BOSTON - The familiar banner hung from a locker a few feet behind him, and Danny Briere had just finished that tried-and-true spiel about his team being one that "doesn't rely on one or two or three guys."
"It's not about me, it's about the guy next to me," reads the banner, but the guy next to him hasn't done much scoring in this series, and the guy next to him guy, either. And as for the defense . . .
So when Briere was asked about how leadership factored into the big, 3-0 hole the Flyers have once again dug for themselves, he wandered from the script and sounded a little contradictory.
"At this point the most important part is you get yourself ready," he said. "You can't look elsewhere. You can't look to the guy next to you. You have to do it yourself."
The Flyers are on the verge of being swept by the Bruins for a ton of reasons, starting with the bad habits they developed after jumping off to that big lead this season. Everybody's understandably talking about their goaltending this postseason, but whether it was Bob or Boosh, those guys looked a whole lot more competent back in the first 3 months of the season when the team was playing with so much more accountability.
There was no guy next to you then. Players, particularly on defense, were proud of the team's record. Bobrovsky's breakout November instilled a sense that it was about the system more than the resumes. With their near-miss in the Stanley Cup finals as a backdrop, the Flyers played as if finishing a task.
Everything was in the details.
"You have to worry about yourself for the sake of the guy next to you," Briere said. "But you can't worry about the guy next to you. That's the difference."
The truth is the Flyers have failed to do that. They are 1-5 in this postseason when falling behind, and when those awful breakdowns cost them two goals in the first 63 seconds the other night, you could practically hear the hiss from their deflation.
They worried about the other guy. Worse, they seemed to doubt him. It's a natural offshoot of a team that habitually beats itself, and the Flyers have been that team for the greater part of their 2011 calendar year.
If it ends tonight, or Sunday, or even next Tuesday back here, the Flyers should be forced to watch those 63 seconds, and that 2-minute stretch that was the real reason they lost Game 2. With an early 2-0 lead, their home crowd juiced, they devolved into that familiar pond-hockey mentality of theirs, coughed up a slew of choice chances and just like that, the game was tied.
They played their tails off from there, of course, should have won the game but didn't. If that sounds like a familiar refrain over the last 3 months, it's because it is. They could have won Game 1 against Buffalo if they had put a full 60 minutes in, might have even avoided some of the gruel and grind of that series.
Maybe Chris Pronger would be healthy right now. Maybe Jeff Carter, too. Maybe they wouldn't have felt Wednesday night, in the words of Kimmo Timonen, "Like we were skating in the sand."
"It was heavy. It was rough," Timonen said. "We couldn't get anything going. But we can't feel sorry for ourselves now. It's not going to help. It's a new day. Sun is up. Tomorrow's a new game. Doesn't matter what happened in Game 1, 2 or 3. Tomorrow is Game 4."
Well, yeah, it does matter. It matters just as it mattered over those last 2 months, just as it mattered when this team made it tough on itself last round. They needed an overtime bounce to survive that. They need more than that now, more than even last year, when they faced elimination at home.
Pronger didn't skate yesterday. Carter didn't, either. Mike Richards was first up in the dressing room, said it was too late for rah-rah and speeches, and left after a minute and a half. One by one, some of the others took turns trying to come up with some other explanation for their plight other than the obvious, that bad habits can take out any team this time of year, no matter how deep or balanced you believe it to be.
"When you're not playing up to your standards, anyone can take advantage of you," said Briere, finally. "They're having a lot of success because we're not up to what we should be."
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