Claude Giroux: Flyers are a 'desperate team'

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Claude Giroux: Flyers are a 'desperate team'

It was right there for them. Then it slipped away.

The Flyers had a one-goal lead in the third period of Thursday’s game against the Panthers at Wells Fargo Center. Things looked good. Six games earlier, in Florida, the Flyers throttled the Panthers and won by six goals. It appeared as though the orange and black would get a second victory over Florida in as many games this season. It seemed that way, but it didn’t go down that way.

The Flyers gave up a power-play goal in the third period that tied the contest. They had chances to win in overtime that didn’t work out. Then they watched the Panthers’ first two skaters score during the shootout. And that was that. Florida won, 3-2 (see story).

The Flyers picked up a point, but they didn’t seem so happy about it. They are 4-6-1 now. Almost a quarter of the lockout-shortened season is already gone -- just like that, while you were blinking or getting up to get a beverage from the fridge. One point would be fine on most nights in most seasons, but this year is different.

After the game, Claude Giroux did not look happy. He stood in the locker room with his arms folded and gave his appraisal of the situation. It was not a cheery take on the team's affairs.

“We need those points,” Giroux said. “We need that shootout win. We’ve got to get it done.”

That wasn’t all. He went further.

“We’re a desperate team right now,” Giroux added.
 
The Flyers played with energy and urgency in the overtime, but Giroux and several other players didn’t pat themselves on the back of their sweaters for it. Quite the opposite, actually. To hear them tell it, anything they did right on Thursday was overshadowed by what went wrong: their slow start in the first period and their missed opportunities on two power plays in the third period.

“We should be a desperate team,” Kimmo Timonen said when asked if he agreed with Giroux’s assessment of the season. “But the way we came out in the first period, that’s not a desperate team. That has to be a good teaching point for us moving forward. Every game matters. Every period matters. We’re not the team that’s 10-0. We can’t afford to lose the first period like that. Based on that, I think we lost a point [on Thursday].”

Peter Laviolette didn’t disagree. He said the first period “just seemed quiet.” He wasn't so thrilled with the rest of the game, either.

“We had opportunities in the middle period and on the power plays, chances to win a game and we didn’t do it,” Laviolette said.

It is how things have gone for them this year. There have been chances to win but not enough actual victories. After being one of the best offensive teams in the league a year ago, the Flyers have scored more than two goals just twice in 11 games. It is not what they or anyone else expected.

In any other season, the slow start would be unfortunate -- something on the order of a mild irritation. Again, this is not any other season. The slow start is clearly chafing them. You can hear the frustration in so many answers to so many different questions.

“I don’t know what it is or how to fix it,” said Matt Read, who scored his fourth goal of the season. “We’ve been coming out flat every night.”

Read shook his head a little as he talked. His frustration was evident. He couldn’t hide it. None of them can.

“When it’s a tie game late in the game, you’ve got to get pucks to the net and look for rebounds, a dirty goal,” Read continued. “It just didn’t happen. We need to keep working on that. We need to learn how to close out games.”

The Flyers picked up a point on Thursday. They didn’t sound too excited about it. That’s how it goes when the season is shorter and accelerated. The desperation sets in quicker.  

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

OTTAWA, Ontario — Exactly one year ago, Dec. 1, 2015, Travis Konecny was a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.

He had just learned that he had been invited to the Team Canada selection camp for the World Junior Hockey Championship and he was at the Canadian Tire Centre spending time with future Flyers teammates during the morning skate as they prepared for a game that night against the Ottawa Senators.

Fast forward one year to today, Dec. 1, 2016, and Konecny is back at the CTC, this time to face the Senators alongside his current Flyers teammates as a key part of the team’s offense.

Quite a step forward in just one calendar year for a kid not named Crosby or McDavid.

“It’s crazy how fast it happened and I’m definitely humbled I was given the opportunity. They believed enough in me to make the jump this year and it definitely hits me every day that I get the opportunity to play in the NHL,” said Konecny, who has scored four times and added nine assists through the first 25 games of his NHL career. He has also added a team-leading 33 penalty minutes and that goes a long way in explaining the type of game he plays.

