The Flyers are as tough and gritty as any team in the NHL Playoffs. They own the most potent power play. They can score with anyone. They boast the postseason’s current MVP in Claude Giroux. Still, the Flyers have one major flaw…
They lack Urgency.
Great teams don’t take nights off. The Flyers have already called out of three contests this postseason. It’s become painfully obvious the Flyers need a reason to play at their very best, because “winning” apparently isn’t cutting it.
Against the Penguins in Round 1, the Flyers had years of hatred and disdain pushing them to greatness. Watching 90% of the “experts” pick the Penguins to dispose of the Flyers and reach the Stanley Cup Finals certainly helped, too. On top of that, the Flyers (and their fans) sincerely despise Sidney Crosby. The opportunity to send the Penguins home early from the playoffs was all the motivation the Flyers needed to elevate their game.
Then, after the Flyers had pummeled the Penguins into submission and grabbed a 3-0 series lead, the Flyers lost interest. They had proved they were the better team. The Penguins were groveling for mercy. The Flyers needed a new challenge. What the Flyers forgot, though, is you can’t take days off in the playoffs. As a result of the Flyers lack of urgency, the Penguins battled back to force a critical Game 6 in Philadelphia. The stakes were raised again. The Flyers had a reason to play. Urgency returned and the Flyers crushed the Penguins.
Fast-forward to Sunday’s victory against the Devils in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It was obvious the Flyers were missing the same urgency they showed in Game 6 against Pittsburgh. The Devils came out sharp, controlled the puck and took a 1-0 lead into the 1st intermission. Again, the Flyers found themselves up against the wall. Urgency returned, the Flyers battled aggressively for the next 40 minutes of regulation before dominating overtime and getting the victory on Danny Briere’s rocket from just inside the blue line.
In Game 2, the Flyers maintained that same intensity and urgency that won them Game 1 and jumped out to a 1-0 lead. The Flyers had control, the Devils looked overmatched. Urgency was now gone. Thus, the Flyers mustered only two shots in the second period and blew a 1-0 3rd period lead by surrendering three goals in the first 15 minutes of the final period. Only then did the Flyers ratchet up their level of play. Only then did the urgency that flustered the Pittsburgh Penguins… that won the Flyers Game 1… that handed the Flyers an early 1-0 lead in Game 2… return. But by then it was too late. An empty net goal sealed Philadelphia’s fate before their inspired play could produce results.
Teams that survive the NHL Playoffs and hoist the Stanley Cup in early June are rarely the most talented team in the tournament. The Stanley Cup Champion is the team that wanted it most, the team that played every second of every minute of every game of every series as if it were overtime of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Playing with a sense of urgency on a nightly basis doesn’t always equal winning. It’s about desire, effort, and intensity.
Right now, the New York Rangers play with that intensity. The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards play with that intensity. The Phoenix Coyotes play with that intensity. Even Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals have played with that intensity throughout the playoffs. The Flyers have not, and until they maintain the necessary level of urgency to be the last team standing, they’ll continue to be a fun team to watch and a nice story, but not Stanley Cup champions.