Flyers have a 'must-win' in October
THE FLYERS' Silver Linings Playbook is running out of pages.
It is only the second full week of the season, but the Flyers' players fully recognize that moral victories don't count in the win column. And the pressure is only mounting, since the Flyers do not play for an entire week after tonight's matchup with the Penguins.
A 1-7-0 record and a full week of soul-searching for the front office could make for an uneasy few days off.
"You can say it's a long season, but we're in a pretty big hole at the start of it," Jake Voracek said yesterday. "I don't think there is more pressure because there is a week off, but there is a lot of pressure because we are 1-6. It's just a tough start.
"From now on, every game is a must-win. And this game is very important. It's different if you're 2-6 vs. 1-7. You get this win, we're playing better, and you breathe a little better. Everyone would feel a lot better."
It is always dangerous to label a game in October as a "must-win," but the Flyers truly aren't really that far off. Their next game will not be until Oct. 24. From 2005-06 to 2011-12, the last full 82-game season, only three teams have made the playoffs after being four points or more out of a playoff spot when the calendar hits Nov. 1.
A win tonight against the Penguins would put them just two points back of one of the new "wild-card" spots.
The fact that the Flyers will be renewing one of the NHL's best rivalries against the Penguins only adds to the suspense.
"The main thing is that we've got to get a win here," Kimmo Timonen said. "It doesn't matter if it's the Penguins or Rangers or Columbus. We need the game, to get two points. To me, we're right there. But it's a business of winning games, and we're not there."
To a man, the Flyers were pleased with their play and effort against the Canucks - except for the third period. The Flyers blew a 2-1 lead, and they've only held on to one lead all season, 55 minutes against Florida for their only win.
"We need to put 60 minutes together," coach Craig Berube said. "We put ourselves in positions to win games, but going into the third period, I find it's a little bit of a letdown. better get un-used to it, or it's going to keep happening."
Hanging on against the Penguins and converting Tuesday's effort into a win tonight would go a long way.
"We can't be happy. We've got to find a way to be better," Timonen said. "Just getting a win would make things easier and get things rolling in the right direction."
After Henrik Sedin was comfortably able to find a wide-open Chris Higgins for the game-tying goal in the third period of Tuesday's loss, no Flyers player seemed to have an answer for the breakdown. Claude Giroux said he needed to look at the video. Braydon Coburn said the goal came as a result of an "unchecked" man.
To make sure no one was confused yesterday at practice, the Flyers spent more than 10 minutes practicing defending the same scenario - with one player behind the net.
It was the first public glimpse into Berube's idea of accountability for his players.
"He holds everyone in here accountable, no matter what your position, age, or how many years or how many games you've played," Adam Hall said. "He's going to be blunt, he's going to be honest. But it's not going to be because he doesn't like you, but it's because he knows how good we can be.
"Even if we win, 10-0, there's going to be mistakes. I think it's good to find a coach that's constantly going to find stuff we can work on."
Berube said he was pleased with the fact the Flyers were whistled for just one penalty against Vancouver. Renewing the rivalry with Pittsburgh tonight, Berube said he's looking for "good emotion, but controlled emotion" . . . The Penguins (5-1-0) are off to their best start at home since 1994 (4-0-0) but tonight is just their third road game of the season. Former Flyer Harry Zolnierczyk is expected to be in Pittsburgh's lineup alongside Brandon Sutter and Dustin Jeffrey. Pittsburgh will be without Kris Letang, James Neal and Matt D'Agostini . . . Giroux did not practice yesterday, sitting out with a "maintenance day."
Here are the head-to-head stats since Peter Laviolette declared Claude Giroux the "best player in the world" after the Flyers dispatched the Penguins on April 22, 2012: Giroux has 50 points in 55 games; Sidney Crosby has 68 points in 42 games. Before he was fired last week, Laviolette said he stood by his words.