PHILADELPHIA — Reminders of the Flyers' past are inescapable in and around the Wells Fargo Center.
Photographs from the Broad Street Bullies era hang in the locker room, and a photo montage of Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bob Kelly, Joe Watson and Gary Dornhoefer decorates the wall in one corner of the arena. Across the street, where the Spectrum once stood, is a new, bronze statue of Fred Shero, who coached the Flyers to the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975.
“There's a lot of history and a lot of memories,” defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “Every team acts as family, but the feeling here is so much history and tradition, and they really do take care of the players here.”
Often, the Flyers have been a dysfunctional family. Goalies came and went, burned by criticism and the red goal light. Big contracts didn't translate into big results. They've been to the Cup final six times since 1975 — most recently in 2010 against the Chicago Blackhawks — but they missed the playoffs last season. For their fans, looking back at the glory days was more palatable than looking ahead.
That's slowly changing. Under Craig Berube, a former enforcer who took over as coach when Peter Laviolette was fired three games into this season, the Flyers have emphasized speed and defense. For once their goaltending hasn't been a weakness, thanks to good efforts by Steve Mason and Ray Emery. Center Claude Giroux, held without a goal the first 15 games, ranks among the NHL leaders with 24 goals and 74 points.
The Flyers, who had a five-game winning streak ended by the Kings on Monday, are optimistic about their future.
“I think we've come a long way from the beginning of the season,” said winger Wayne Simmonds, who has transformed himself from a grinder into a scorer with 24 goals and a career-best 54 points.
“We've had our ups and downs this year. Right now I think we're going into every game expecting to win. We have a lot of confidence in everyone in this dressing room and we just want to make sure we come to play every game for the rest of the year.”
Players have responded to Berube's demand for strong defense.
“You talk about it so long, you go out there and do it and it actually works,” forward Scott Hartnell said. “It becomes habit, and those are good habits to get into.”
Berube downplayed his contribution but acknowledged seeing improvement in several areas.
“Confidence, for one. Puck possession. We play with the puck a lot. We make plays,” he said. “There's a few things that come in.
“You can break it all down in different ways and stuff, but really it comes down to competing and hard work. They're at a high level in both those areas and they've got to keep doing it. There's no breaks. There's no easy games. You've got to keep working and keep competing.”
That's the formula for any successful team. It's also the way the Flyers might make new additions to their yellowing photo gallery.
“You can never forget where you come from and where the organization started, the Bullies,” Hartnell said. “You've got to have a lot of pride when you're wearing the jersey and there's a lot of pride in this whole organization, starting with [owner Ed] Snider. We want to leave our mark in history on this city and win a championship. That's what it's all about.
“You win a Stanley Cup championship, it's forever.”
Sounds like Shero's famous line, “Win together today and walk together forever.”
The Flyers won't mind if that part of their history repeats itself.
Road fuels Bruins
The Boston Bruins, whose 12-game winning streak ended with a shootout loss at home against Montreal on Monday, last week became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff spot. Their 11-0-3 points streak on the road was a huge boost in getting them there so quickly.
“It comes down to simplifying our game and not being afraid of winning games by one goal or having to win a game in overtime,” forward Gregory Campbell told the Boston Globe.
“Just being really solid, not making mistakes, not letting them feed off the energy of their home crowd. We are a team that has success because our game is pretty simple, pretty straightforward. A lot of times that's a good recipe for road success.”
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, put on long-term injured reserve because of a lower-body injury, will miss the rest of the regular season. General Manager Stan Bowman said Kane “should be fine” for the playoffs.
What can a coach say after an 8-1 loss? “I apologize to the fans who had to watch that,” Edmonton's Dallas Eakins told reporters Saturday after his team was routed by Calgary. “It was painful on the bench and I'm sure it was painful in the stands.”
Forward Gustav Nyquist has helped keep the Detroit Red Wings in the East wild-card hunt with seven goals in his last five games.
Memo to the cowards who used Twitter to insult April Reimer, wife of struggling Toronto goalie James Reimer: Passion for a team is fine, but hurling slurs at players and their families is out of bounds.
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