Sam Carchidi reported from the media day that Holmgren said it was “Highly unlikely” that this Flyers team stays intact moving into next season. That brings up the question of who is on the outs and who might come in?
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
During the late stages of Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime Stanley Cup Finals victory of the Chicago Blackhawks, Flyers captain Mike Richards looked sluggish. With little jump, the 25-year-old center could be seen hunched over with elbows on his knees, as he coasted back to the bench.
It looked like he was out of gas.
“At times, it looks like he wants to do something but his body just won’t allow him to do it,” one unnamed former played told Steve Simmons of the QMI Agency. “It looks to me like he’s physically worn down.”
One of the fondest memories of Ben Eager’s career came in 2004-05, when he, side-by-side with Flyers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Riley Cote and now Chicago Blackhawk teammate Patrick Sharp, brought the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup home to Philadelphia.
But now, as members of the Blackhawks ready to face a few of their old comrades in the Stanley Cup finals, both Eager and Sharp will have to put friendships and the past behind him and start preparing for war.
Even after getting their nose bloodied in a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center on Thursday in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Flyers have reason to be optimistic about a turn around in game 4.
And that reason is easy — they are not happy.
“It’s one game. They caught up to us,” said tight-lipped Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, whose team still leads the series 2-1. “We will be better next game.”
It’s been a year of ridicule to redemption for Mike Richards.
All regular season long, the Flyers captain was questioned at every turn. From his social choices to his on-ice contribution to his war with the Philadelphia media, the 25-year-old received waves of heat from a disgruntled fan base that called for his head at almost every opportunity.
But from the start of the 2009-10 post season, Richards has quieted even the most steadfast Philly nay-sayers by being the ideal captain and carrying his team on broad shoulders both on and off the ice.