Penalty kill costs Flyers in loss to Sabres

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Penalty kill costs Flyers in loss to Sabres

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO -- They talked about having a quick start to the lockout-shortened season.

How critical early games were to gain momentum and avoid a slip in the standings.

How important points against divisional rivals would be.

How all the parts needed to quickly click in unison.

Two games into the Flyers 48-game blitz, and special teams have already become a headache for coach Peter Laviolette.

Like five power-play goals against the Flyers' penalty kill units.

OK, one was an empty netter by the Penguins, but still, the trend here is definitely not good after Sundays 5-2 shelling by the Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Theres lots of things, but yes, we have to be better in that area, Laviolette said. the penalty kill we have to look at it and work at it.

Every day is a new opportunity, but we gotta get on track here, get a win in the column and moving in the right direction.

The Sabres scored three power-play goals. New Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn was in the box for two of them.

The first one was a roughing, then one hooking and one tripping, one of those minor penalties you definitely cant take those and put your team down a man, he said.

He became best buds with the box, visiting three times. Schenns last misdemeanor was deadly as the resulting power play saw Tyler Myers shot from distance go off Kimmo Timonens skate and break a 2-2 tie with about five minutes left in the game.

Definitely, this is the area we have to work on, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said of the penalty kill. Every game is so important with a schedule in a short season. They are.

Were in the bottom of the standings. We gotta change the situation quickly if we want to be part of the playoff race.

Buffalo iced it minutes after Myers' goal on a Cody Hodgson crash-the-crease doozy.

Of course, the Flyers had two goals waved off one in the final minutes because the officials lost sight of the puck yet the need here is for more urgency on special teams.

In a shortened season, were thinking of getting a split this weekend or in a best case scenario, winning two, Scott Hartnell said. Its frustrating. Were losing battles we shouldnt be.

Were not getting breaks like the other team. A power play and it goes off Kimmos skate and in. Its a frustrating start.

You cant blame the penalty kill in losses unless they are scoring four-to-five goals, but it has been the difference these first, two games. I think we have to look at it.

Just like the Pittsburgh loss, it took the Flyers until the second period to find their legs and energy.

Back-to-back games with travel in between in less than 24 hours resulted in the Flyers skating with heavy legs at the start. But unlike on Saturday, they did seem to have their hands in this one, as their passing and puck movement was far better.

Those back-to-backs are not easy, but I think we got our legs going and our second period was again our best period, Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. We need to find a way to play the first period like that.

Giroux agreed the team is missing Danny Brieres stick right now.

He can get those big goals for us, Giroux said.

The officials also grabbed control of the game again -- not allowing anything and whistling bogus roughing calls, in addition to the wave-offs.

Not an excuse, Giroux said.

To be honest, I dont know about the replays if there were goals or not, Giroux said.

Any time theres two goals taken away, obviously, it can change a game. Obviously, bounces are not going our way right now.

Buffalo led 1-0 after one period on a one-timer from the left circle by Steve Ott during the Sabres' first power play. Ott had never scored in a season opener during his previous eight years in the NHL.

Max Talbot had the equalizer waved off later because of light contact from Ruslan Fedotenko on goalie Ryan Miller. Talbot batted the puck out of the air.

It looked fairly clean to me; our player was outside the crease, Laviolette said.

The Flyers also lost Zac Rinaldo in the first following a collision with Robyn Regehr. Rinaldo suffered a nasty skate cut above the right knee that required 20 stitches. He did not return.

Much like the Penguins game, the second period saw a turnaround.

Sean Couturier picked up his first goal at 2:23 with a tip-in of Andrej Meszaros wicked point shot to tie it.

At 4:57, the Flyers finally scored their first power play goal after going 0-for-7 to start the season. Giroux ripped a one-timer from the circle off a nice feed from Timonen to give the Flyers their first lead in two games.

They just couldnt hold it.

A bench minor for too many men coupled with Luke Schenns hooking call gave Buffalo a 5-on-3 power play.

As that penalty was about to go into a 5-on-4, the Flyers tried an ill-fated rush into the Sabres' zone. Coupled with Scott Laughton coming out of the box and then a bad change at the bench between Couturier and Talbot, the Sabres caught a break.

