Home crowds are generally considered a good thing. But when you’ve fixed what ailed you through simplifying things on the road, the local faithful can sometimes act as toxins, inducing a return to the same bad habits that put you in dire straits in the first place.
Beginning tonight against Toronto, the Flyers play the next five games at the Wells Fargo Center, where they own a 4-6-4 record and have lost their last six games, a place that has not always appreciated their efforts toward those outcomes.
“That run we made all the way to the final, the atmosphere we played in were probably the best I’ve played in even in the states,’’ said Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk, who was part of the Flyers team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010.
He also noted that when the Flyers struggled in February of that very season, “they’re going to try and get you going’’ through a more guttural expression.
“It’s an interesting atmosphere,’’ he said with a wry smile.
And, for a team full of players still getting a foothold in the NHL, potentially counter-productive.
“I think when the confidence is not there, you start doubting your play and how you’re doing and which play to make,’’ Claude Giroux said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “When it’s not going the right way and your fans start giving it to you, your confidence goes down. So we’ve got to stay together and stick together out there.’’
That was the medicine during their most recent three-game win streak out west. Several meetings, initiated by the leadership group, repeatedly addressed a mentality of simple plays and maximum effort, seeking the consistency lacking during the 10-game winless streak that preceded the trip west.
The Flyers lost leads late, took undisciplined penalties too often, and missed scoring opportunities while trying to make perfect plays and passes.
As the losses mounted, the patience in the stands grew thin. That adds significance to tonight’s game, especially at the start.
“I think it’s up to the older guys to help calm down in the dressing room,’’ Wayne Simmonds said. “Whatever happens, we can’t control what the fans do. I’ve played an unbelievable game here and we haven’t gotten a shot on the power play and we’ve gotten booed. You’ve got to be thick-skinned, and as leaders, we’ve got to help out the younger guys with that. And allow us to play simple.
“This is my seventh season playing in Philadelphia, and I can’t remember ever having a bad home record. But somehow, we still get booed. It is what it is. You’ve got to go through it. I guess the fans are entitled to their opinion. But as a team, we rely on each other. And we’ve got to count on the guys sitting beside us, not the fans.’’
Radko Gudas returns, but Leafs star Auston Matthews won’t play
Radko Gudas will return to the Flyers lineup Tuesday after serving a 10-game suspension. On the opposite bench,Toronto’s Auston Matthews will miss his second consecutive game since colliding with teammate Morgan Rielly late in the third period of the Leafs’ 4-3 victory over the Penguins on Saturday night.
Matthews also missed four games in November with what was also called an upper-body injury.
Asked about his status, Leafs coach Mike Babcock coyly said, “Day to day is normally 10 days, so we’ll go day to day until he’s ready.’’
Discussion of concussions is frowned upon by the league, but the normal evaluation period is 7-10 days.
When asked about “concussion protocol’’ as it pertained to Matthews’ injury, Babcock said, “I don’t know exactly what happened there, but I didn’t know he had a concussion.”