Monday, April 13, 2009

Promptly Excused In Five

After the Flyers’ dropped a depressing game to end their regular season on the most blah note possible, I browsed through this post from last year and was struck how the Flyers really failed to address any of their deficiencies from last year. They are still a very good offense, predicated on depth of scoring, coupled with an inability to skate sixty minutes of NHL quality defensemen and a less than mediocre goaltender.

These were their exact flaws last year- and facing the same team as last year: Pittsburgh, albeit earlier in the tournament. Consequently, I expect the Flyers to again be excused promptly in about five games.

Until they ran into Pittsburgh, last years’ draw was fortuitous- a team they could push around (Washington) and a team that imploded in goal (Montreal). But this is a terrible draw for them. While not by much, Pittsburgh is better in goal. The Penguins actually get offense from the blue line. And they have good scoring depth upfront: Jordan Staal is the thrid best center?! And of course, two of the three best players in the world: Crosby and Malkin- while Richards, the Flyers’ captain, looks tired or hurt. The Penguins have lost three times in regulation in their last 25 efforts- very hard to imagine them losing four times in seven tries to Biron.

Am I the only one who has had it with coach John Stevens? This blog, and the preceding ‘zine, has been in existence since 2002. During that span, I have never called for the head of a single Philadelphia or Tulane coach. But I’m about the aforementioned five games from changing that stance.

The Flyers finished a mere four points ahead of both Montreal and New York- a pair of clubs mocked all season for soft play, poor play and featured coaches that were terminated. So excuse me for wondering if the Flyers might need to make a move behind the bench too.

I mean, they had poor play (their horrendous start). They had soft play (say, the last three games).

I realize it is a long season- and I’m not arguing for a true pedal to the medal approach in November. But in a capped League, five points is the difference between a scary road series with Pittsburgh or home ice versus a shaky Montreal-style outfit. And, unlike say the Phillies or Eagles, the Flyers have stretches where they don’t play well or tough. A big part of coaching in a capped League is generating the “play every night” mentality- and Stevens failed at that categorically this season.

My problem with him started in last year's play-offs. He fundamentally doesn’t coach a game to his rosters’ strength. The Flyers can’t be a team that sits on leads- the defense and the goalie aren’t consistent enough to corral and pitch the puck out for twenty minutes up one goal. Yet he tries to coach a “normal” game, rather than try to win 5-4 every night. How on earth are the Flyers’ going to protect leads against Pittsburgh? It is impossible with this crew. Look at last year, they blew umpteen two goal leads in the play-offs. So coach to try and score the fourth, fifth, sixth goal.

He won’t. The Flyers will be out in five games- including blowing two third period leads.