Floundering Devils 'want it more' in win over Flyers

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Floundering Devils 'want it more' in win over Flyers

BOX SCORE

It was almost like men playing against kids.
 
Those are Scott Hartnell’s words after a numbing 3-0 loss by the Flyers on Thursday night to the New Jersey Devils. The defeat reduced the Flyers' elimination number to two points.
 
A Rangers’ victory Friday at Buffalo will officially knock the Flyers out of playoff contention.
 
“There have been other nights like this,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I have always said that after the game, you come into the locker room and you sit here, you come in the next morning ... and the players care.
 
“The organization cares. It’s not a comfortable spot. There have been other nights like this as well, but you’ve gotta keep pushing forward.”
 
All the more reason why there should have been a little more urgency in the second period when the Devils won every battle in sight and gained control of the game.
 
“If you want to look at puck battles and who wanted it more, the second and third period, they totally took over the game,” Hartnell said.
 
“It was almost like men playing against kids. We pretty much lost every battle. You do that, you’re not going to win games.”
 
When you’ve reached the end of the regular season, you don’t seek many comparisons to previous games, but this had a familiar look about it.
 
Tight defense. Some big saves. Lack of scoring -- both ways. For a period, anyway.
 
Sort of like the 1-0 loss the Flyers suffered in Buffalo last weekend except the Flyers battled hard all the way through.
 
Not this one.
 
“They’re frustrating to play against,” Hartnell said. “And when you get frustrated, you start doing things that aren’t in the game plan.
 
“Whether it’s a turnover or one try to make a play other than chipping it in, not supporting each other on the breakout, they come hard. They skate hard. They want it more.
 
“It’s always a frustrating game to play the Devils. They probably circle every time they play us and say, ‘This is gonna be a fun game.’ They’re winning and we’re not.”
 
Since Game 2 of last year's playoffs against the Devils, the Flyers have just 14 goals in nine games against New Jersey to go with a 1-8 record. The Rangers aren't the only team that owns the Flyers these days.
 
The Flyers were the Devils’ tonic to end a 10-game losing streak (0-6-4) in which they had just 14 goals to show for it.
 
New Jersey made the most of a 1-0 lead earned early in the second period.
 
Soon after Marty Brodeur denied Claude Giroux off the rush, Jacob Josefson stole a puck off Flyer rookie defenseman Oliver Lauridsen for a breakaway goal by Matt D’Agostini that iced it.
 
The first period was very competitive with neither team having anything to show for it.
 
As usual, New Jersey’s tenacious forecheck caused the Flyers problems on the breakout, while Brodeur continually thwarted dump-ins by playing pucks up the forwards quickly and catching the Flyers in transition.
 
The Flyers’ best chance in the period came with eight minutes left when Mike Knuble briefly was alone in the slot with the puck on his stick and no one but Brodeur in front of him.
 
Devils defenseman Peter Harrold, however, blocked Knuble’s shot.
 
While the Flyers were getting some chances off the rush, Brodeur was either making routine saves or the Devils' defense was stifling the play.
 
A three-on-one into the Devils' end saw it turned right around as New Jersey mounted a two-on-one the other way off a turnover.
 
The play culminated with Ryan Carter’s wrister from the left circle that beat Ilya Bryzgalov high short side for a 1-0 lead at 5:36.
 
Two of the Devils' goals came off turnovers.
 
“The second period there was a little bit of a letdown on our part,” Danny Briere said. “The biggest problem is we don’t know how to play a patient game. The last two years, we have struggled against the Devils because they’re patient.
 
“They wait for their chance. We didn’t give them much. You look at the two goals we gave up five-on-five, they were bad turnovers in the neutral zone where we had complete control of the puck.
 
“They don’t make those mistakes. Whenever they get in that position, they just make a safe play and wait to live another day. That’s what we need to learn.”
 
Carter’s goal broke the Devils' scoreless streak at 146:13. Also, New Jersey had not enjoyed a lead in a game since the final 30 seconds against Florida on March 30.
 
Talk about droughts.
 
