Inside the Flyers: Flyers need to turn up home cooking burners

Posted: March 01, 2012

Maybe the Flyers should stay in a hotel the night before home games - as they have done on occasion in past years - and it will help them play with the same focus they have on the road.

It will also keep them away from the real reason they have struggled at the Wells Fargo Center this season: Too many orders from their wives and girlfriends.

At least that's a theory espoused by Jaromir Jagr, the legendary Flyers right winger who will be in the Hall of Fame someday.

"I think it's the wives' fault," Jagr, 40, said the other day, grinning. "The guys come home and they're given work. All the cleaning and the cooking and babysitting."

OK, Jagr had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. But the fact is, if the Flyers want to fancy themselves as Stanley Cup contenders, they need to get some home cooking mojo in the final five weeks of the regular season.

And then carry it into the playoffs.

Starting Thursday against the visiting New York Islanders, the Flyers play 12 of their final 20 games at the too-friendly (for opponents) confines known as the Wells Fargo Center.

Stunningly, the Flyers have won just 14 of their 29 home games (14-10-5). In the 30-team NHL, only Montreal and Columbus have fewer home points than the Flyers.

These aren't your father's Flyers - though general manager Paul Holmgren, who added two massive defensemen recently who have an average height and weight of 6-foot-4, 244 pounds - seems to be trying to create a Broad Street Bullies feel.

Hey, it can't hurt.

The Flyers have 36 wins and 34 losses at home over the last two seasons. Back in their heyday, they once had 36 home wins in one season, 1975-76.

If they are to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, the Flyers need to develop a swagger at home - like they have on the road, where they are among the league's elite with a 20-11-2 record.

"It's hard to say," winger Jakub Voracek said when asked why the Flyers' road success hasn't happened at the Wells Fargo Center. "Maybe there's less pressure on the road. We just go there and play our game. We've got to bring the same game at home."

Maybe recently acquired defensemen Pavel Kubina and Nick Grossman will give the Flyers a much-need edge and make opponents think twice before cruising through the slot or camping out at the goalie's doorstep.

Maybe they'll help a penalty-killing unit that is above-average on the road but next-to-last in the league at home, killing just 79 percent.

Maybe the newcomers will reduce the number of shots Ilya Bryzgalov faces. Bryzgalov, who seems invigorated by his strong shootout performance in Calgary on Saturday, has had almost identical numbers at home (2.78 goals-against average, .901 save percentage) as on the road (2.79, .897).

"We don't have much travel anymore," Bryzgalov said after the Flyers wasted one of his best games of the season Tuesday in a 1-0 loss at San Jose. "It's good to be home."

Mainly because of their home woes, the Flyers haven't won two in a row overall since Jan. 10-12 and are just 8-9-3 since then.

Center Danny Briere noted that the Flyers seemed to be on the road for most of the last three months, rarely having a long homestand.

But they are home for the majority of the last five weeks.

"The downside is we haven't been playing very well at home this year," said Briere, who was slammed into the boards, head-first, by San Jose's Marc-Edouard "Pickles" Vlasic in Tuesday's game but hopes to play Thursday against the Isles. "It comes at a right time for a turnaround.

"Historically, Philadelphia has been a tough place to play" for opponents, he added, "and we have to make that happen again."

Dominating at home gives teams an aura they usually carry into the playoffs. In the seven times the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Finals, they had good-to-great home records in the regular season.

The Flyers have a dozen home games to start re-creating that mystique. If they don't, maybe Peter Laviolette's club should follow Jagr's playful advice and book a hotel before home playoff games.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com, 215-854-5181, or on Twitter @BroadStBull.

 

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