By Justin Adkins:
Just when it looked like the Flyers were waving at that four-game losing streak shrinking in the rear view mirror — and the ugly play that went with it — along comes a third-period implosion that puts a halt on any talk of the team reverting back to dominant form.
Like the NFL deciding to go out of business, watching the Flyers collapse against the Atlanta Thrashers was hard to believe, horrible to behold, and made no sense. Taking a three goal lead into the third period, it was easy to expect that the supposed best team in the Eastern Conference would hold on against a much weaker Thrashers squad.
You’d expect it, and you would have been wrong.
Atlanta scored five goals in the final 20 minutes and 8 seconds of the game, eventually leaving a stunned Wells Fargo Center with a 5-4 victory.
“We stopped playing,” said defenseman Kimmo Timonen. “When you stop playing in this league you’re gonna lose games. This game is about hard work and making simple plays, but it seems like every single time we get to lead 3-0, 4-0, whatever, we start turning the puck over [and think] the game’s over. It’s not over, and that’s one of those things we have to change now. We can’t wait. We can’t stop doing the same mistakes game after game after game because it’s going to bite us in the ass.”
That’s a damning assessment. Not even Ville Leino’s hat trick, the first of his career, helps with this type of loss.
“A good night turned into an embarrassment,” Leino said. “We didn’t take care of the puck and we didn’t make plays when we had chances. They were coming hard and we weren’t ready for that.”
Danny Briere was dumbfounded.
“I don’t really have an answer for it,” said Briere. “It’s scary. You know, we blew a 3-0 lead and even a 4-2 lead. We knew they were going to come out and fight for everything they had. This is basically their season and we have to see them twice again. I wish I had a better answer. I mean, it’s scary.”
Briere seems to acknowledge that it’s past time for a sense of urgency and that the Flyers can’t be complacent and rely on their talent alone to win.
“The frustrating part is that it has been going on now for most of the year,” Briere said. “It seems like we can’t lock up games. A lot of times we’re able to over compensate because we can score a lot of goals and somehow find a way to get another one. But, we’re losing tight games. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s something we have to fix before the playoff run.”
The Flyers did at least do a decent job on special teams, with two of Leino’s goals coming on the power play, while Timmonen’s goal came against Atlanta’s own man advantage. Unfortunately, playing regular old 5-on-5 hockey seemed to escape the Flyers’ ability for the night.
Said captain Mike Richards: “Maybe sitting back a little bit which if you do enough of it’s gonna bite you in the butt and we have to be a team that’s confident in closing out tight games and right now we’re struggling with it.”
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is either trying to stay positive or completely ignoring not only the game itself but his players own reactions to it.
“It is one of those tough ones where you go back and it’s tough to leave the rink,” said Laviolette. “You’re up and you’re in control of the game and it slowly slips away. Every time they got an opportunity it was in the net.”
“I don’t get the sense that we didn’t work in the third period. I think we did. The result is nauseating but I think our guys competed in the third. This isn’t a Rangers game or an Edmonton game where we didn’t play well in the second and third. I think we competed but like I said, with the chain of events, nobody is going to sleep well with them.”
Now sure what third period he was watching.
“I did feel like the focus was there tonight, different from the past,” Laviolette said. “I feel like we came, we played, we were there. Some mistakes happened in the third, some chain of events happened. Tough result because of it.”
Watching the game and seeing the hideous outcome, it’s hard to swallow that. It’s one thing to support the players, but publicly excusing what clearly looks like lack of focus, especially when the guys themselves are saying it, is just serving to make the coach look foolish and impotent. This team needs a kick in the ass, not media protection.
Maybe Chris Pronger needs to set his sights higher than Claude Giroux for the next verbal smackdown.
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