If that goal didn’t hurt the Flyers enough, Jakub Voracek’s 20th of the season was disallowed four minutes later because of a “distinct kicking motion.”
 
Voracek did just that and it was denied on review, too.
 
Some time around 10 p.m. Friday, the Flyers' season will likely officially end.
 
“Well you know what, it’s a disappointing season ... still a couple games left, but it’s frustrating the way we played this game,” Giroux said.
 
“They won more battles than us, that’s the thing.”
 
It's been like this most of the season, too.

End to End: The State of Claude Giroux

End to End: The State of Claude Giroux

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The state of Flyers captain Claude Giroux.

Boruk
The state of Giroux is more of a state of mind at this point of his career. There was one very revealing quote that surfaced following his breakout day when he said, “Your mind wants to do something but your body doesn’t do it, it’s frustrating.” That tells me the dynamic part of his game that we came to expect and admire for much of his career is perhaps no longer there, and he’s searching for a way to reinvent himself. He still has a big-time slap shot, terrific vision and an unbelievable set of hands.
 
The bigger worry here is that Giroux, who turns 30 in January, hasn’t performed as a No. 1 center (despite being paid like one) at even strength for the past three seasons, where he’s ranked 81st, 60th and a mind-blowing 189th last season in even-strength points. It’s an accumulation of facing the top lines and defense pairings every single game, and eventually, it takes a toll.

If this trend continues, I would give thought to moving him back to wing where he started his Flyers career during the Mike Richards-Jeff Carter era. I agree to some extent with Jeremy Roenick’s assertion that he lets too much get into his head, and that probably includes all facets of life, even off the ice. Giroux needs to come to camp like a finely-tuned Ferrari, and if he can start strong, it will go a long way toward a rebound season.  

Dougherty
The numbers tell a cautionary tale. Since the 2014-15 campaign, Giroux’s goal, assist and point totals have been in a consistent decline. What makes that season important?

That was when his eight-year, $66.2 million contract extension began. Giroux’s decline over the last three seasons should concern the Flyers. He’s not the same player he was in 2013-14. But I don’t believe he’s the player he was in 2016-17, either. I think there’s a happy medium here, and I expect Giroux to have a much better season in 2017-18.

It’s two-fold as to why I believe so. One, Giroux's confidence was rocked last season after undergoing hip and abdominal surgery last summer. Was he fully healthy all season? He’ll never say, but toward the end of the year, I thought he was much better. I think with a full summer of training and added motivation, Giroux will come in with a chip on his shoulder.

More importantly, there will be less pressure on Giroux to carry the workload because the talent level at forward will be deeper. I expect Nolan Patrick to be a Flyer. I also expect Oskar Lindblom to be here too. Then there is Jordan Weal and Travis Konecny. Weal will be here all season, and I expect Konecny to make a big jump in Year 2. Those four should lessen the demand placed on Giroux.

We may never see Giroux reach 70 points again. But with expected scoring depth incoming, the Flyers can live with Giroux in the 60-65-point range, which I think he’ll be in. The contract could be a cap problem in a few seasons, but I don’t think the Flyers are there yet.

Hall
Giroux's right — he's his toughest critic, which can be a blessing and a curse.

Any organization wants a driven player. With Giroux, it's not so much about what outsiders think, but it's his own expectations. So when he struggles, he sort of creates his own pressure because he expects a lot of himself — just like the fans and media expect a lot from him.

What I expect this season is an ultra-motivated Giroux, maybe the most fueled we've ever seen him. It didn't look or sound like Giroux was healthy last season, which only added to his frustration when he didn't perform. A summer full of recouping and training — he's pretty excited about both — should help Giroux's chances of rebounding.

I don't think he'll ever put up 80-plus points again, but that doesn't mean he can't be productive — say 20 goals and close to 50 assists? Giroux needs a supporting cast, not all the weight on his shoulders, because it has a negative affect on the captain.

The supporting cast should be better in 2017-18, and so should Giroux.

