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.

Radko Gudas shooting pucks, 'pretty close' to 100 percent

Radko Gudas shooting pucks, 'pretty close' to 100 percent

VOORHEES, N.J. — Injured Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas is getting closer to returning to game action.

Gudas, recovering from a fractured right wrist (his shooting hand), has been cleared to shoot pucks for the past couple of days and was shooting and hitting in practice Wednesday at Flyers Skate Zone. He has yet to play in a preseason game but said he’s “pretty close” to 100 percent.
 
“I can’t say it’s really 100 percent, but it’s getting there soon,” Gudas said following practice.
 
“There’s a lot of time for me to get in top, game-like shape. There’s not a chance I would miss the start of the season.”
 
Gudas said the most important aspect of the healing process is keeping it stable by wearing a brace to limit too much movement.
 
“It’s better. I’m shooting on it in practice — feels better every day,” he said. “I’m working on a lot of it every day with the strength guys and the doctors here. We’re going day to day, I’m seeing myself sooner than later jumping on the ice.”
 
The second-year Flyer would like to play in preseason games before the start of the regular season but also understands the importance of not rushing to avoid costing him regular-season games.
 
“That’s the main part — feeling pain-free,” Gudas said. “Throughout the season, there’s not a lot of time off so we need to make sure everything is the best it can be before the season starts.
 
“Obviously it’s going to be the coaches’ decision when to put me in. I’m sure they’re talking with the staff for when would be the proper time.”
 
The 26-year-old Gudas signed a four-year contract extension in June after playing a career-high 76 games and recording 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 2015-16.
 
After practice, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol did not have an update on Gudas or defenseman Nick Schultz, who was shaken up Tuesday night.
 
“Everybody wants to play at least a game or two before the season,” Gudas said. “I don’t think it needs to be said.
 
“He wants to have me ready and I want to be ready.”

Flyers Notes: Ivan Provorov not in ‘younger’ lineup; Travis Konecny gets chance with NHLers

Flyers Notes: Ivan Provorov not in ‘younger’ lineup; Travis Konecny gets chance with NHLers

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers’ morning skate Wednesday came with youthful flavor.
 
Ivan Provorov was no part of it.
 
The 19-year-old was with the big-boy contingent on the opposite ice, a group of mostly NHL players that will not play in tonight’s preseason game against the Devils at the PPL Center, home of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.
 
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said a younger lineup is set for the team’s fourth preseason game.
 
“Every game is a little different,” Hakstol said. “[Tuesday] night we had a more veteran group dress, so not only are we looking at individual performances but we would expect to see a little more of our structure come into play. Tonight’s roster is a little more younger, so we’re still obviously looking to build some of the concept and some of the systems and detail.”
 
Provorov, the Flyers’ prized blue-line prospect and No. 1 roster hopeful of training camp, was featured in the NHL-heavy lineup Tuesday night, playing 21:43 with key minutes on the power play and penalty kill. This followed a night of 28:48 ice time in the Flyers’ split-squad preseason opener Monday.
 
So it was highly unlikely Provorov would play Wednesday, but the fact he was saved for a veteran-laden game instead of a prospect-filled one is telling.
 
Then again, Provorov is far from your typical 19-year-old hockey player.
 
“Right from day one, I think we’ve all saw that early,” Hakstol said. “A year ago, the focus, the ability to be detailed and to handle himself like a pro, albeit a young pro. Ivan has a great level of maturity to him.”
 
Provorov has done his work thus far. It’s his time to watch for a game.
 
“You look for him to be able to go out and do things consistently and efficiently,” Hakstol said. “I think for the most part, Ivan was able to do that [Tuesday] night.
 
Konecny with Schenn, Raffl
While one 19-year-old sits, another gets his chance.
 
Although prospect Travis Konecny — also looking to make the NHL jump — did not play Tuesday, he’ll still have a chance to open eyes with NHL forwards tonight.
 
The talented winger will be paired with Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl, both of whom were clearly especially selected to play tonight with Konecny.
 
“They see the ice real well, I’ve just got to move my feet and get in the good areas and I’m sure they’re going to find the spots,” Konecny said. “I’m going to try to not do too much tonight and just let the game kind of take care of itself — and take care of the little things I can control.”
 
The 24th overall pick of the 2015 draft amassed 101 points at the junior level last season. Putting NHL talent around him should only help and it serves as an amplified audition of sorts.
 
“It gives him an opportunity to play with two veteran players,” Hakstol said. “Travis is no different than anyone else, just go out and play his game. Every player, it’s one of the challenges coming into camp, to go out and make an impression. Every player needs to do that from Day 1. We’re getting into our fourth exhibition game here now, so it’s an opportunity for Travis to go out and play the way he plays. He has an opportunity to do that with two veteran players.”
 
Konecny, 5-foot-10 with speed and skill, is keeping things simple in his second NHL camp.
 
“I think this year I’m trying to approach it and play the game the right way,” he said. “Last year, I came in excited and I had my feet going, my energy, but I was kind of all over the place. I’m trying to follow the system and play the right way this year.
 
“My first game a couple days ago, it was quick pace, I wasn’t really expecting it — it’s been a long time since I was in that kind of speed. So I think tonight’s game I’ll be a little more relaxed and ready to go.”

Roster moves
The Flyers on Wednesday assigned Mark Dekanich, Chris McCarthy, Maxim Lamarche, Martin Ouellette, Jesper Pettersson, Steve Swavely and Kevin Sundher to Lehigh Valley, which opens its training camp Friday. The Flyers' roster now stands at 49.
 
Loose pucks
Other NHLers expected to play tonight: Defenseman Brandon Manning and center Boyd Gordon. “Boyd has had a good camp,” Hakstol said. “He got in game action the first time [Tuesday]. As you’d expect, he did a real good job within his role of starting with faceoffs and the responsible style of play he has.” … Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz will be the goalies. Both will compete for starting time with the Phantoms this season.