Stevens steaming at listless Flyers

    DENVER _ The Flyers should be grateful that the city has turned its attention toward the World Series-bound Phillies.

     The Phillies' surge has taken the spotlight from a Flyers team that played its most listless game of the season tonight, dropping a 5-2 decision to Colorado _ which had been 0-3 _ and raising the ire of normally mild-mannered coach John Stevens.

    After the game, Stevens met with captain Mike Richards and alternates Kimmo Timonen and Simon Gagne and voiced his displeasure with the club. He will meet with many other players Friday in San Jose. They will not be touchy-feely conversations.

 “There’s no secret, we got outworked,” Stevens said. “When you do all the little things so poorly, we ended up being a very easy team to play against and they took advantage of it. They’re a desperate team; they hadn’t won a game yet, either. And they come out and get every loose puck, every board battle, every puck recovery. It was lopsided tonight and you can’t win a hockey game like that. Period.”

   The Flyers are now 0-3-1, matching the worst four-game start in their history. And they play talented San Jose Saturday.

    In tonight's game, the Flyers were outshot, 34-18, and they won just 20 of 50 faceoffs (40 percent). The Flyers were guilty of 12 of the 20 penalties called, and they allowed three goals in 11 shorthanded situations. The Flyers were 1 for 7 on the power play and are just 3 for 26 on the season.

    And, remember, the Flyers have most of the core players back from the team that reached the conference final last season _ plus a healthy Gagne.

     If you saw this poor start coming, you're in the minority.

     Richards plans to talk with his teammates Friday. He said he has to play better and set a better example. Richards (three goals), however, hasn't been the problem. Neither has Simon Gagne (four goals, including tonight's penalty shot). They have scored seven of the team's 10 goals.

   The rest of the offense needs to wake up. Quickly.

   And while the Flyers' top line (Richards, Gagne and Danny Briere) has been very solid, one wonders if Stevens will shift Richards to the second line and bump center Jeff Carter to the third line. That might give the club three effective lines _ two more than they've had in the first four games.

_ Sam Carchidi