Paone
Is Giroux still an upper-echelon, high-level NHL player? Absolutely he is. The skill is still there and the guy isn't a former Hart Trophy finalist and four-time All-Star by accident. But after last season's woeful campaign where the captain, in many ways the sparkplug of the Flyers' offense and arguably the team's most important player, struggled mightily, it's more than fair to question just which echelon and level he is on these days, especially as he enters his age 29-30 season.

In so many ways, as Giroux goes, so does the Flyers' offense. And it's been that way for the last several years as he is still the main guy other teams gameplan for when preparing to play the Flyers. But the decline in production has been steady over the last few years and the Flyers' offense has suffered because of that.

In 2014-15, Giroux posted 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.59 goals per game. In 2015-16, Giroux put up 67 points (22 goals and 45 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.57 goals per game. Last season, the captain notched 58 points (14 goals and 44 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.59 goals per game again. All of those goal-per-game numbers the last three seasons were in the bottom half of the league's numbers. Compare all that to 2013-14 when Giroux, a Hart finalist that year, posted 86 points (career-high-tying 28 goals and 58 assists) and the Flyers tallied 2.84 goals per contest, seventh in the league.

That Giroux may not be there any more. It's a legitimate question with the the decline shown over the last several seasons. That's why this season is all about answering questions for Giroux. And he couldn't answer those questions for the better part of last season as that hip surgery turned his hockey world upside down. He couldn't get a full summer of training in and then jumped right into the World Cup of Hockey, where he took this hit from Joe Pavelski in an exhibition. That's an injury that lingers, especially for a hockey player, and Giroux was basically stuck in mud the for most of the year as he tried to get his motor going. The quote John mentioned above from breakout day is so telling with that. Shayne Gostisbehere knows the feeling. But much like Gostisbehere, Giroux started to turn it on more and more and showed flashes of his more productive self as the season wound down.

Giroux is a guy who takes his play to heart and he can be very hard on himself. The way you see him break his stick over the bench every so often is proof of that. He expects so much more out of himself than he gave last season.

But now healthy, with a full offseason of training and a year's worth of motivation under his belt, I expect him to be much better and much more productive. The Giroux of five years ago? No, probably not. But with another year of young talent surrounding him and a healthy slate, I really don't feel there's a reason Giroux can't be a top-line threat again and I even look for him to be reckoned with as the season gets underway. But he's the guy who will provide the answers that both he and Flyers fans have been looking for.

NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

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NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Tomas Tatar on a $21.2 million, four-year contract Friday.

The 26-year-old Czech native led Detroit with 25 goals last season and also had 21 assists. He has 20-plus goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15. In 345 NHL games, he has 99 goals and 95 assists.

The team announced the deal a day after Tatar's arbitration hearing and before the ruling was to be handed down. Tatar will count $5.3 million against the salary cap through 2020-21.

Tatar's cap hit moving forward is the same as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who also signed a long-term deal as a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. They're moving into a new arena next season and will need a new core of players to return them to relevance. Pavel Datsyuk left the team before last season, and although Henrik Zetterberg had 68 points -- his highest total in five seasons -- Detroit didn't have anyone else reach 50 in 2016-17 (see full story).

Wild: Foligno seeks more in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marcus Foligno has left the leap behind in Buffalo.

That doesn't mean his offensive production can't or won't continue to rise in Minnesota.

Coming off a career-high 13 goals for the Sabres last season, the 25-year-old was acquired by the Wild to bring some needed grit and strength to the left wing position on the third or fourth line. He's capable of putting the puck in the net, too, though he has so far been more of a sporadic scorer in the NHL.

"Definitely, 20 goals is something I envision myself to reach, and I hope to do that in a Wild jersey," Foligno said. "Playing with some big centermen, playing on a well-rounded team, I think I can do that. I felt last year that my offensive side was getting there, and I'm looking to improve on that this season" (see full story).

Blackhawks: Wingels recovering from broken foot
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels broke his left foot during offseason training, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

The 29-year-old Wingels, a suburban Chicago native, agreed to a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He had seven goals and five assists for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators last season.

The Blackhawks announced the injury on Friday.