10 observations from Flyers-Penguins

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10 observations from Flyers-Penguins

Ten random observations from the Flyers’ 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins (see Instant Replay).

Let’s start at the beginning.

1. The Flyers were guilty of slow starts last year, and even under new head coach Craig Berube, it’s been a tough habit to shake this season. They escaped the first period with a 0-0 tie, sure, but consider this: They trailed in shots 8-1 at one point Thursday night. They lost 12 of their first 14 faceoffs. They took two bad -- really, really bad -- penalties in the game’s first six minutes. Never mind the power-play struggles, or the top players’ slumps. You get caught flat-footed early, you miss opportunities and you don’t win games.

2. The Flyers know they’ve had trouble staying disciplined this season. They know games against the Penguins have a history of getting out of hand. And they certainly know the Pens have a very dangerous power-play unit. So what happened to the plan to stay disciplined -- especially early? They were very, very lucky to have Steve Mason in net. Without him, they could have dug themselves into an early ugly hole. In total, the Flyers incurred five penalties.

3. Someone on Twitter who may or may not share an alma mater with yours truly thought it fitting to create a “Did the Flyers Score on the Power Play Yet?” Twitter account ahead of Thursday’s game. Thankfully, it was short-lived (for now), as the team snapped an 0-for-18 stretch on the man advantage. It should be noted, though, they were just 1 for 4 on the power play.

4. What happened to all those “steps forward” Berube and his players kept referencing this week? What happened to the supposedly improved five-on-five play? Simply put, the Flyers looked impotent through too much of Thursday’s game. They were hardly able to break out of their own zone, let alone create pressure on Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, through its first 35 minutes. Even when they weren’t on the penalty kill, they were stretched thin in their own zone for minutes at a time.

5. Can we talk about the Sidney Crosby factor for just a second? I don’t even mean on the ice. I’m talking about booing every time he touches the puck, or chanting “CROS-BY SUCKS” during stoppages of play. I get it -- we’re Philadelphians! We hate the Penguins! But like it or not, Crosby is one of the best hockey players in the world. Booing him isn’t going to make him any less dangerous.

6. Goalie coach Jeff Reese was very confident, when the Flyers acquired Mason last season, that he’d be able to coach the young netminder back to his former self -- Mason, of course, was a Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year in 2008-09. So far, Reese is looking like he was onto something. Mason, once again, was very strong Thursday night, remaining composed through heavy Penguins pressure. The game was his sixth start of the season, and he’s looked consistently competent through each of them. He was left out to dry by his teammates at times against the Pens, of course -- heading into the final period, the Flyers trailed in shots by a staggering 29-13.

7. Speaking of goalies (aren’t we always?) it sure seems like the Flyers’ “goaltender situation” has figured itself out, doesn’t it? Mason has started six of of the team’s eight games so far in 2013-14, and despite his 1-5 record, he’s been very strong. Simply put: Might it be a while before we see Ray Emery suit up in net again?

8. Did anyone notice that stretch of more than 13 minutes during which the Penguins didn’t have a shot on net? No? Well, there was such a stretch, beginning in the second period and lasting well into the final stanza. Ordinarily, we’d all be talking about it -- but mired in what was otherwise a rough game for the Flyers, despite its close score, it seems to have flown under the radar.

9. Thursday morning, Berube said he wasn’t looking for a wild, undisciplined game like the Flyers-Penguins affairs of the recent past. I get it. But am I the only one disappointed we didn’t see a pond hockey-like, 7-6 game like those we’ve seen over the past few seasons? The hockey might be rough and unruly, but it’s a lot of fun to watch.

10. Where, oh where, is Claude Giroux? Another game is in the books, and the Flyers’ captain still has yet to score. On a team heavy with players who are best suited for second- and third-line play, the Flyers need Giroux to look like the player he was in 2011-12. They need him to set an example, and they sure as heck need the points he ought to be providing.

Shayne Gostisbehere suffers bone bruise on right hand in win over Stars

Shayne Gostisbehere suffers bone bruise on right hand in win over Stars

Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere took a shot off his right hand in the second period Saturday and has a bone bruise. 
 
The Flyers will watch it because sometimes the swelling prevents wearing a glove comfortably the next day.
 