“I don’t know what happened. I’ve never been like that before," Konecny said before the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win Thursday (see game story). "When you’re playing in the NHL, some guys will run over you all game if they can so I think part of these penalties I’m taking is me just having to step up and I’m just setting an example of sticking up for my teammates."

It wasn’t until his second game in the league that he took his first penalty, but he was on the score sheet before that having collected two assists in his debut Oct. 14 in a 4-2 win over the Kings in Los Angeles.

His first goal came Oct. 25 in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The key for his success in making the jump from junior to the NHL is simple.

“Just keeping things simple," he said. "Learning in the NHL is about reading off mistakes. You can’t always make a play, you have to be smart and make sure you’re doing what’s right for the team and I think just keeping my game simple is what got me here." 

There is one main difference between the two levels, Konecny added.

“The speed, and I don’t necessarily mean just skating," he said. "Thinking wise and how fast plays happen. Guys like [Senators defenseman Erik] Karlsson, he’s thinking so fast and he knows his play two or three steps before the next guy does, so you just have to try and outthink guys and to me that’s been the biggest jump.”

Konecny is not foreign to the Senators’ home ice surface. He spent part of his time in junior playing there while the 67’s home arena was being renovated.

He had to leave several passes for friends and family for the game Tuesday night, his first as a pro in the city that was dazzled by his play in junior for 2½ seasons.

“It was a lot of fun and it brought back a lot of memories," Konecny said after going scoreless in 14:13 of ice time. "We didn’t play in front of as many fans as we did tonight but definitely a lot of games played here and a lot of fond memories.

“Even flying in [Wednesday] was something special and driving around the city looking at the roots where I was for three years.”

Best of NHL: Hossa gives Blackhawks OT win over Devils

Best of NHL: Hossa gives Blackhawks OT win over Devils

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa scored his team-leading 12th goal through a screen at 1:31 of overtime to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

Hossa's shot through traffic from high in the slot beat Cory Schneider on the glove side, moments after New Jersey's Mike Cammalleri hit the post on a prime chance against Chicago's Corey Crawford.

New Jersey's Travis Zajac scored his third goal of the game at 8:49 of the third to tie it 3-all after scores by Chicago's Artem Anisimov and Niklas Hjalmarsson late in the second period had put the Blackhawks ahead.

Marcus Kruger also connected for Western Conference-leading Chicago to end a 22-game drought as the Blackhawks won their second straight and played beyond regulation for third consecutive time. They are 3-0-1 in their last four.

The Devils have dropped four straight (0-2-2) (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins run away from Stars
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby broke the game's final tie and assisted on another score in the third period as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Dallas Stars 6-2 on Thursday night.

Crosby scored his league-leading 16th goal in the second period and assisted on Conor Sheary's sixth as Pittsburgh scored three goals in the final 4 minutes. Eric Fehr's third of the season was the 100th of his career and Patric Hornqvist's seventh came on the power play. Nick Bonino and Ian Cole both scored their third for Pittsburgh, which avoided consecutive regulation losses for the first time this season.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves for Pittsburgh. Fleury, who won for the first time in five starts, has six wins in his last nine home games.

Tyler Seguin scored his eighth and Devin Shore his second for the Stars, who continue to struggle on the road. Dallas has lost its previous five away from home and has three wins in 14 road games this season. The Stars have lost three straight and seven of their last 10.

Antti Niemi , playing in his 400th career game, stopped 34 shots (see full recap).

Eichel helps Sabres knock off Rangers
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals in the third period, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday night for their second straight victory.

Buffalo's winning streak coincides with the return of Eichel, who missed the first 21 games with a high ankle sprain. The 20-year-old center had a goal and an assist in Buffalo's 5-4 win in Ottawa on Tuesday and has recorded a point in seven straight games dating to last season.

In his first home game of the season, Eichel scored on a power play with 7:15 remaining and netted the winning goal 1:43 later. Buffalo is now 10-3-1 when Eichel has more than one point (see full recap).