Philadelphia Flyers: Peter Laviolette Changes the Fate of the Flyers

Nelson SantosCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2011

BUFFALO, NY - APRIL 20:  Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Philadelphia Flyers argues a penalty call with referee Francois St. Laurent #38 aginst the Buffalo Sabres  in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HSBC Arena at HSBC Arena on April 20, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Heading into last night's home matchup against the red-hot, undefeated and always troublesome Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette made an error I didn't think coaches with over 300 wins in the NHL typically make.

The Flyers, who were 4-0-1 heading into last night's game, decided to call up Brayden Schenn from their AHL affiliate Adirondack Phantoms and demoted Harry Zolnierczyk and Zac Rinaldo, both of whom had come off the previous night registering their first career NHL points.

It's quite evident that Paul Holmgren and company have been waiting and wanting to give Brayden Schenn every opportunity to shine and contribute to the Flyers organization. He was the big price coming over from the Los Angeles Kings in the Mike Richards deal.

Schenn also earned a call-up by registering six points in two AHL games. But that's where the correct aspects of the call-up stop making sense.

Peter Laviolette changed three of his four forward units, only leaving Jagr-Giroux-van Riemsdyk together for a fifth consecutive game. Obviously Laviolette has never heard the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Up until last night, the Flyers were getting some balanced scoring throughout their lineup and, more importantly, seemed to be forming a chemistry as four individual units of three. With all the changes made to this team in the summer, chemistry was a huge factor in whether or not the Flyers would be a force in the Eastern Conference.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 20: Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers is knocked down on the faceoff by Marcus Johansson #90 of the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center on October 20, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Capitals defeat
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Maybe the most pleasant surprise of the early season was that Philly's third unit, which consisted of two rookies, was playing terrifically, adding bonus scoring and generally out-working the opposition.

The line of Hartnell-Couturier-Read was arguably the most consistent of the Flyers' first four games this season. However Laviolette decided he would hand Schenn the third centre slot between Hartnell and Jakub Voracek.

Not only did Schenn not lead the way for any offensively-threatening shifts throughout the game, he was a minus-3 on the night. Hartnell had maybe his worst game ever as a Flyer, highlighted by a horrendous turnover that led to Washington's opening goal.

Although the Flyers had a 1-0 lead and until the last couple of minutes of the first period were evenly matched with the Capitals, their attack looked far more disjointed than it had in previous games.

The one positive of losing last night is that Laviolette and staff will have to go back to the drawing board to reconfigure the lines. Hopefully he will put them back to the way they were through the first four games of the season.

Brayden Schenn is still very young, and this team doesn't need him to be a scoring force right now with the depth of talent they possess. I'd like to see Schenn centre the fourth line for at least a handful of games. Along with Max Talbot and Andreas Nodl, it would make for a formidable fourth unit and would add to the depth the Flyers can boast for this season.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 20: Dennis Wideman #6 of the Washington Capitals checks Matt Read #24 of the Philadelphia Flyers into the glass during the second period at the Wells Fargo Center on October 20, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bru
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Overall, last night's game was a forgettable one for the Flyers. They were on the wrong end of some bad bounces and deflections that all seemed to end up behind a bewildered Ilya Bryzgalov. It's the type of game a team needs to be able to shake off and move on.

One concern Laviolette should have through this handful of games is the amount of bad penalties the Flyers have taken. Danny Briere has taken what seems like one stick infraction penalty per game, always in the offensive zone.

Penalties will continue to be a huge issue for the Flyers, as they will limit Claude Giroux's offensive ice time, and with a 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr, you don't want him sitting on the bench instead of being out there at even strength or on the power play.

Matt Read continues to impress. He appears to be one of these players that makes something happen every shift. It's looking like the Flyers have found a really good one in Read. That being said, I don't think he and Briere are a good combination—they both appear to like to create offensive from the same areas in the offensive zone. Many times last night they were both caught only a few feet apart from each other, making it very easy for Washington to defend.

After five games the positives still outweigh the negatives, and hopefully the Flyers can get back on the winning track when they host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.


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