Philadelphia Flyers Trying to Find Identity, Making Changes For Stretch Run

Chris DiFrancescoAnalyst IMarch 19, 2009

The Flyers have 13 games remaining on their schedule before the NHL playoffs get underway. If there is an issue with the Philadelphia Flyers right now, it would be that they have no identity.

What I mean by this is that Coach John Stevens is changing his lines every game, as in throwing Briere between the third and fourth lines or not starting Marty Biron against the Rangers last Sunday in Madison Square Garden.  

Today, at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, NJ, Stevens mixed and matched every line except for the fourth line. These lines are as close to terrible as they can get with games remaining to the second season of the NHL.

The first line consisted of Lupul, Richards, and Carcillo. Carcillo?

Second line included Briere, Carter, and Hartnell. Briere with Carter and Hartnell? Why does Stevens continue to mess with his most consistent line of Hartnell, Carter, and Lupul?

The third line was the most interesting of the bunch: Simon Gagne, Giroux, and Knuble. At this point of the regular season, every remaining game could mean whether or not the Flyers have home-ice advantage for the first round. Giroux centering Gagne and Knuble doesn't necessarily fit into the consistent winning scheme that is needed here.

Flyers captain Mike Richards jokingly compared the switch to college baseketball's tournament bracket in a recent article.

"He (Stevens) probably did it this morning when he was filling in his brackets, just filling in the blanks," Richards said after practice. "I don't mind switching things seems like it works right away if you just stick with it. Sometimes too much chemistry can be your penalty, so maybe this allows them to play the chess game.

"Just look at it as trying to solve the issue with scoring 5-on-5."

Richards added that he is excited to play with Lupul due to the success they had together last season.

Stevens said he doesn't know much about basketball, so he spent most of time juggling the lines.

"This is just a matter of balancing the lines. After the Detroit game, I thought we weren't aggressive enough, and we have to spend more time in the offensive zone," Stevens said regarding the switch. "Sometimes you make makes you focus more, communicate more, so as a team you know what the plan is."

Most of the players weren't ready to say that today's sudden change of lines is comparable to last season's locker switch. They are, however, saying that this a message being sent and that the team should react to it before things go to a higher degree.

Stevens said that Marty Biron will get the start, shockingly, tomorrow in Buffalo.