Despite sloppy loss for Flyers, Laviolette takes calmer tone

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette talks to his team during a last-minute timeout against Toronto.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette talks to his team during a last-minute timeout against Toronto.
Posted: March 04, 2011

For three days after taking a bad loss to Ottawa, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette showed the team his bad-cop side. There is a month left in the regular season, and if he suspected the Flyers had any intention of coasting to the finish, that notion was going to be quickly dispelled.

He put them through a series of punishing practices, made his points about discipline and hard work, and then sent them back out to the ice on Thursday night against Toronto. The result was another loss, in a sloppy 3-2 effort, and the Flyers now have back-to-back losses for the first time since Dec. 28.

Well, it wasn't exactly the smiling cop on the neighborhood beat who dissected the game afterward, but anyone who expected Laviolette to continue to breathe fire after this one was either surprised or disappointed, or both.

"There's things we can tighten up," Laviolette said. "We needed to be better than we were, but we competed better than we did in Ottawa."

That's scant praise given the no-show nature of the loss to the Senators, but it is an indication that the coach knows when to stop beating the horse. After five months of the regular season, a stretch in which the Flyers have compiled the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second-best in the league, there's little to be gained by making the same point too many times in a row.

"When you lose games, everything's a concern," Laviolette said. "But not in a panic way. We need to be better in the third period. We need to be more disciplined."

In fact, the Flyers were pretty awful against a team that is fighting hard to get into the playoffs, a team that had played the night before while the Flyers had a break in the schedule.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky alternated, as he does sometimes, between making spectacular saves and letting in soft goals. He is still tentative on deciding when to come out of the net to poke away the puck and prevent his defensemen from taking penalties.

The game-winning goal, which came with less than five minutes to play, happened when Darryl Boyce of the Maple Leafs was able to come from the deep corner and stuff a no-angle shot through Bobrovsky's pads.

"They threw one out of the corner . . . it was a tough one," Laviolette said with a shrug.

The other two goals were much less about Bobrovsky. Scott Hartnell whiffed on a clearing pass to let Toronto walk in with its first score of the night, and the second was a rebound goal after Bobrovsky made a save on a hard shot from close in. Maybe he could have done a better job of redirecting the rebound, but Laviolette wasn't going to harp on any of that, either.

"I think we have to play better defense in front of him," Laviolette said. "When they get point-blank chances in the slot, it's tough."

Plenty of other mistakes could have been picked at. The second Toronto goal, scored with just 11 seconds left in the second period, happened at least partly because Mike Richards tried to steal a faceoff in the defensive end instead of merely win it. The move would have been great had it worked and Richards been able to poke the puck past his opponent, but it backfired, and instead of taking a one-goal lead into the second intermission the game was tied. Right idea, maybe, but wrong time, and with disastrous execution.

"We're in game 63 or 64 here, and we've got to understand what to do in our end, what to do on draws. We've got to get on the same page," defenseman Chris Pronger said, not specifically calling out Richards - there was plenty of blame to go around - but not skirting the implication. "And we shot ourselves in the foot with the mistakes we made and the penalties we took."

In a very real way, Toronto was a difficult opponent specifically because the Maple Leafs are desperate to get into the postseason. They came into Thursday's game in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, but only a handful of points from jumping up as far as seventh. It would be nice if the Flyers could match that energy and desperation every night, but that's asking a lot.

Without several players, including Jeff Carter, because of a flu epidemic that is sweeping the locker room, it was more of a night to reflect on what they did rather than what they didn't. At least, that's the tack Laviolette chose, and he can read the wind better than most.

"There are going to be times in the course of this next month when we're going to have to push extremely hard," Laviolette said. "Every game we've got to be better, better than we were tonight. We've got to continue to push the pace because this is an important month for us."

Yes, there will be times that will once again call for three-hour practices, and postgame analyses during which mistakes are hammered instead of lightly tapped. This wasn't one of them, however. The cop kept the billy club in his pocket this time. He still knows where it is, though.


Contact columnist Bob Ford

at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com and read his blog at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/bob_fords_post_patterns/

 

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