Tortorella stresses consistency as season hits homestretch

John Tortorella.
      PHILADELPHIA – Even though the Flyers manhandled the 65-point Winnipeg Jets for the first 22 minutes of a 4-1 win the other night, it was the last 38 minutes which really bothered coach John Tortorella.

      What irked the bench boss was the way the Flyers sort of sat on their laurels and got away from their normal aggressive style.

      Even some players after the game admitted it wasn’t their finest effort.

      Tortorella disclosed at Saturday morning’s optional skate at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. that he has not said one word or shown one video clip of the game to his players.

      The message would seem to be: You should know better.

      “We trust them,” Tortorella said. “We know how they felt even during the game. They were trying to get themselves out of it but they didn’t. And sometimes when it snowballs you don’t.

      “So we moved right by it. Once you get to the second half of the year, I think the team knows who they are and knows what they can do. So when they put together a good number of games here and know how to play the right way, it’s their responsibility to do it all the time.”

      In other words, if the players haven’t gotten what the coach is striving for by now, they’re probably not going to get it at all.

      “These last 30 games here, it’s not re-teaching who we are. . .we know how to play,” Tortorella said. “It’s are we able to do it each and every night and within that individual game that night?”

      The coach has been stressing that concept of consistency almost from day one. The Flyers certainly haven’t been that of late, winning five straight, then losing five straight, then winning two games against contenders Florida and Winnipeg.

      “The key for us now in the last stretch of games is trying to be as consistent as possible,” he said. “All that is is the concentration level. So hopefully we’ll get it done.”

      With only 30 games left on the schedule, the Flyers are officially in the homestretch of their season. Every game feels like it means a little bit more. Plus, they only play one more game outside the Eastern time zone, so they’re going to be playing head-to-head against some of the teams they’re battling with for a spot in postseason play.

      “You don’t play perfect games, you just try to be as consistent as possible,” Tortorella said. “If we’re not, then there will be some struggles.”

      The coach wants these ideas to sink in so he’s not constantly making speeches in the locker room.

      “You have to give them opportunities,” he said. “And not be in there holding their hands all the time. We’ve slowly grown as a locker room. And I feel very comfortable with it. But now we’re in a situation that we put ourselves where we’re still fighting here. Now I want to see how guys react.”

      >Zamula sits

      Tortorella chose to give defenseman Egor Zamula the night off. The coach went back to a conventional 12-forward/six-defensemen alignment, the first time he’s done that in a while.

      “He (Zamula) has leveled off five-on-five,” Tortorella said. “I want him to watch a game.”

      Rasmus Ristolainen, who missed the Winnipeg game due to illness, was scheduled to rejoin the lineup.

      Also, Nick Deslauriers was ticketed to go back into action after serving as a healthy scratch the past two games.

      “I just want him to play hard and finish his checks,” Tortorella said.

      Tortorella reported forward Olle Lycksell, who was called up from the Phantoms when Bobby Brink was sent back to the Lehigh Valley club, remains on the illness list and was out of the lineup.

      >Atkinson slumping again

      After breaking out of a 26-game goal-less drought with five goals and five assists in a six-game span, he entered Saturday night’s game without a point in his last four games.

      Tortorella hasn’t benched Atkinson the way he did back on Jan. 4 (against his old team, Columbus, no less) but he did limit his ice time to just 10:31 (including a third-period sitdown), well below his season average of 17:09.

      Atkinson also entered Saturday night’s game with a team-worst minus-16 on his performance chart.

      When asked what Atkinson has to do better to get back in the coach’s good graces, Tortorella provided a snappy: “I can’t play for him. He has to.”

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About Wayne Fish 2444 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.