Flyers fans, time to listen to the realists

PAUL BERESWILL / GETTY IMAGES Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov reacts after giving up goal to Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel in first period.
PAUL BERESWILL / GETTY IMAGES Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov reacts after giving up goal to Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel in first period.
Posted: February 27, 2013

THE OPTIMIST looks at the Flyers' 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Monday night and says the home team was just one odd bounce away from a tie game during a frenzied final 10 minutes.

The pessimist looks at the Flyers' sixth straight failed crack at .500 in this shortened season and says Peter Laviolette's crew sleepwalked through the first 35 minutes against a Toronto team that is now 2-7-0 in Philadelphia since 2008.

The realist looks at the Flyers' 9-11-1 record through nearly the first half of the season and says the hypotheses and trends with this team are becoming cold truths.

Kimmo Timonen is a realist. And he isn't alone in the Flyers' dressing room.

With a look equal parts concern and bewilderment, Timonen answered a point-blank question: Are the Flyers better than their two-games-under-.500 record would indicate?

"Obviously not," Timonen said. "Right now, we can't win two, three, four games in a row. We haven't been able to put 60 minutes together for a long time. I'd probably have to go back to Long Island [Feb. 18] when we won, 7-0. We fall behind, for a period or two periods, and you lose a game in this league just for that."

The Flyers trailed by two goals for the fourth straight game. It just so happens they were able to pull out wins in two of them.

For the second straight game, the Flyers had a chance to pull into playoff positioning for the first time this season. They now trail seventh-place Toronto, which hasn't qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2004, by five points. And the Maple Leafs have a game in hand.

"There is no easy way to make the playoffs this year," said Jake Voracek, who extended his scoring streak to six games with a power-play goal and assist. "It's hard to say, but we know what we've got to get better at. We obviously weren't good enough today. I think we got outplayed, we didn't get much offensively and then finally we got a big goal."

The Flyers are in the meat of the easiest part of their schedule - a run of eight of 11 at home, with quick trips to New Jersey, New York and Boston - and they have stumbled by losing two out of the first three.

"We had a bad schedule the first 20 games," Timonen said. "Now, it's really good. Nobody can go [hide] behind that now. We've got some nice home games coming up, we've got to find ways to win those games.

"We can talk in the room as much as we want. Once we go on the ice, everyone has to show up and do that. For some reason, we haven't been able to do that."

As Timonen hinted, the words echoing from the Flyers' locker room have been harsh, filled with urgency, self-deprecation and honesty. The words have not translated into action.

"It's a tough year for us," Ilya Bryzgalov explained. "We need to do lots of work and we need to play everyday like it's our last chance. Otherwise, we're going to be watching the playoffs on TV."

Scott Hartnell, who chipped in with a goal in his second game back from a fractured toe, remains an optimist. But his words for the Flyers were matter of fact.

"When we play like we did in the last 10 minutes, I don't think there is a team in the league that can play with us," Hartnell said. "We were skating, we were hitting, we were battling and beating them to loose pucks. That is something in the first minutes the Flyers hardly did."

The Flyers have qualified for the playoffs every year except once since 1995. But the realist says it may not be too early to imagine an empty spring for this team. The sample size is growing larger and larger, possibly too big to ignore.

"We're not going to make the playoffs if we keep playing the way we are," Hartnell said. "We talked about it after the game. If we don't learn fast, as in Wednesday night [vs. Washington], it's going to be a long season. Guys have to realize that. We have to wake it up."

Slap shots

Danny Briere (five games) and Wayne Simmonds (four games) watched their scoring streaks come to a halt . . . Bruno Gervais skated in his 400th career NHL game . . . Goaltender Michael Leighton stopped shots during the pregame skate for the first time since injuring his right ring finger on Feb. 8. Brian Boucher remained as the Flyers' backup on Monday . . . Phantoms captain Ben Holmstrom, who had season-ending surgery to repair his ACL on Dec. 20, was back skating again with the Flyers' scratches on Monday . . . The Flyers were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. They are 53-for-58 (91.4 percent) in their last 13 games.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: philly.com/FrequentFlyers

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