During the 2012 stretch run and playoffs, a pattern developed for the Philadelphia Flyers. This script should sound familiar:
-Flyers come out looking slow and rattled in the first period.
-The opponent scores 2-3 goals and takes what looks to be a commanding lead.
-Peter Laviolette calls a timeout.
-Lavy is irate. He yells at his team using language not appropriate for TV.
-The Flyers storm back.
Sometimes they took the lead by the time the third period started and other times they waited until overtime to win the game. Ultimately, they had the confidence that they could beat anyone in the NHL.
Throughout the 2013 lockout shortened season, the first two steps continued to happen. The Flyers would come out slow and be in a hole early. However, instead of storming back, the Flyers would fold like a cheap suit. When Laviolette did call a timeout, it seemed to have no effect on the players. What ensued was a rough season that saw the Flyers miss the playoffs. During October and some of November, this current Flyers team had more in common with the 2013 squad. If the opponent scored first, you could bet that the Flyers would lose the game.
However, the Flyers are starting to show flashes of that 2012 run. They came from behind in four of their five road trip wins. They were down 2-0 early to the Edmonton Oilers who they defeated in a shootout. The Vancouver Canucks held leads of 2-1 and 3-2 over the Flyers, who came back to tie the game and win via shootout. On Saturday in Phoenix, they found themselves down by two goals twice (2-0, 3-1) and stormed back in the third period to win 5-3. Finally, in last night’s show down against the division rival Devils, the Flyers were down by a goal for over 40 minutes of play before they finally broke through and scored two goals and an overtime winner.
The games on the most recent road trip are not the only games in which the Flyers have rallied to win. On December 4th against the Detroit Red Wings, the Flyers scored four third period goals to win 6-3. In the first game of a home and home series against the Columbus Blue Jackets (December 19) the Flyers scored five third period goals, including two by Claude Giroux with under four minutes to play. These are two examples of what has occurred many times.
There are a few key reasons for this surge in resiliency:
1.) Trust in Chief – Much has been made of the fact that Craig Berube was not an outside hire. He has been in the Flyers organization for a while and was an assistant coach for about seven years before being given the reigns. One of the positives of bringing in Berube has been the trust that the players have in him. Despite being an assistant coach under Peter Laviolette (among others), Berube’s system is different from that which Lavy implemented. The Flyers are more defensively responsible and routinely keep a third forward high in the offensive zone. Berube’s preaching of discipline has led to greater patience and a willingness to grind down their opponent until the Flyers are given an opportunity to pounce.
2.) Fulfilled Roles – The core of this team is the same of that in 2012. Giroux, Hartnell, BSchenn, Simmonds, Voracek, Timonen, and Coburn (just to name a few) were instrumental in the comebacks of the aforementioned stretch run. Early in the Flyers season, no player was fulfilling his expected role. However, lately that has changed. Giroux is playing like the all-world talent that he is and leading in all facets of the game. Hartnell and Simmonds are crashing, banging, and wreaking havoc on the opponents defensemen/goalies. Voracek has picked up his scoring pace, while Timonen and Coburn are continuing to be steady on the blue line. Other players are beginning to tap into what has been expected of them as well. Brayden Schenn and Season Couturier have shown flashes of their potential. Mark Streit is chipping in offensively and is no longer afraid to fire his howitzer from the point. For once, the Flyers have a goaltending duo that they can be confident in during close games. The fact that each player is fulfilling his role gives the team confidence that they can win any game.
3.) Flyers Swagger – The Philadelphia Flyers have always played with an edge. They are well-known for the years when they routinely went over the edge, but even recently they are known for being physical and feisty. Last year, they were neither. Giroux and Voracek did what they could offensively after slow starts, but in general, the rest of the team was a bust. Hartnell was non existent, Schenn and Couturier did not live up to (inflated) expectations, and the goaltending was average. the defense was slow (it still is, but it has improved) and did not drive the play up the ice. This year, however, they are playing with confidence. The Flyers have their swagger back and are playing with an edge. As cliche as it sounds, the players believe in one another and have each others back. Last night Brayden Schenn said it this way, “It’s confidence. You know I said it before, believing in one another, believing in each other and trusting the system.”
If this team can continuing their winning ways, Philadelphia Flyers fans could be in for a satisfying season.