Ghost, who has five points – all assists – over his past six games, was hit with a puck in the second period of a 4-2 win over the Stars. He went to the bench and tried to shake it off, but left for the dressing room shortly after a Flyers power play began in the period’s final three minutes.
 
He participated for part of the power play, then left the ice and did not return until the start of the third period.
 
“It was good by then,” he said. “Obviously, it hurt a bit.”
 
The Flyers play in Detroit on Sunday night. 
 
Ghost has 16 points (four goals) in 29 games this season. X-rays were negative, he said, adding he was not worried about the hand, which was badly swollen after the game. 

Brayden Schenn's power-play hat trick leads Flyers past Stars for eighth straight win

Brayden Schenn's power-play hat trick leads Flyers past Stars for eighth straight win

A power play hat trick.
 
Now that is truly something you don’t see every day in hockey.
 
Brayden Schenn is one of the very few Flyers to ever do it.
 
“Third [goal] was a lucky play where he [Jakub Voracek] broke a stick,” Schenn said. “Right place at the right time.”
 
Schenn’s diving third goal at 17:45 gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead and insured their eight-game win streak Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
 
Only four other Flyers have had power play hat tricks in franchise history:
• Tim Kerr vs. Los Angeles, November 3, 1985
• Tim Kerr vs. Chicago, November 20, 1986
• Brian Propp at Minnesota, October 13, 1988
• Scott Hartnell at NY Islanders, January 19, 2008
 
Schenn pretty much doubled his offense in one game given he had just four goals coming in, and just one over his previous 13 games.
 
Think that’s something? 
 
Voracek had his second consecutive four-point game (empty net goal, three assists). The last Flyer to do that was Eric Lindros on Dec. 31, 1997 and Jan. 3, 1998.
 
Voracek has piled up 15 points during this Flyers streak. He’s got the blazing hot stick on this club right now.
 
“I don’t think I have necessarily changed my game,” Voracek said. “If I went without a point a couple weeks back, I’m not playing any different now. When you stick with it, work hard, the points eventually are gonna come.”
 
In this one, the Flyers changed up their power play moving Voracek into the right slot and having Schenn closer to the net on the opposite side.
 
“Sometimes it is open [the pass] and sometimes it’s not,” Voracek said of how team’s kill penalties. “Schenner had a free stick a couple times. I’m glad it worked.”
 
Just like other games during this streak, and the season itself, the Flyers had to come from behind. 
 
They trailed 1-0 early and 2-1 in the third period before Schenn scored back-to-back on the No. 2-ranked power play which went 3-for-6 on the day.
 
“Coming out in the third period, you see determination,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s the word I would use. Just as an overall group, no matter what the situation is. Very tight, close hockey game all the way through.
 
“Different parts of our game have pushed us over the finish line on different nights. Most of our game was pretty good all the way through and when needed, the PP was the difference tonight.”
 
There’s a certain amount of confidence right now with the Flyers. Trailing doesn’t scare them. It invigorates them. They know it. They feel it on the bench.
 
“You have confidence that you’ve done it over and over again, you can do it again,” Voracek said. “It was a big chance to tie the game and we did. Big points for us. We never give up.”
 
The Flyers came into play two points behind second place Pittsburgh in the Metro Division.
 
Hakstol says Voracek’s play has been “pretty consistent” all season. 
 
“When you watch him most nights, very consistently without the puck, he is one of the hardest-working players getting back, reloading, getting on top of plays,” Hakstol said. 
 
“Coming out of the offensive zone.  When his line has the puck, or the PP unit, he is very confident in making plays.” 
 
The Flyers had just 21 shots in this one, including only five in the second period. Their offense came in bunches. 
 
Dallas had two goals from Devin Shore and led 2-1 at 10:32 of the final period before Schenn took over.
 
Steve Mason was the surprise starter in net and looked fresher than he did against Edmonton. Surprise in that given this was the front end of a back-to-back with Flyers playing in Detroit on Sunday, it seemed the perfect game to play Anthony Stolarz.
 
Give Mason a day of rest for a more important conference game tomorrow. 
 
Mason asked to play, however, and most coaches won’t say no to a goalie who has now won a career-high seven in a row.
 
“It was fun to watch from the back end there,” Mason said of the game. “Power play in general and two late goals to get us over the hump. 
 
“It’s fun right now to find different ways to come out on top. The boys aren’t satisfied. We keep pushing forward here.”