Big miscues send Flyers to third straight loss

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Big miscues send Flyers to third straight loss

BOX SCORE

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.”

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Part 2 of the forwards

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Part 2 of the forwards

We conclude our series reviewing the Flyers' 2016-17 roster with the second part of evaluating the forwards. You can find Part 1 here, as well the goaltending here and defensemen here.

Matt Read
Age: Turns 31 on June 14
Stats: 63 GP; 10G, 9A, 19 Pts.; plus-3; 13:46
Cap hit: $3.625 million

No Flyers forward has been more disappointing than Read during his six seasons here. Signed out of college, he scored 24 goals and had 47 points his first season and hasn't come close to matching those numbers again. Read broke his right forearm late in the season and missed the final five games. He missed 11 games earlier in the season with an oblique injury. He has averaged fewer than 10 goals over the past three seasons, which doesn't cut it with his salary. Will undoubtedly be exposed in the expansion draft.

Brayden Schenn
Age: Turns 26 on Aug. 22
Stats: 79 GP; 25G, 30A, 55 Pts.; minus-13; 17:48
Cap hit: $5.125 million

Often criticized for not fitting in or not delivering enough offensively, Schenn has demonstrated continued improvement every season as a Flyer. He was four points under last season's point total, yet among all forwards except Wayne Simmonds, he was the closest Flyer to having a season as good or better than his previous season. Tied for the NHL lead in power-play goals (17). Has a long way to go at 5-on-5 in terms of goal production. After years of being tried at various positions under three head coaches, it appears the organization has finally settled on Schenn as a winger, not center. And like so many others on this team, coach Dave Hakstol used him all over the lineup. If GM Ron Hextall decides to break up his core this summer, Schenn offers the most possibilities for a trade given his offensive output at a young age.

Wayne Simmonds
Age: Turns 29 on Aug. 26
Stats: 82 GP; 31G, 23A, 54 Pts.; minus-18; 18:58
Cap hit: $3.975 million

Led the Flyers in goal scoring for the fourth consecutive season and was right behind Schenn in power-play goals with 16. Simmonds was unquestionably the club's MVP this season and many feel he should be wearing the "C," because he's often the guy on the ice intervening with the officials. He offers the most bang for your buck on the Flyers. By his own admission, Simmonds is the "bad" cop to Claude Giroux's "good" cop. He plays a hard, power forward game despite his skinny legs. If he were an NBA player, he'd be a shooting guard. Simmonds wears his heart on his jersey and sometimes avoided the media this season after games because he was fearful of saying something he would later regret. Every Flyers club has had at least one player who defines orange and black and Simmonds is this team's rep. Was very effective on Valtteri Filppula's line with Jordan Weal this season. Like Giroux, however, Simmonds can't afford to be a minus player next season.

Chris VandeVelde
Age: Turned 30 on March 15
Stats: 81 GP; 6G, 9A, 15 Pts.; minus-5; 11:33
Cap hit: UFA who earned $712,500

For whatever reason, VandeVelde was totally immune from being benched by Hakstol this past season while others suffered at the drop of a puck. It wasn't until the very last game that Hakstol sat him. The fact is, VandeVelde tended toward disappearing in many games this season and his overall effectiveness with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the penalty kill was muted because he simply didn't generate shorthanded chances like he had done in the past. Although he tied his career high with the Flyers in terms of points, it's unlikely the club re-signs him. The Flyers have too many grinders and need scoring at this point with others waiting in line. 

Jakub Voracek
Age: Turns 28 on Aug. 15
Stats: 82 GP; 20G, 41A, 61 Pts.; minus-24; 19:05 
Cap hit: $8.25 million

The only number fans are going to remember from Voracek's lost season is "minus-24." That was worst on the Flyers. Since signing that gargantuan, eight-year, $66 million contract in 2015, the Czech winger has had two poor seasons in succession. Everyone -- himself included -- assumed a bounce-back year this past season, and while Voracek had 20 goals and more points -- five more than 2015-16 -- he remained well short of what he should have provided for his salary. This truly was a season in which the Flyers' big guns -- Simmonds and Schenn being the exceptions -- came up fairly lame. Even more distressing, however, was Voracek's being bounced off the second power-play unit, and not finding a set line. Truth is, his best production came with Michael Raffl and Giroux -- 24 points. He had six goals playing right wing on Giroux's line and six playing there on Sean Couturier's line. Hakstol needs to find Voracek a permanent line.

Jordan Weal
Age: Turned 26 April 15
Stats: 23 GP; 8G, 4A, 12 Pts.; plus-4; 14:18 
Cap hit: UFA who earned $650,000

Weal was more or less a "throw-in" as part of the Luke Schenn-Vinny Lecavalier deal with L.A. in January 2016. He got his chance this season when Travis Konecny suffered his knee and ankle injury in February against St. Louis. The Flyers discovered that Weal can play. And play above his size, with grit and skill, and an attitude that resembles a pit bull gnarling on a puck. Weal could get a contract close to or right at $2 million from someone this summer if he elects free agency. Hextall says he wants to re-sign Weal but isn't sure when. Weal can't be exposed because he's a free agent. Yet under the expansion draft rules, Vegas will have a 48-hour window prior to the expansion draft to sign free agents. Weal would be a perfect player for Vegas GM George McPhee to sign and grow with an expansion club. If Hextall signs him before that window opens, he will have to protect Weal on June 21. If he waits, he is potentially competing with a lot of clubs. Filppula's line with him and Simmonds was very good in the second half. Hextall has no choice but to re-sign this kid. The Flyers are already lacking in the skill/creativeness department and Weal provides both. 

Dale Weise
Age: Turns 29 on Aug. 5
Stats: 64 GP; 8G, 7A, 15 Pts.; plus-1; 12:52 
Cap hit: $2.35 million

Essentially, Weise was signed last summer to replace Ryan White. Things began poorly for him -- a three-game suspension and no goals through the club's first 20 games. His game never picked up until late in the second half when Hextall admitted he was disappointed in the production he had gotten from him. That's when Weise came alive -- after sitting six straight games -- with some excellent play on Couturier's line with Schenn. Weise scored six goals with four assists (10 points) over his final 14 games. He was vocal and noticeably moody much of the second half because of his benchings (twice for multiple games) and lack of production. It didn't seem to have an impact in the room. The Flyers need more from him next season. Will be exposed in the expansion draft.

Report: Flyers sign 2015 draft pick Mikhail Vorobyov to entry-level contract

Report: Flyers sign 2015 draft pick Mikhail Vorobyov to entry-level contract

It appears another prospect has signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers.

Mikhail Vorobyov has now done so, according to a report by TVA Sports' Renaud Lavoie on Tuesday night. Fellow prospect Connor Bunnaman signed last Friday.

Vorobyov, a 20-year-old center selected by the Flyers in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, played in the KHL for parts of the past seasons. With Salavat Yulaev, the 6-foot-2, 207-pounder had three goals and eight assists in 44 games this season.

Vorobyov was on the final year of his KHL deal.

Playing for his native Russia in the World Junior Championships, Vorobyov opened eyes with 10 assists and a plus-6 rating in seven games.

At 20 years old, he's more than likely headed for AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley in 2017-18.