I dont think we had the right D out there but those things happen, Hartnell said. Sooner or later it is going to be us getting the breaks and taking advantage of the other teams mistakes.

The result was tic-tac-toe passing starting with Buffalos Jason Pominville to Drew Stafford, who found Thomas Vanek on a breakaway. He deked goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and just like that, it was 2-2.

It was indicative of the way the entire, lost weekend went for the Flyers.

Oh yeah, Vanek had five points in the game.

Its not the start weve been looking for, losing two in a row, Giroux said. We just have to fight through it and come back.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint during a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds in the second period.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 5-foot-10, 184-pounder deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front off a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a real problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more enjoyment is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

10 Flyers-Devils observations: Travis Konecny impresses

10 Flyers-Devils observations: Travis Konecny impresses

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Flyers on Wednesday night took to the PPL Center — home of the AHL affiliate Phantoms — to give fans an early glimpse of the organization’s young talent, much of which will play on a nightly basis in Lehigh Valley.

One player that may reach Philadelphia before he ever lands in Lehigh Valley did not disappoint as the evening’s main attraction.

In his quest to make the Flyers’ roster at 19 years old, heralded prospect Travis Konecny scored a goal and tallied an assist to lead the orange and black past the Devils, 2-0, in their fourth preseason game, improving to 2-2.

Let’s dive into the action with 10 observations from the game:

1. We start with who else? Konecny. Head coach Dave Hakstol paired the talented winger with Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl, two of the few NHLers to suit up Wednesday. Konecny jumped all over the opportunity, deflecting an Andrew MacDonald shot for a goal 4:30 into the second period. Just shy of five minutes after, he delivered a pretty touch pass to Raffl in front for a 2-0 lead. Konecny just narrowly missed adding another goal and assist, as well, later in the stanza. You know when he’s on the ice because you’ll see bursts of unmatched speed. 

The 5-foot-10, 184-pounder is incredibly shifty with the puck and adept at avoiding contact. At times, he’ll get pushed around when a bigger body squares him up, but he makes up for it with his elusiveness. The 2015 first-round pick sure played the part of an NHL player ready to contribute to a team in need of playmaking.

2. Samuel Morin is a big boy. The 6-foot-7 defenseman really utilizes his tall frame and upper-body strength when battling along the boards. Obviously he needs to work on his skating and puck handling, but he has the size and makeup to compete.

3. Goalies Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon will duke it out for playing time in Lehigh Valley. It’s an impressive tandem. Both combined for the shutout. Stolarz, 6-foot-6, made eight saves in the opening period and 11 total over 29:23. He showed good quickness and instincts. Lyon, not so big at 6-foot-1, is sound and holds records for his time at Yale. He converted seven saves. It’s a duo worth keeping tabs on throughout the season.

4. Forward Colin McDonald will be a nice safety net for the Flyers if they ever need a body willing to bring nothing but physicality. He made loud, impactful hits and had a fight — albeit a short and weak one — early in the first period.

5. Defenseman Mark Alt lost a fight quickly in the second period. He may have lost his balance, but he went down hard. Alt appeared fine when he got up. However, he never returned to the game.

6. The Flyers killed two power plays on the night. The PK continued to show more aggressiveness and disruptiveness on the puck carrier, which wasn’t always the case last season. It’s a big reason the Flyers fell in such a big hole against the Capitals during the playoffs. So far this preseason, the Flyers are 16 for 17 on the penalty kill.

7. Along with Schenn, Raffl and MacDonald, other Flyers to play were Boyd Gordon and Chris VandeVelde, who handled themselves well, as expected. Defensive prospect Robert Hagg had an assist, as did Schenn and MacDonald.

8. Keith Kinkaid was in net for the Devils. He’s expected to be New Jersey’s backup netminder. The 27-year-old is 15-14-5 in his career with a 2.71 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Not crazy stuff, but still a goalie with NHL experience. However …

9. The Devils visit the Rangers Thursday night, so they too deployed a fair share of prospects, resulting in Kinkaid without a ton of help.

10. The PPL Center is a beautiful venue and should be a hot-spot for Flyers fans throughout the 2016-17 season. The trip is doable, parking is accessible and cheap and the arena doesn’t sport a bad seat. The Phantoms should be fun with added experience and talent.