Flyers lack sense of urgency

Posted: April 11, 2013

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The chanting started with 1 minute, 18 seconds remaining. It was directed at the New York Islanders, but the words would unintentionally mock the Flyers.

We want playoffs . . .

We want playoffs . . .

On a desperate night, the Flyers did not look desperate. Playing against a fast team, a team on the rise, a team holding one of the playoff spots that they want for themselves, the Flyers just weren't good enough. Hanging onto a 1-1 tie in the second period, they made the mistake that so often ends up in their net. Playing from behind in the third period, they were simply unable to sustain anything in the offensive end.

And if the 4-1 final score overstated what happened on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum, it pretty accurately reflected the postgame mood. Because the Flyers are five points out of a playoff spot with nine games left to play, their situation somewhere between dire and, well, whatever is worse than dire.

And the mood?

"Right now, it's not really good," forward Simon Gagne said. "But at the same time, we have to look ahead of us. There's a lot of hockey left."

The math suggests that the Flyers need to go 7-2 between now and the end of the regular season to have any realistic chance at making the playoffs. But even that would not guarantee anything. The Flyers are well past the guaranteeing stage. This was always going to be a long shot - because of the early hole they dug in this lockout-shortened season, and because of the injuries that they have sustained, especially on defense - but whatever momentum they gained last week has been entirely dissipated.

So what will it take?

A miracle?

"Probably," forward Scott Hartnell said, helpfully.

And the thing is, it did not have to be this way. The Flyers are a good team when they skate. They are the kind of team that worries opponents - even with a decimated defense - when their forwards skate. They don't get a ton done on the rush anymore, but they still have enough ability to dominate time of possession - to dominate territorially overall - when their forwards get it in their heads that a simple game can be a winning game.

But you have to win forechecking battles. To repeat, ad nauseum, you have to skate.

And there is just something missing on too many nights with this bunch. We have all seen it. It is natural enough to overrate the talent of a team you watch as much as we all watch the Flyers, and if you want to say there has been some overrating going on, well, guilty.

But this team is good enough to be a playoff team. This team just took nine out of 10 possible points over a five-game stretch. There is ability there. There is postseason ability there.

Yet in a game like this one, probably the biggest game they have played against the Islanders in more than a quarter-century, they lacked . . . something. Playing against a fast Islanders team, playing with a patched-together defense, it seemed obvious that the Flyers could not afford a risky game. They needed to get pucks deep, forecheck, limit turnovers, all of that.

They have people who are supposed to be able to play that game and win that game. But they could not sustain their forecheck at all. And they made the crucial turnover in the second period - Brayden Schenn said that he and Wayne Simmonds should have gotten a puck deep and gotten a line change, but didnt, and the Islanders scored on the ensuing rush.

"Made the wrong play," Schenn said.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was furious on the bench after that one. After the game, he did not fault the effort. But the urgency was not obvious to anyone watching the game. It is hard to understand, given that as the games dwindle now, so do the Flyers' playoff chances.

But that is the reality. We are to the point in the proceedings that will be dominated by must-wins and uncomfortable questions.

Or, as team captain Claude Giroux was forced to say, "We're a good team." But Giroux knows as well as anyone how little time they have left to prove it.


Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Columns: philly.com/

RichHofmann

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