Simmons: All but over for Philly

The Flyers head back to Philadelphia needing three straight wins despite the fine efforts of Ilya...

The Flyers head back to Philadelphia needing three straight wins despite the fine efforts of Ilya Bryzgalov throughout this second round series. (GETTY)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

NEWARK, N.J. - It is over for the Philadelphia Flyers.

You can see it their eyes, hear it in their words. They are confused, emotional, downtrodden and frustrated.

“I made a couple of soft plays,” said an almost expressionless Scott Hartnell. “If you look around the room, everyone was doing it. That’s losing hockey. It’s almost embarrassing hockey. It’s not Flyers hockey, that’s for sure.

“It’s not a joke in here. It’s not funny. It’s shocking to us, too, the way we’re playing.”

It is shocking to the Flyers how with complete command and a seemingly perfect gameplan the New Jersey Devils now own this Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.

“The way we’re playing,” said Hartnell, “we’re not going to win any games.”

They have won one game in a series in which they were favoured to win. In fact, if you had taken stock of the East after the first round of the playoffs, the Flyers would have been a consensus pick as the best team in the conference. But in a few days, exposed by the Devils big, forechecking forwards, playing a seemingly unstoppable cycle game, they instead appear ready for summer vacation.

It has turned around that quickly in the East. Whatever confidence came from the impressive victory over Pittsburgh has transferred to head shaking and a whole lot of I don’t knows.

“I want to figure out what’s going on,” said Kimmo Timonen, normally the Flyers most dependable defenceman. “It looks like we’re really out of sync. Our skating is not there. I want to find out why we’re not able to do that. When we skate, we’re a pretty good team. When we don’t, well, you saw that.

“It looks like they were on us all the time. There’s no time (for us). We have to figure out how to break that up. We have a lot of work to do tomorrow. That’s why the off-day is so important. If we can’t better (Tuesday), the seasons over.”

But turning to each other hasn’t worked for the Flyers. That’s why they must turn to coach Peter Laviolette for some kind of change of pace.

They didn’t need it opening round against Pittsburgh. They didn’t need anything this dramatic in their Stanley Cup run against Chicago in 2010. They need something to believe in now -- fast.

The Flyers actually led 2-0 after a power play goal and a shorthanded goal Sunday night, but even then they were being outplayed everywhere but on the scoreboard to that point in the first period. The 4-2 final was as much compliment to the Flyers as it was indicative of the play.

They were outshot 43-22, and the score might have been 7-2 had it not been for the stellar play of the polarizing comedian-goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov.

Of all that seems off in this series, the Flyers have assaulted conventional hockey wisdom. They won when Bryzgalov played so-so hockey, but lost when he played well in Games 3 and 4. The team with the better goaltending is losing this series and the Flyers are missing an opportunity to take advantage of a seemingly jumpy 40-year-old Martin Brodeur.

And those who have watched the Devils all season long say the Devils of this series -- much like Los Angeles Kings in the West -- don’t look anything like that team at all. Which has baffled the Flyers, who need something to believe in now. That something has to come from Laviolette.

This series has been all about styles -- the boxing expression being styles make fights -- and the Flyers have had no response of any kind to the Devils strong forecheck and cycle game. If time of possession numbers were kept in hockey, they would be more one-sided than the shots on goal.

Normally, when an NHL game resembles men against boys, it is the Flyers in the more mature role.

“The whole game, they’re all over us,” said Claude Giroux, the Flyers captain, who lost his cool in Game 4. “Our whole season has been about outworking teams. Now it’s the other way around. I don’t know what to tell you.

“The way we’re playing, we’re not going to win any games. It’s not the effort. Everybody’s working, but we’re working wrong.”

“I wish I had an easy answer for you," said the usual playoff hero, Daniel Briere.

He has no answer.

The Flyers, as a team, are out of answers.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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