Flyers know what went wrong but couldn’t correct it

John Tortorella

      NEW YORK – While the Flyers’ season wasn’t officially over prior to Thursday night action, analysis had already begun about what went wrong with Philadelphia down the stretch and the season in general.

      Heading into Thursday night’s game against the Rangers, the Flyers had gone winless (0-6-2) in their last eight games and positioned themselves to miss the postseason for a fourth straight season.

      Few saw this disappointing finish to the season coming. The Flyers had survived a stretch of seven straight games against playoff-bound teams with a 2-3-2 mark and were looking forward to playing a much easier schedule.

      It was anything but that.

      During the morning pre-game skate at Madison Square Garden, coach John Tortorella offered several observations about the recent bumpy road.

      One reason for the struggles might have to do with a lack of teamwork and not playing as a cohesive unit.

      “I think certain individuals have hurt their game because they are trying to do too much,” Tortorella said. “They try to take too much on. I can see it happening through our lineup.

      “That’s what happens. You find out how guys handle certain situations. I think we have to have a calm intensity about ourselves. Structure is so important now because we’ve lost it.”

      The Flyers can’t blame injuries for their recent nosedive. They’ve had a pretty healthy lineup since the return of defensemen Nick Seeler and Jamie Drysdale.

      But even with a full slate of players, the Flyers haven’t been effective, especially in recent losses to Buffalo, Columbus and an embarrassing 9-3 bombing in Montreal.

      “I think we could have won some other games,” Tortorella said. “I thought our structure was really good. I think we were the better team in some of the games we lost. But these last two games, where we lost ourselves completely with structure, we need to get back to that here tonight to give ourselves a chance.”

      Over the last six games the Flyers have been outscored, 32-12.

      What’s particularly frustrating is the Flyers held onto a playoff position for 124 straight days before the nosedive. That has to weigh on the coaching staff.

      “I want them to succeed,” Tortorella said. “I want them to get back in the win column to make this interesting. I’m frustrated for them.

      “After the seven games (against contenders) which we thought was going to be the really hard part, we just haven’t been consistent. I worry about my message to them. That’s been a concern of mine for a couple weeks now.”

      A rotating cast of characters on defense and some questionable goaltending haven’t helped matters.

      “We’ve had struggles in goal,” the coach said. “People try to overcompensate sometimes. That takes you out of position. It just changes the whole dynamic. We need to be more cohesive. I don’t think we’ve played well in front of the goalies (Sam Ersson, Ivan Fedotov, Felix Sandstrom and Cal Petersen since Carter Hart’s exit) the past couple games.

      “It just kind of turns things upside down. We have to figure that out. We’re a smart enough team and that’s my job, to try to calm this down into structure with intensity.”

      It was a rough one for the Seeler-Drysdale pairing in Montreal. Drysdale was a minus-6 and Seeler a minus-5. Even if you don’t put a lot of value in plus-minus stats, those are some staggering numbers.

      “I’ve never been a big plus-minus stat guy because there are so many things happen when things go in the net,” Tortorella said. “We have concerns there.”

      The coach said success on the Flyers’ defense starts with the top pair of Travis Sanheim and Cam York.

      “They have to lead the way,” Tortorella said. “And I don’t think they led the way the other night (in Montreal). We need that top pair. We’re out of time. This is it. Tonight we can extend it or we’re pretty much done. I just want to see who can step up and lead the way.”

      Cam Atkinson has been through these situations before and basically said it comes down to keeping an even keel. Especially against the high-powered Rangers.

      “I just think we have to stick together in this locker room,” he said. “We’ve done it all year. I’m sure we can play with any team on any given night.

      “It’s been an unfortunate stretch but we have to stick together.”

      When a team is pressing, it’s pretty hard to execute properly.

      “Sometimes when you grip the stick a little tighter, you think you’re trying hard,” Atkinson said. “But then a lot less stuff happens. You don’t get those bounces to go your way.”

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About Wayne Fish 2437 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.