VOORHEES, N.J. – When the clock ticks down and a lead looks precarious, there are two ways the players on a hockey team can go.
Play to win.
Or play not to lose.
The Flyers have held late leads over two Metropolitan Division powerhouses – Pittsburgh and Washington – this week and couldn’t hold on to either of them.
After each loss, interim head coach Mike Yeo acknowledged the Flyers didn’t quite play aggressively enough in the closing minutes.
Some of that might have to do with having so many inexperienced players in the lineup.
But at the end of the day, if a player dons an NHL jersey he’s supposed to be savvy enough not to let off the gas pedal.
The Flyers gave up three goals in the last three minutes during a 5-3 loss to the Caps on Thursday night and it was clear they were not exactly in attack mode during that span.
“You look at their winning goal. . .we have to have more urgency in that situation, not to turn that puck over,’’ Yeo said after Friday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center. “So it’s a fine line. I do think there’s been times when we’ve been a little hesitant, a little bit careful. And there have been times when we haven’t had that desperation, that urgency not to make that mistake at that time.’’
In a 5-4 overtime loss at Pittsburgh, the Flyers held a 4-2 lead midway through the third period, then gave up a pair of goals in 18 seconds. Can’t happen.
Same thing with the Washington finish.
“That for me is going to be the biggest challenge for us as a coaching staff, to drill that into players’ heads,’’ Yeo said. “Let’s face it, Washington at that point in the game and where we’re at, they probably have more at stake in the game than we do from the standpoint of making the playoffs and how crucial points are.’’
It might be different if the tables were turned.
“Do we make that mistake if we’re battling for a playoff spot, if we’re three, four points out of a playoff spot?’’ asked Yeo. “I don’t think that we do. At the same time, it’s all about building (winning) habits, creating a culture – playing to win. Taking pride in those things.’’
Including his first tour of duty with the Flyers, James van Riemsdyk is one of the longest tenured players on the team. JVR said the players are hearing the message coming down from the coaching staff and it’s loud and clear.
“You don’t want to be on your heels and receiving the game,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “Especially toward the end. You still want to be on your toes, you want to carry the play, take the play to them. Maybe recognition of certain situational stuff where maybe you would lean to be more cautious. But as far as having that attacking mindset and having more offensive zone time, I definitely think that’s a key thing. . .you don’t want to be on your heels when you have a lead like that.’’
>Ristolainen, Brown look to return
Both Rasmus Ristolainen and Patrick Brown plan to be back in the lineup for Monday afternoon’s game against Carolina.
“It stinks to be out and just watching,’’ Ristolainen said. “I’m really excited to be back real soon. I thought the last few games we were really playing well. Obviously, you want to be out there and help the guys out.”
Brown, sidelined by a leg injury, said he only felt discomfort once during the practice, so he’s making headway.
He’s been injured a couple times so it’s been a challenge.
“Obviously I want to stay healthy, I want to play hockey,’’ Brown said. “Philly gave me an opportunity to play in the league I want to play in. It’s awesome but I have to stay healthy and contribute.’’
Brown said he started to feel better on the ice about five days ago. Yeo said he’s looking forward to getting Brown back as a fourth-line center.
“It’s awesome when the coaching staff has confidence in you,’’ Brown said. “I’ve always felt I could contribute in those tough situations. It’s great the coaches have that confidence in me.’’
>Flyers to honor Lou Nolan
The Flyers disclosed on Friday that they will honor public address announcer Lou Nolan on his 50th anniversary with the team during a pre-game ceremony when the Anaheim Ducks visit the Wells Fargo Center on April 9.
>Bunnaman placed on waivers
Just moments after doing well in a shootout drill on Friday, center Connor Bunnaman learned he had been placed on waivers. Bunnaman, 23, was a fourth-round (109th) overall draft pick in 2016. He has played in 54 games for the Flyers with one goal/three points. Teams have until 2 p.m. Saturday to put in a claim for Bunnaman. If not, he returns to the Flyers.
>Farabee making progress
Joel Farabee, out nearly a month with an upper-body injury, took part in limited drills on Friday. Yeo said Farabee will miss at least the next two games but could be back after that.