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Laviolette So Far Losing The Coaching Battle

04/23/11
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I understand that the series isn’t over, and that there still is time for some random brilliance to come from the guy I refer to as Lavio-toilette, but so far it hasn’t looked good.  Where to begin?

  • Playing goaltender whack-a-mole to the point where you can make a case for any of their guys to start and there would be at least some weight behind your argument.  How bad do these guys have to feel in the locker room knowing that there probably isn’t anyone in the entire organization that has complete faith in any of them?
  • Screwing up Sergei Bobrovski to the point where he had a mental breakdown.  Look, Laviolette should know how to handle a rookie goaltender, it worked out alright with Cam Ward several years ago, but maybe he’s lost that skill.  Or maybe when you go to Philly anything that even has the slightest relation to goaltending goes down the tubes.  According to one of the posters on the Flyers’ slice of HF Boards (whose info comes from the Flyers beat bloggers/writers), Bobrovski had “a serious breakdown,” was “despondent after game one and allegedly has been a zombie after getting pulled in game two.”  I understand that some players have a stronger mental makeup than others, but some of that has to fall on the captaincy and the coaching.
  • Completely losing his (expletive) on a stall door after game four.  Somehow the Sabres are looking like the team with the calmer makeup and are acting more like they’ve “been there before,” stoicly reiterating that it will be a long series and that losing only makes them want to play harder.  Meanwhile the Flyers are whining about everything under the sun.  Officiating, bounces, fights, hits, you name it.  That starts at the top and it trickles down.  Which team went on a long run last year?  Which coach has a Stanley Cup ring?
  • Calling up a goon that is too small to be effective in 5’11”, 169 pound Zac Rinaldo.  As we’ve seen, a lack of size in the NHL is okay…as long as you’ve got some skill to go with it, and from what YouTube tells me, Rinaldo’s most finely-tuned skill is getting punched in the face repeatedly by players that can throw him around like a rag doll.  The move makes even less sense when you realize that outside of Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis, the Sabres are actually a pretty big team.  Name a small forward after those two that saw icetime in game five.  Tim Connolly is 6’1″ and 190 pounds.  Jason Pominville is 6’0″ and 185 pounds.  After that everyone else is over six feet tall and over two hundred pounds.  Hell, at 178 pounds, even Gerbe is bigger than Rinaldo.  I’ll put it in another perspective.  Rinaldo is roughly 83% as big as the non midget Sabres giving up at least thirty pounds on virtually everyone.  I’m 150 pounds, someone 83% as big as me is about 125.  Any sort of physical confrontation, be they battles along the boards, or fights for position would be won by me almost all of the time, and I have to imagine that the same would hold true for the Sabres forwards against Rinaldo.
  • But as dumb as that decision was, it might have turned out okay if Laviolette had actually played him.  Rinaldo logged 1:56 of icetime in a game where the Flyers were two men up on the Sabres (with Pominville and Leopold missing time) for large stretches.  In a game where you’ve got a two man advantage, don’t you think you’d want to use your depth to wear down your opponent?  Especially heading into the third period when you’re down a goal and you just beat the hell out of them in the second?  According to the Flyers’ boards, Rinaldo didn’t see ANY icetime in the third.  What makes this even worse is with Carter and Nodl out of the lineup you’d think Laviolette would want to add a little offense instead of a guy who had more suspensions in the AHL this season (4) than he did goals (3).
  • And Laviolette only gave defenseman Danny Syvret 2:59 of icetime.  If this guy is so bad, why was he even in the lineup?  In a game where the Flyers should have been up two men when Leopold was out, and up one when he returned, they were actually even and down a man respectively, thus neutralizing any advantage they might have had on the Pominville and Leopold injuries.

Again, what has really surprised me is that Lindy Ruff is the coach that looks like he’s a year removed from a deep playoff run and Peter Laviolette looks like the coach that suffered through a roller coaster season and an ownership change.  Laviolette has whined at every turn this series, and Ruff has done nothing but keep his game face on and remain calm, even joking around with the media after game four.  The series is far from over and the Flyers may be the most talented roster in the playoffs and are still capable of scoring goals and winning games, but Ruff looks like he’s been one step ahead of Laviolette at every avenue so far.

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