Perhaps because his captain, Claude Giroux, said the Flyers looked tired in their 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday, coach Craig Berube gave his team an unscheduled day off on Thursday.
No practice. No work in the weight room. No need to get up early.
Berube wanted his team to get some rest after the Flyers appeared oddly lethargic in the last two periods of such an important game Wednesday. They were outworked along the boards, second to most pucks, and rarely had traffic in front of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
After the loss, Giroux hinted that the Flyers were drained from their recent five-game winning streak, mostly against NHL heavyweights. Giroux said the Flyers looked as if they “didn’t have any energy” and he used the word “tired” to describe their play.
“Let’s be honest. We played a lot of good teams lately and we had some big wins and worked hard,” he said. “There’s a lot of games and not a lot of nights (off) here, and coming up we have to make sure we get some rest, and the next two games at home are going to be huge.”
On Friday, the Flyers host James van Riemsdyk (career-high 28 goals) and a desperate Toronto team that has lost six straight. They then face two league heavyweights: hosting Boston on Sunday afternoon and playing at St. Louis on Tuesday.
The Flyers are 5-2 while in the midst of a grueling stretch in which they play their final 17 games in 30 days.
Wednesday’s defeat _ their eighth straight in Madison Square Garden since 2011 _ pushed the Flyers three points behind the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division.
“We got away from what was making us successful,” goalie Steve Mason said after the Flyers’ second consecutive loss. “You look at the intensity we brought in games against Pittsburgh, it wasn’t there. These are huge games for us, and for us to not to come out with our best effort…We have to be better.”
The Flyers need to play with more emotion, more “jam” as their former coach used to say, if they are going to get back on track.
In short, the Rangers _ who got two of their three goals from fourth-line players _ were the hungrier team Wednesday.
The Flyers “have a couple games in hand (on New York), so we knew, for us, this was a real important game before we leave for this four-game road trip,” Rangers coach Alain(CQ) Vigneault said.
As for the Leafs, they are playing so poorly that fans started a “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” chant midway through their last game, a 5-3 home loss to St. Louis that knocked them out of a playoff spot for the first time since Jan. 14. Afterward, Toronto coach Randy Carlyle told reporters “It’s like we were frozen for 30 minutes of the hockey game. We didn’t pick up the puck and skate with it at all. And that’s showing signs of being nervous, tense, (lacking) confidence, not wanting to make a mistake.”
The Flyers are 0-1-1 against Toronto, dropping a 3-1 decision on opening night, and losing in overtime, 4-3, on March 8.
Breakaways. Berube said he expects Kimmo Timonen to play Friday; he briefly left Wednesday’s game after blocking a shot with his left foot…..In the last nine games, the Flyers have successfully killed 32 of 33 penalties.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.