Comparing 2010 and 2014 Flyers

STEVEN M. FALK STAFF Celebrating a goal against Detroit last month are Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Erik Gustafsson.
STEVEN M. FALK STAFF Celebrating a goal against Detroit last month are Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Erik Gustafsson. (against Detroit last month are Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Erik Gustafsson.)
Posted: February 27, 2014

CURIOSITY ABOUNDS as the Flyers continue to rub the virtual sleep out of their eyes from their midwinter hibernation. And there are some intriguing parallels to 2010, the last time Ed Snider's group suffered from a case of season interruptus because of those dastardly Olympics.

* Just as they are now, the 2009-10 Flyers were riding a four-game winning streak.

* That club made a coaching change early in the season, going from John Stevens to Peter Laviolette. This season, of course, an 0-3 start cost Laviolette his job and Craig Berube took over.

* The Flyers were in third place in the Atlantic Division. They are now in third place in the Metropolitan Division, which always sounds more like MLS than NHL, but that's another story.

Often lost in the fascinating 2010 playoff run was that it very nearly never happened. The Flyers doggie-paddled during most of the stretch run. Sure, they made it to the Stanley Cup finals, but they came within a skate blade of not even making the playoffs.

"It's very similar years," said Scott Hartnell, one of the few holdovers from 2010. "There are a lot of things that stand out from that year with the good playoff run. But I don't think we want to put ourselves in that position where it comes down to the last game."

Following that Olympic break, the Flyers went 8-10-3 going into the regular-season finale against the Rangers. The winner got the final playoff spot, loser started its golf season. The berth went to the Flyers after Claude Giroux scored the game-winner in a shootout and Brian Boucher stopped Olli Jokinen to seal it.

Philadelphia then dismissed the Devils in five games, had the miracle comeback to beat the Bruins in seven and made quick work of the Canadiens to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 13 years.

They went into this year's break feeling very good about themselves, but how will they emerge?

"When you haven't played the game for 2 weeks, mentally you need to stay focused," said Giroux, now the captain. "That first shift, you have to be ready. Physically, it's game shape. It's not the same as practices. But we've done a good job staying in shape. We'll be fine."

The Flyers will jump right into the deep water tomorrow night by hosting a San Jose team that is seven wins better and will be getting back forward Logan Couture, who had missed 16 games heading into the break after hand surgery. Couture had 34 points in 43 games before getting injured.

Just as Giroux was omitted from gold-medal-winning Team Canada, so too was Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who is second in the league with 48 assists.

A particularly arduous cluster for the Flyers comes March 15-26 when they start a home-and-home with Pittsburgh before playing Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

"Down the stretch, we're playing a lot of good hockey teams," said forward Brayden Schenn. "There's going to be a lot of battles each night. We've got three games in four nights right off the hop. Those are six points that we've got to have."

The Flyers did off-ice conditioning work yesterday, but will put the skates back on today. Coach Craig Berube said this week has been about game-planning and reinforcing his defense-first system. In other words, trying to get back into a routine.

"It's been a long break," Giroux said. "Usually, you get a 2-day break and that's enough. It's kind of killing us right now."

Minute stakes

Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen will return to the team today after averaging 18:01 of ice time while helping Finland win a bronze medal in Sochi.

Timonen has played in 57 of the Flyers' 59 games - plus six more in the Olympics - and will be 39 on March 18. His 20:41 average is second only to Braydon Coburn's 22:35 among Flyers. Claude Giroux (20:38) is third.

Craig Berube was asked how concerned he was with Timonen's ice time, given that the Flyers finish with 23 games in 46 days.

"What happens sometimes with Kimmo and his minutes is that we take five penalties in the first period," Berube said. "That's not good for him or anybody . . . You've got to stay out of the penalty box. Those minutes are not good minutes. Those minutes hurt people. It hurts [Sean] Couturier and [Matt] Read. They're out there killing penalties and then they're out there playing against top lines. In the third period they get worn down sometimes because they killed too much. That includes the defense."

On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz

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