Flyers' Lack of Effort Must Change If They're Going to Reach 2013 NHL Playoffs

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Flyers' Lack of Effort Must Change If They're Going to Reach 2013 NHL Playoffs
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers played one of their worst games of the season on Saturday afternoon in Boston, where they were defeated 3-0 by the rival Bruins.

The loss was the Flyers' third in a row and dropped them to 11-14-1.

After a sluggish start to the game in which the two teams combined for just one shot through the first seven minutes of the first period, the Bruins struck for three quick goals in a three-minute span to take a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

Instead of playing the final two periods with the normal intensity and desperation expected from a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Flyers played with an embarrassing level of effort over the final 40 minutes of the contest.

"Like I said, it’s one goal, and shoulders start to sag, heads are down," said Flyers forward Scott Hartnell after the game.

"Instead of being positive, we’ve come back numerous times, it’s just the way the guys responded from that first goal was a little disheartening. Me, right through Gee [Claude Giroux], right through Bryz [Ilya Bryzgalov], everybody. It was frustrating to see, and it’s got to change.

"We’ve been talking about it almost the whole year, about passion and all that kind of stuff. It’s about time that we start playing with it."

From the start of the second period, you kept waiting for the Flyers to make a run and climb their way back into the game with a goal or a couple of strong shifts. None of these happened, and the team's record when trailing after the first period fell to 0-9.

"After 1-0 we stopped competing," said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. "Up until that point, 10 minutes into the game, guys were playing hard; there wasn’t a lot of room out there either way.

"They scored a goal and we never recovered, we never responded to it. We were looking for a response from last game and that wasn’t the response we were looking for."

There were a number of defensive breakdowns from the Flyers that led to Boston goals on Saturday (video below), and most of them would have been avoided with a little more effort and focus.

On the Bruins' first goal, Tyler Seguin was all alone to the right of Ilya Bryzgalov and was able to fire at an open net without being bothered by an opponent after receiving a nice pass from Milan Lucic. Andrej Meszaros, who was playing in his first game since January 24, failed to properly defend Lucic and Seguin.

Boston's second goal happened because Braydon Coburn was unable to stop recent AHL call-up Jordan Caron from sending a pass out in front of the net, where a wide-open Chris Kelly fired the puck past Bryzgalov from about 10 feet out. There's no reason for Kelly to have that much space and time in front of goal.

The Bruins' third goal was a terrible sequence for the Flyers. Sean Couturier turned the puck over at the blue line, and Boston's fourth line just took over as Gregory Campbell found Daniel Paille skating toward the net by himself. After losing possession of the puck, Couturier and Luke Schenn did a poor job of retreating back into their own zone and were unable to defend Paille.

Throughout the entire game, the Bruins gained easy entry into the Flyers' zone and didn't lose many puck battles in the corners and along the side boards. The normal grit, toughness and truculence you expect from the Flyers when they play the Bruins was nonexistent.

There were too many instances where the Bruins had way too much time and space on the puck to create scoring chances, which is why they outshot the Flyers 28-23. Philly also failed to play defense in front of the net. Bruins forwards were setting up in front of Bryzgalov all game, and nobody was pushing them out of that area.

USA TODAY Sports

When a team fails to play with any sort of toughness and intensity against a rival like the Bruins, who are also one of the most physical teams in the league, there are some serious problems that need to be addressed.

The level of effort the Flyers showed on Saturday is unacceptable for a veteran team that understands how hard you have to work to win games against good teams like Boston. After blowing a 4-1 lead to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, you would have expected the Flyers to enter TD Garden as an angry squad looking to make a statement to arguably the best team in the East.

Instead, the Flyers played with no energy or passion and basically gave up after letting the Bruins take a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. Lacking effort has been a major problem for the Flyers this season, and if this continues, they will not be able to beat the conference's best teams.

For the Flyers to make the postseason, they will likely have to win 15 or 16 of their final 22 games. Philadelphia currently sits in 11th place in the East standings with 23 points, and even though the team is only three points from a playoff spot, many teams in the conference have two or three games in hand.

Earning a playoff spot isn't an impossible challenge for the Flyers, and they do have the talent and experience needed to make a late-season run, but there isn't much time left for them to turn their season around.

Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the team's schedule doesn't get easier. Fourteen of the Flyers' final 22 games are against teams currently in a playoff spot in the East.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Before speaking to reporters after the game, the Flyers held a team meeting, but details on what was said were not given up. "I don’t know. I can’t tell you. It’s a secret," Bryzgalov said.

Regardless of what was said behind closed doors, the Flyers won't have to wait much longer to respond to their critics and prove to themselves that they are capable of battling through adversity and earning a playoff spot.

Philadelphia will host Buffalo in a Sunday night game against the Sabres, who are also trying to avoid falling out of the playoff race.

"We will see how we respond tomorrow," said Flyers forward Daniel Briere. "That’s the big thing. We all know that we are not happy with where we are.

"It would be really easy to just come out and point fingers and kind of quit at this point, and I really believe that nobody is going to do that. We are going to keep working hard and find a way out of this mess."

The best way to get out of the "mess" that the Flyers have created for themselves is to raise their compete level and play like a team that cannot afford to lose.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston. All quotes obtained firsthand or from Bruins media website.

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