Big miscues send Flyers to third straight loss


Big miscues send Flyers to third straight loss


Ill-timed line changes and defensive pair switches are among the problems causing the Flyers' downfall this season.

Too often, they’ve resulted in breakaway goals.

In a lethargic game that lacked for excitement and entertainment, yet remained tightly defensive, that’s exactly how the Flyers lost Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Two Flyer mistakes was all Ottawa needed in a 3-1 victory that further dimmed the Flyers' fading playoff hopes, though they remained seven points behind the eighth-seeded Rangers in the Eastern Conference.

“Just miscommunication,” Luke Schenn said. “That’s two breakdowns, two goals off the rush … To give that up at the end of the game, pretty much not being aware of who is around you. It backfired on us. It’s a bad goal to give up at a bad time.”

You rarely see a team ice the puck on the penalty kill, have a line change, then get beat cleanly on a breakaway. Worse, for the game winner.

“There was a line change and missed coverage,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They had been bringing five guys back the entire night on their power-play breakouts.

“This last time they brought four back and one guy stretched. From the change, we missed him.”

That’s how Colin Greening broke a 1-1 tie at 14:24 of the third period with Claude Giroux sitting in the box serving a four-minute, high-sticking penalty.

“We had tried a different power-play breakout where we had put five guys back and I think they were used to that,” Greening said.

“So when they put me on instead of Gui (Guillaume Latendresse), I was the one that was kind of hanging back and trying to keep the defensemen back.

“Luckily, their defense kind of parted and I just saw an opening … and I was able to get a break.”

Ottawa’s first goal in the opening minutes of play saw the Flyers’ Bruno Gervais and Kimmo Timonen coming onto the ice on a late change as Zack Smith was streaking up the middle with no defensemen within a zip code of him.

“Not too sure what happened on those goals to be honest,” Giroux said. “The first one I just got off, so I wasn’t too sure.

“We’ve gotta make sure we make less mistakes and when it’s close like that, find a way to be better defensively for the whole 60 minutes and if you give the other team a chance to score.”

Did we mention the Senators had lost five straight much like the Winnipeg Jets last Saturday before they met the Flyers?

Following two straight losses that have seen the Flyers drift seven points behind a playoff spot, Laviolette re-arranged all four of his lines.

The biggest change saw Simon Gagne elevated to Giroux’s line with Jakub Voracek. Since his arrival, Gagne has demonstrated more jump in his skates than any other player and he’s 33, too.

Seven minutes after Smith’s breakaway, Gagne helped tie it by assisting on a Giroux shorthanded goal.

Gagne’s initial shot from the left circle was blocked. Gagne retrieved the puck in the high slot, spun around and shot again as Giroux redirected it on rookie goalie Robin Lehner.

It remained 1-1 going into the third period.

The Flyers began the third with a runover power play from the second period and did nothing. They quickly got another power play. Did nothing with that one, as well.

Incredibly, they came into play No. 2 overall on the power play in the NHL (22.9 percent). They are now 0 for 13 over their last five games.

“Yeah, we had some chances,” Giroux said. “We had some good chances. But sometimes it’s going to go in, sometimes it won’t. I think we were moving the puck well there, it just wasn’t going in.”

That is why all it takes these days for a Flyers' loss is a couple of miscues.

“There were two [breakaways] in the first period and in a game where you’re trying to stay alive, to give up breakaways doesn’t get the team going in the right direction,” Mike Knuble said.

“Our second time in the first period was a lot better than our first. They got one goal, but we’re lucky they didn’t get two or three by the time we tried to respond.”

The Flyers' urgency really didn’t kick in until the final period.

“It was a 1-1 game going into the third and our power play doesn’t capitalize, but theirs does,” Knuble said.

Indeed, the game was up for grabs.

“There is an opportunity to win,” Laviolette said. “I actually thought the third period was our best period. We generated the most offense.

“It was probably the tightest defensively we played that period and didn’t get the result we were looking for.”

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie the game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.”

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”