Berube: Flyers will test their mettle out West

uspresswire-flyers-sean-couturier.jpg

Berube: Flyers will test their mettle out West

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Anaheim Ducks occupy first place in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. The San Jose Sharks are in second. The L.A. Kings currently sit in third.

And over the next week, the Flyers will face each team -- as the visiting squad.

“It’s a big road trip,” coach Craig Berube said. “It really is. I think we’re going to see what we’re all about here.”

It’s been said plenty of times this season: Certain games, or stretches of games, can act as measuring sticks and show what kind of team the Flyers really are.

How they fare against three of the NHL’s best teams will go a long way in demonstrating their true identity.

“It’s going to be a tough trip, with the time change, the tough buildings, teams that have been playing well -- not just at home but on the road, as well,” Steve Mason said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us to see where we stack up against some of the best teams in the Western Conference.”

The trip kicks off Thursday night in Anaheim, against a surging Ducks team that has lost just twice in regulation at the Honda Center this season. The Ducks are the best team in the NHL at the moment, with an intimidating 39-11-5 record.

And it won’t get much easier from there. The Sharks are 7-3 in their last 10, and while the Kings have taken a dip in the standings recently, they’re 16-7-3 at home this season.

“It’ll be hard hockey,” Berube said. “You got to really grind it out against these teams, and you’ve got to give it your best, because they’re big and talented. It’ll be tough games.”

Of course, there are benefits to being on the road. Historically, the Flyers have used their time away from the Wells Fargo Center to regroup and focus on the basics. On their most-recent Western road trip, the Flyers went 5-1. On a three-game Canadian tour in December, they went 2-0-1.

Though the Flyers dominated Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the games that had preceded the victory were some of their worst of the season on home ice. It's not unreasonable to believe getting out of Philadelphia will help them continue to dig their way out of their slump.

“It’s not a bad thing, going on the road,” Wayne Simmonds said. “All the guys are together all the time, so I think it helps build up the team a little more. We’re with each other, having meals together, probably playing a lot of practical jokes on each other. Just keeps it light."

After their California swing, the Flyers will return home to play two games before the fast approaching Olympic break. They'd like nothing more than to return home having proved they can hang with the league's top talent.

“Anytime you play against a hot team, a team that’s good on the road, good at home, you’ve got to make sure you’re ready to go,” Claude Giroux said.

“If you don’t bring your A-game, that’s when you’re going to get in trouble.”

Flyers-Senators 10 observations: Jordan Weal comes through with finishing touch

Flyers-Senators 10 observations: Jordan Weal comes through with finishing touch

Thanks to Jordan Weal and more shootout magic -- yes, you read that correctly -- the Flyers captured a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Weal netted a game-tying marker and the only tally of the skills competition in which the Flyers are now 7-4 this season.

Here are 10 observations from the victory:

1. Weal made a heady play by skating hard to the net as Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson left the crease to play a puck. He intercepted Anderson's pass and quickly buried the shot to knot the score, 2-2, with 7:25 left in the third period. The rookie has five goals in his last 11 games and has turned into a serious catalyst for a team that has struggled to score goals since mid-December.

2. The Flyers have back-to-back wins for the first time since Feb. 28-March 3. Still, they have only six games left, all against Metropolitan Division opponents. Their record against the remaining clubs on the schedule is 6-9-1. The Flyers stayed put Tuesday -- six points out of the second wild-card spot as both the Bruins and Maple Leafs won.

3. Brayden Schenn snapped the Flyers' 0-for-17 power-play skid on a deflection of Shayne Gostisbehere's shot with 1:26 left in the first period. The Flyers were 3 for 46 on the man advantage in March until Schenn's tally. With the current state of the Flyers' season, Schenn's production has gone somewhat unnoticed. Coming off a four-year contract extension this offseason, the 25-year-old forward has 23 goals, three from tying his career high set last season. Sure, he's been reliant on the power play (like many of his teammates), but Schenn has shown up after being rewarded.

