10 observations from Flyers-Rangers

slideshow-flyers-coburn-simmonds-ap.jpg

10 observations from Flyers-Rangers

Ten random observations from the Flyers’ 2-1 victory the New York Rangers (see Instant Replay).

Let’s start with some positives -- the Flyers finally won a game, after all.

1. Finally, some excitement! Seriously -- after a week off following that wretched loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was refreshing to see Matt Read hit the back of the net on a shorthanded breakaway Thursday night. I was at the Eagles game on Sunday, and I admit I was worried I’d have to watch a third straight game of, well, tedious play. Of course, it’s a shame that goal was neither five-on-five nor on the power play -- situations in which the Flyers really need to connect.

2. Nine games in to the 2013-14 season, the Flyers still haven't scored three goals in a game. But hey, it was nice to see them win a game 2-1, instead of lose one.

3. But the power play … ouch. At the end of this one, the Flyers had registered one goal in their last 25 opportunities on the man advantage. That’s not going to cut it -- especially when they squander opportunities like they had late in the second and early in the third against the Rangers: A five-minute power play. It’s curious why they’ve struggled so blatantly on the power play this season, considering even last year they were third-best in the league and it’s not as if their roster has changed wildly.

4. I’m sticking with the negative here for a bit, so bear with me. But did it seem to anyone else that the Flyers weren’t doing the one thing they’ve been saying all along they need to do? That is, keep things simple? Instead of the game plan -- peppering rookie Rangers goalie Cam Talbot with as many shots as possible and through lots of traffic -- too many times they tried to make a pretty play, or an extra pass, or some other unnecessary move.

5. Benoit Pouliot’s hit on Max Talbot: One of the scariest plays you’ve seen in hockey recently? That kind of hit from behind, unintentional though it might be, is exactly what the NHL is looking to eliminate from the game. Pouliot received a five-minute major (not that it really benefited the Flyers) as well as a game misconduct and will possibly receive a call from the league’s discipline office. However, the fact that Talbot returned to the game will likely save him from serving any kind of suspension.

6. Was Vinny Lecavalier really ready to return tonight? Yes, his skating is nowhere near where it was, say, five years ago, even when he’s healthy. But the Flyers’ center-turned-winger was not moving well at all Thursday night. This isn’t the time of year to rush back from injuries -- could he have been pushing it, wanting desperately to return and try to help his team out of its funk? Either way, not an impressive performance from the veteran Lecavalier against the Rangers.

7. For those reasons, I’m not ready to pass judgment on the Claude Giroux-Lecavalier experiment. Yet. I still think it’s a combination that could work, and eventually jump-start both players. Giroux needs a winger who’s able to not just accept a sneaky pass, but hold onto the puck and make a necessary play. He hasn’t really had one of those since … wait for it … Jaromir Jagr.

8. The Flyers made Cam Talbot look good. True, it can be tough to prepare for a rookie goaltender, but this guy isn’t the second coming of Henrik Lundqvist. By now, you probably saw the stat of the day: In college, Read (Bemidji State) had 12 goals and 12 assists in 13 games when facing Cam Talbot in college (Alabama-Huntsville).

9. Braydon Coburn’s goal, which brought the score to 2-1, was his second of the season. And that means he, a defenseman, is second on the Flyers in goal-scoring. That’s not acceptable, if the team wants to win games, that is.

10. So what do the Flyers need? At this point it’s obvious they need something, right? Is it just that they need the kids -- Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek -- to elevate their games? Or do they actually need help to be brought in from the outside? My opinion -- and I wrote about this in last week’s Random Observations -- is that they need help on offense. But who, and how? That’s the question.

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.

The team announced the timeline Monday after Hayes underwent an MRI in the morning. Hayes left the Rangers' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period.

Hayes had seven points in his previous six games and is third on the team in points with 35. The 24-year-old has 13 goals and 22 assists in 47 games this season.

His injury is a major blow to New York, which holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The silver lining for the Rangers is that Hayes will miss fewer games because of the upcoming All-Star break.

Senators sign Zack Smith to 4-year, $13 million extension
OTTAWA, Ontario -- The Ottawa Senators have signed forward Zack Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $13 million.

The Senators said that the extension goes through the 2020-21 season and carries an annual average value of $3.25 million.

Smith, 28, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season and is averaging a career-high 16 minutes, 13 seconds per game.

He set career highs with 25 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. He has 75 goals and 61 assists in 443 games, all with the Senators.

