10 observations from Flyers-Rangers

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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 Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."