4. Good effort by the Flyers after beating the Penguins, 6-2. They had struggled in sustaining any semblance of consistency and finally did for consecutive games -- and it came on fan appreciation night.

5. Steve Mason made his 13th start in the last 15 games and did his part. It looked like he didn't see Kyle Turris' shot in the third period that handed Ottawa a 2-1 lead. Overall, though, Mason once again gave the Flyers a chance. He entered with a 2.12 goals-against average over his last 12 games, while making 26 saves and three stops in the shootout Tuesday. The other goal allowed was gift-wrapped by Flyers penalties, resulting in a 5-on-3 and Erik Karlsson blast.

6. The Senators did what they do: aggressive and disruptive play on the puck-handler and making the opposition work for everything. Ottawa thrives on close, grind-it-out games, which has been a recipe for success as the Senators vie for the Atlantic Division crown.

7. Anderson has just been a wonderful story this season. He's taken some time away from the team to be alongside his wife, Nicholle, who is battling cancer. And even through that, he's having one heck of a season at 35 years old for a team destined for the playoffs.

8. Stick tap to Radko Gudas for jumping on the opportunity to stand up for a teammate late in the first period. Weal, not of much size at 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, was on the receiving end of two hits from 6-foot-1, 216-pound defenseman Mark Borowiecki. The second check was to the back and put Weal headfirst into the boards. Gudas saw it perfectly and swooped in to send a message.

9. More on Weal -- the rookie forward has shown he can help the Flyers in the future. With him playing well in a top-six role, Ottawa looked like it put a concerted effort on being physical with Weal. Similar to Travis Konecny, that's something Weal will have to overcome as more defensive focus is shifted to him.

10. A little inside the box score …
• With his assist, Gostisbehere has three points in his last two games. He's been active offensively with nine shots in those two outings.

• The Flyers were 1 for 4 on the power play, making them 4 for 48 this month.

• The Flyers outshot the Senators, 35-28, and blocked more shots, 20-17.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Senators 2 (SO)

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Senators 2 (SO)

BOX SCORE

A live-and-let-die week of hockey began for the Flyers on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center against the Ottawa Senators.
 
This was a playoff-type, defensive hockey game from the second period to the finish with the Flyers prevailing 3-2 in the shootout. Jordan Weal won it after saving the Flyers in regulation.

Ottawa's Kyle Turris broke a 1-1 tie with 7:25 left, but Weal re-tied it with 5:59 left in regulation.

Despite the win, Boston's victory over Nashville dropped the tragic number to six points to eliminate the Flyers from the wild card.
 
Notable goals
Weal's third goal in five games that made it 2-2. Goalie Craig Anderson tried to clear the puck and Weal intercepted for an open net.

Challenge
Ottawa lost its challenge that Wayne Simmonds interfered with Anderson at the net on Weal's goal.
 
Goalie report
Steve Mason made his ninth start in 10 games.
 
Power play
Four shots and no goals on the Flyers' first attempt. They had two shots on their second chance. Yet, they did score with a brief 39-second brief power play at period's end to tie the game. Brayden Schenn tipped a Shayne Gostisbehere drive. 

The Flyers are a woeful 4 for 47 on the power play for March. They were 1 for 4 against the Sens, who are 17th in the NHL in penalty killing.
 
Penalty kill
Naturally, the Senators took advantage of their PPs. They had a 23-second five-on-three and scored on nifty 35-foot snap-wrister from Erik Karlsson to make it 1-0. Ottawa was 1 for 3.
 
Fights
Radko Gudas decisioned Mark Borowiecki in the first period.
 
Scratches
Forwards Roman Lyubimov (healthy), Michael Raffl (left knee) and Nick Cousins (concussion) and defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy).
 
Up next
The Flyers practice Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Skate Zone. They will face the Islanders on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.