Sloppy passes turned into odd-man rushes.
Forced individuality at the opposing blue line that turned into odd-man rushes.
Soft clearing passes inside their zone that became point-blank shots for the opposition. A lack of physicality, at times, that limited power-play opportunities, created speed for their opponents through the neutral zone, and prolonged play inside their own zone.
Boo. Boo. Boo.
"You know what it takes to win," the coach was saying after practice. "You have to be on your toes and the froth has to be coming from your mouth and you've got to be willing to rip the door off the hinges to get to the ice.
"Then you have winning hockey. And down the stretch it got cloudy for us. Maybe because of where we were at, maybe because of injuries, maybe because of fatigue. I have no idea. I really don't know."
Here's what he does know. That nobody in the seats really cares why, that any and all of those will be seen as lame excuses for a team that even now seems so perfectly constructed for playoff success: balanced scoring, defensive depth, two backup goaltenders who, combined, held foes to two or fewer goals 11 times last postseason.
Mike Richards is ailing? So what. There's plenty of firepower remaining. Chris Pronger might miss a game or two or even this whole series? So what. The Flyers won nine of 12 games in his absence earlier this season.
If the Flyers don't make it out of this first-round series against the eternally upstart Sabres - and the pit in your stomach right now says they won't - then expect the same kind of public disdain that awaited the 2001 Flyers. That team followed a spirited run to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals with a first-round defeat at the hands of - you guessed it - the Sabres.
The Flyers were the higher seed then, too, as they were when they scored two whole goals in a first-round ouster by Ottawa the following year. Their history is dotted with this. They went down in one round to Buffalo in 2006, the season after Keith Primeau put them on his back all the way to another seventh-game Eastern Conference finals loss.
"How many chances in life are you going to get to play with this kind of a team?" Kimmo Timonen asked. "Hopefully, we realize you're not going to get too many times. I've been here for a few years and this is the best team I've been on."
Timonen gets it. What's alarming is that he and guys like Boucher and Pronger - who has seen just about every playoff scenario unfold - cannot create any sense of urgency among players they will need to rely on.
"I truly feel this is our year," Timonen said. "I can't see the future, but if we put in a 60-minute effort . . . I am 100 percent sure we can do that in the playoffs. We've got different roles. Everybody has a different role. So I want to say to everybody, do your role and we'll be fine."
Now listen to Danny Briere:
"Every one of us in this room is preparing like, I'm going to be the difference tonight. I know going into every game that's what I am telling myself. And especially in the playoffs. I want to be the difference tonight. I want to make the difference. Just like our line did that for a few games last year in the playoffs, we believe we're going to do that this year."
I asked Briere if there was danger in that approach. Last year's postseason success seemed to rely on keeping things simple, on a dump-and-run forechecking style that belied the playmaking skills of players like Briere and Ville Leino, a style that sometimes hid the Flyers' lack of blue-line depth.
No one argues that this team has more talent than that team. But when you read Leino saying, "I can't be that guy who just dumps the puck in, because I won't get anything done," Briere's quote kind of scares you. Because as Leino's repeated late-season benchings underline, you can be the difference in a bad way, too.
Leino's success last postseason had a lot to do with chasing down loose pucks and making nifty puck-handling plays on the goal line, not the blue line.
"It's a fine line," Briere said. "You don't want to go too far and try to do everything yourself. One of the reasons our line was so successful was that we used each other. And we moved the puck for each other and we skated for each other."
That's what Laviolette keeps getting back to. That most of their ills comes from the absence of wanting to rip the door off, and of skating for each other and making a few small plays add up to big goals.
Lesser talented teams have won Cups with that approach. And more talented ones - like last year's top two seeds - have fallen way short without it.
"I'm 36," Timonen said. "I don't know how many more years I've got in these stumpy legs. Time is closing in. You have to take advantage every time you have a chance to do this."
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