Flyers say their struggles this season are mental

Posted: November 08, 2013

MAX TALBOT had been a member of the Colorado Avalanche for only 24 hours. He had played only one game for Patrick Roy. Talbot had met each of his new teammates only once before lacing up his skates.

Yet, Talbot could immediately tell something was different about the Avalanche after Friday's 3-2 win in Dallas. And it wasn't only Colorado's place in the standings, compared with the Flyers'.

"I liked the atmosphere, where even though they came back, 2-2, in the third, the bench was just even-keel," Talbot told reporters. "We just didn't panic and went for it. That's the feeling of a winning team, a team that's confident, a team that plays with a little bit of a spark."

Talbot's words weren't a deliberate dig at his former teammates, but he perfectly described the Flyers' struggles. They are more mental than they are physical, and it's affecting the Flyers in three important facets of the game: offense, defense and in third periods.

No Flyer seems to have struggled more with confidence than captain Claude Giroux. Not only has Giroux yet to score a goal, but he is a team-worst minus-10, and his blown coverage was the reason for Carolina's game-tying goal with 53 seconds left.

"We need to stay positive," Giroux said yesterday. "We are a good team. When we start believing it, when we start playing like it, we'll be a dangerous team."

So, does that mean players in the Flyers' locker room are not believing right now?

"Maybe they believe it, but they don't believe it 100 percent," Giroux said. "I really believe that when we start believing that we're a good team, that's when we're going to start winning games. We're not convinced that we are right now.

"But you know what, we are. We're going to start winning games here soon."

Giroux acknowledged he likes having all the pressure on his shoulders as a player, but perhaps all of the Flyers' collective struggles are just too much for one person to bear right now. Scott Hartnell scored his first goal in Carolina on Tuesday. Jake Voracek has one goal. Wayne Simmonds has one goal. The Flyers officially have the league's worst offense at 1.53 goals per game.

"It's not just on Claude, it's on everyone else in here, too," said Jake Voracek, who will play with Giroux and Hartnell tonight. "It's a lot of pressure for him, especially from the fans, from the organization, from the team.

"Everybody has a different personality. Some put too much pressure on themselves, some don't take any pressure at all, some guys take criticism too heavily and they're thinking about it. Everybody is different. It's not easy. He's a great leader that he's willing to put it on himself. It all depends on personality."

For whatever reason, the Flyers' personalities do not seem to be meshing right now as a collective. The Flyers have been outscored, 16-6, in third periods this season. At the first sign of adversity, they seem to collapse.

Throw out Friday's blowout debacle against Washington and they've had a chance to garner a point in all 13 other games by simply winning the third period. That isn't something every team with a similar number of losses in the NHL can say.

"It's a lot mental," coach Craig Berube said. "They're right there to be won. You can't come out in the first period like we have and then have this drop-off. For me, it is mental. We're right in the games. If they go out and believe and take it against these teams, we'll probably win our share of games."

Less than 2 days after being discharged from Pennsylvania Hospital, Flyers forward Steve Downie was back on the ice Tuesday. Downie, 26, skated again yesterday on his own. His status has been upgraded from "out indefinitely" to "day-to-day," according to general manager Paul Holmgren.

Downie needed to be carted out of Wells Fargo Center on a stretcher more than 2 hours after his second-period fight Friday night. The Flyers initially diagnosed him with a concussion, but said they weren't comfortable with his "body's reaction" to the trauma and called for an ambulance.

Downie spent 2 nights in the hospital before being released. Friday was his first game as a Flyer since 2008 after being traded from Colorado in exchange for Talbot.

After playing less than 6 minutes in Carolina on Tuesday night, forward Tye McGinn was sent back to AHL Adirondack in exchange for Kris Newbury. McGinn has three goals this season . . . Craig Berube said he wanted Vinny Lecavalier playing center again, another reason for his line changes . . . Martin Brodeur will start for New Jersey tonight . . . The Devils have never been shut out in three straight games. Going 10:13 without scoring tonight will be their second longest goal-less streak in franchise history (159:18) . . .

Tough guy Cam Janssen (752 career penalty minutes) was recalled from AHL Albany for the game. Travis Zajac (right ankle) and Anton Volchenkov (lower-body) could both return to the Devils' lineup.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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