Mount Laviolette not yet ready to blow

Peter Laviolette barks instructions during Flyers practice yesterday.
Peter Laviolette barks instructions during Flyers practice yesterday. (CHARLES FOX / Staff photographer)
Posted: May 02, 2011

WHEN WE HAVE SEEN Peter Laviolette explode, it almost always has been during a timeout. With a few exceptions, postgame after a loss tends to fall between a simmer and a smolder for this Flyers coach. It is only in the middle of a game, often in a crisis situation, in the midst of what is the working definition of the heat-of-the-moment, that the emotions spill over.

That moment passes, though. And the work begins.

Laviolette was asked yesterday, after still another Game 1 loss in the Stanley Cup playoffs, if he sometimes coaches loudly, if he becomes emotional during the video breakdown of the game before - in this case, a real disaster of an effort against a big, balanced, persistent group of Boston Bruins.

The coach said that yes, sometimes, getting loud is part of the package after a game like that one.

But this time?

"No," Laviolette said.

Game 1 against the Bruins might very well have been the worst game the Flyers have had in the postseason under this coach, the worst out of 31 efforts, a 7-3 loss that saw starting goaltender Brian Boucher chased in the second period, after the fifth Boston goal. If you were going to assign blame for the fiasco, about 25 percent went to Boucher and about 75 percent went to the team in front of him. The Flyers were that bad in their own end.

Anyway, the coaching began the morning after. We are not going to know the answers to a lot of questions until the puck is dropped tonight, not for sure, because Laviolette is in total playoff lockdown mode at this point. He is down to name, rank and serial number - and you only get the serial number if he is in a good mood.

But it seems as if there has been no explosion from the coach, even after an uncharacteristically lousy game. Yesterday was about rest, reflection and video correction, and that's really about it.

First was the decision not to practice. It fits into the pattern that Laviolette established down the stretch this season. Even as the Flyers were limping into the postseason, and everyone in town was fretting, the coach opted to rest his team whenever he could rather than run the kind punitive practices that a lot of coaches tend to schedule after disheartening losses. And so it was yesterday, when only the goalies and the extras took the ice.

Next is the goaltending decision. Laviolette would not say that Boucher will be his starter in Game 2, but it seems a certainty. In Round 1, the coach was forced by circumstances to tinker with the goaltending position with a chain saw - but that is not now. Saturday really was more about the defensive zone coverage than it was about that goaltender, even acknowledging that Boucher needs to be better.

This probably sounds crazy after watching the first-round series, but to change under these circumstances would be uncharacteristic, given everything. Boucher's leash is not forever, but the tone of the day suggests he will start in Game 2, and he should.

Next, there are the lines. After a loss in the playoffs, coaches tend to fiddle with their lines because that is what every coach has done, seemingly forever. Laviolette, though, has resisted the temptation, for the most part.

Through seven grueling games against Buffalo, Laviolette's major lineup changes involved injuries - losing Andreas Nodl early in the series, losing Jeff Carter, getting Chris Pronger back in Game 6, that kind of stuff. He has done very little juggling for juggling's sake, and the expectation is that he will not begin Game 2 with any significant juggling.

Again, we will see. But the pattern has been clear, and it really was established after the historic comeback against the Bruins in the playoffs last season. This is a group that has earned the right to work its way out of the messes it creates.

A bunch of players came out and talked after the non-practice yesterday and little of it was more than the standard boilerplate. They have been here before, more than once. They were lethargic in Game 1, and they know it. The Bruins are very good, and they know it.

Tonight means a ton, and they know it.

There was no need for yelling.

Send email to

hofmanr@phillynews.com,

or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

www.philly.com/TheIdleRich.

For recent columns go to

www.philly.com/RichHofmann.

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