Smith was Ottawa's third-round pick (79th overall) in the 2008 draft.

Dave Hakstol: Flyers 'played a full 64 minutes' in OT win over Islanders

Dave Hakstol: Flyers 'played a full 64 minutes' in OT win over Islanders

VOORHEES, N.J. — When a team is on a downward spiral where there’s little evidence of things improving, sometimes it takes an extraordinary effort to turn things around.
 
The Flyers got just that during Sunday’s 3-2 overtime victory in Brooklyn against the Islanders. To a man, you could see just how much that game meant to this group.  
 
You’d be hard-pressed to find a single player who didn’t dig a little deeper, as the Flyers snapped a nine-game losing skid on the road. They had lost five of six overall.
 
One play was symbolic of the victory and what it took for the Flyers to halt a three-game losing skid and erase memories of Saturday’s disastrous 4-1 loss to the Devils on home ice.
 
Midway through the third period, the Flyers’ PK units had to kill off consecutive penalties – the only power plays the Isles had during the game.
 
The first penalty kill really stood out as Ivan Provorov was in the box for hooking. The Isles had unrelenting pressure on Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas, Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for one minute and 43 seconds.
 
That unit played the entire kill and couldn’t get the puck out of the zone.
 
Goalie Steve Mason made four saves – three on John Tavares – while the Flyers had three blocked shots and one enormous clear at the end by Bellemare.
 
Thoroughly exhausted and chasing the puck up the right boards near the Flyers’ bench, Bellemare dove flat out with his stick extended to push the puck out of the zone at the blue line and down the ice.
 
Bellemare, who logs more shorthanded minutes than any other Flyers forward – he had 2:43 in this one – was so drained physically, he could barely lift his body over the side boards. He actually rolled himself over.
 
It was almost reminiscent of Sami Kapanen in the famed 2004 Game 6 semifinal playoff series at Toronto, where Keith Primeau had to fishhook Kapanen off the ice because he was concussed and had collapsed near the boards.
 
Bellemare’s extraordinary effort was typical of what it took for the Flyers to rise above their own self-inflicted mistakes of late for an emotional victory and key two points that got them back into the second wild card.
 
“We only had to kill two minor penalties, but we had to kill both in the last 10 minutes of the third period of a back-to-back,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “The extra effort on that kill, there’s a couple saves there that Mase made. 

“There’s a couple goal mouth scrambles where it’s all hands on deck battling down there. There’s a couple shot blocks by Belly and Vandy that stand out and then just the second effort to get the puck out of the zone and get off that kill, those are important things. 
 
“Obviously you have to have those to win games and I thought we had a lot of second effort, good effort in a lot of areas of our game.”
 
The emotion generated on the bench spilled into the overtime, where they won on Claude Giroux’s first goal in 12 games.
 
Now the critical question is, can this kind of performance have a carryover effect Wednesday night in New York against the Rangers.
 
“I think you can get some, you know what I mean?” Hakstol said. “I’m not a big believer of carrying momentum necessarily from one game to the next.
 
“But I think there’s a significance to the fact that we played a full 64 minutes and we had everybody contributing. I think that’s significant for us and I think that’s something we can carry forward.”
 
Incidentally, Hakstol used eight forwards in overtime, something he usually doesn’t do. Even rookie Travis Konecny got on the ice, which hasn’t been the case most times this season. 
 
“We’ve used seven or eight forwards before but specifically [Sunday] night on a back-to-back where we’ve got a lot of guys that are going pretty well, we used a lot of guys that are part of our 3-on-3 rotation quite often,” Hakstol said.
 
“But we also last night used Belly, who’s played regularly, with Cousins. They were our fourth pair on the rotation. Ultimately, if you look at it, we scored the game-winning goal against a tired group that the Islanders had on the ice.”
 
Tavares had gone up and down the ice twice – Mason made a tremendous glove save on him before the game-winning shift. Hence, Tavares was gassed when Shayne Gostisbehere came up ice with Jakub Voracek, went around the net and hit Giroux in front for the game-winner.
 
“Our guys did a good job,” Hakstol said. “They were all moving and going. We get a great save on the breakaway and that buys us the chance to go back and get the play at the other end.”
 
Loose pucks
Only five players took the ice for Monday’s optional skate after the 12th set of back-to-back games. … Players on ice were goalie Michal Neuvirth plus skaters Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Dale Weise and Roman Lyubimov. … The Flyers play back-to-back this week one more time before the All-Star break. After the Rangers, they have Toronto at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, where the wild card will again be at stake.