10 observations from Flyers-Blue Jackets

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10 observations from Flyers-Blue Jackets

BOX SCORE

Ten random observations from the Flyers' 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

1. Brayden Schenn began the game on the Flyers’ top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. The line went without a shot for 20 minutes. In the second period, Michael Raffl replaced Schenn — and was an immediate boost. That period alone, the line combined for five shots on net.

2. And speaking of Schenns, Tuesday’s game was a rough one for both Schenn brothers. Luke, too, had a tough outing. Too many times he sent a pass into an area dominated by white jerseys or simply lost control of the puck in critical situations. He was on the ice for three Blue Jackets goals (see Instant Replay).

3. Ray Emery gave up two goals on four shots to start the game. He did the same thing Jan. 27 against the Arizona Coyotes, and was pulled. That didn’t happen this time, but this was not Emery’s best performance; he had trouble tracking the puck, gave up far too many big rebounds and simply wasn’t the goalie he seemed to be in his last few starts.

4. Which leads me to my Emery theory: I think he plays better when he feels he is “The Guy” — as in, someone like Anthony Stolarz is backing him up — than he does when Steve Mason or even Rob Zepp is on the bench. In a weird way, knowing he wouldn’t get pulled takes the pressure off while, at the same time, there’s “good” pressure on him to perform and carry the team. Feel free to tell me how wrong you think I am in the comments.

5. Wayne Simmonds has been a bright spot in recent games while others’ offensive output has declined. He now has seven points in his last five games — and his line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read has looked good. His tip-in goal against the Jackets Tuesday night was particularly impressive.

6. Read, too, had another solid outing, which is encouraging, especially taking into account how he spent the first half of the season. His four-game point streak came to an end, yes, but it’s good news for the Flyers to see his improved play continue.

7. Blame the ice? The circus was in town while the Flyers were on the road, and reconfiguring the arena for hockey lasted well into Tuesday. That could be one reason why the passing seemed off — for both teams — throughout the night. But the Flyers seemed to struggle particularly early on in the night.

8. It was a classy move by the Flyers to honor Scott Hartnell, who recently appeared in his 1,000th game. PA announcer Lou Nolan read a congratulatory message as Hartnell was shown on the big screen to loud cheers and applause, and Flyers Charities donated $10,000 to his #HartnellDown foundation. Hartnell is still loved in this city.

9. The Flyers’ nine-game point streak was curious, if only because the team didn’t look particularly impressive through that stretch of games. (Don’t get me wrong; they did at times, just not consistently.) But one thing they were doing well consistently was starting games strong. That was not the case Tuesday, however, and is exactly why they found themselves down 2-0 less than seven minutes into the first period.

10. Both Luke Schenn and Michael Del Zotto were on the ice for three of the Blue Jackets' four goals — but Del Zotto's game was far less troubling. Yes, he had the goal that tied the game 2-2 in the second period, but beyond that, he actually looked solid in all areas Tuesday night. Not perfect, but definitely passable.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.