Red Wings giving Flyers physical fits Detroit foils Philly's presumed edge in size


DETROIT -- A muscular bronze arm, its hand balled into a menacing fist, hangs in the middle of Jefferson Avenue. Yesterday, that curious sculpture seemed an apt symbol for what is ailing the Philadelphia Flyers.

In falling behind the Detroit Red Wings, three games to none, in the Stanley Cup Finals, strong-armed Philadelphia has misplaced its familiar punch. Perhaps that's it, swinging in a median strip, just a block from Joe Louis Arena.

As the befuddled Flyers attempted to dissect their dreadful, Game 3 performance yesterday, there was at least one logical reason offered for the team's predicament:

Their presumed physical advantage is nonexistent. They have not been hitting anyone.

"One thing we can do better is be more conscious that hitting is part of the game," said defenseman Eric Desjardins, and the topic was raised at a heated team meeting yesterday morning. "When the hit is there, you've got to do it. You've got to hit that man."

Part of the Flyers' problem has been the strategy devised by Scotty Bowman, the brilliant Red Wings coach.

The Flyers love to forecheck furiously. And they do that best by ramming smaller opponents when they try to scramble out of their end. That often results in loose pucks, free shots and cheap goals.

But the Red Wings' defensemen aren't giving them that opportunity. When they get the puck, they get rid of it.

The series, in the Flyers' eyes at least, has degenerated into a frustrating chase, and the Red Wings have been just too fast to catch.

"If we start hitting well, that will get our speed going and that will create scoring opportunities," said left wing Shjon Podein. "That's the way this team has always played, and that's the way we need to start playing right now."

Stanley Cup Finals

Philadelphia vs. Detroit

(Best of seven; all games 8 p.m.)

Red Wings lead series 3-0

Date Result/Site TV

Game 1 Detroit, 4-2

Game 2 Detroit, 4-2

Game 3 Detroit, 6-1

Today At Detroit ESPN

Tuesday At Phila.* Fox

Thursday At Detroit* ESPN

June 14 At Phila.* Fox

* -- If necessary

Pub Date: 6/07/97

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