Flyers' camp shifts to Lake Placid for getaway

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Flyers' camp shifts to Lake Placid for getaway

The list of Flyers fall getaways during this decade is impressive.
 
West Point, N.Y., Annapolis, Md., Banff, Alberta. Those were under coach Ken Hitchcock.
 
Whistler, B.C. That was John Stevens’ team.
 
Today, it’s Peter Laviolette’s turn to take the Flyers' training camp on the road for team-bonding exercises and further camp development.
 
Laviolette chose tiny Lake Placid, N.Y., where history was made in 1980 when the U.S. beat the Soviet Union in ice hockey, then went on to capture the gold medal against Finland.
 
Had Laviolette had his way, the Flyers would have trained there last year, but general manager Paul Holmgren couldn’t swing it. Circumstances broke just the right way this fall with the ongoing renovation of Skate Zone.
 
“Paul and I talked a couple of times but schedule-wise, it was hard to put together,” Laviolette said. “This seems the perfect spot with Skate Zone remodeled and the break in the schedule.”
 
The Flyers don’t play another exhibition game until next week, allowing for these four days away. The team will arrive Thursday morning, then return home Sunday afternoon.
 
“This year it just worked out with what's going on at the Skate Zone, the renovation, and the way that training camp broke,” Holmgren said.
 
The split-squad games allowed the Flyers to play four games in three days in two countries.
 
“I wouldn't mind moving two of those games next year, to play two doubleheaders with two split squads,” Holmgren said.
 
“Peter and the coaches have some interesting things planned for the players [in Lake Placid]. They'll not only put them through the paces on the ice, but some off-ice stuff they can do, which is very important as you prepare for an 82-game season, and hopefully, playoffs.”
 
With the exceptions Hal Gill and Kimmo Timonen, no active player attending the Lake Placid retreat was alive to see the “Miracle on Ice.”  
 
Even Laviolette admits he has no idea if his younger players are fully tuned-in to what Lake Placid means to Americans, let alone USA Hockey.
 
It means a world to Flyers assistant coach Joey Mullen. He likely had a spot locked up on Herb Brooks’ Olympic squad before doing something so unselfish, so caring, few people ever knew what was behind it.
 
Mullen turned pro with the St. Louis Blues the summer prior to the Olympics. He needed his signing bonus to help support his family back home in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City because his father had become ill.
 
“I did try out for that team,” Mullen said. “My dad got sick and I had to make a decision and I think I made the right one for me.”
 
He never got an Olympic medal, but Mullen was later rewarded with two Stanley Cups as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
Mullen still remembers the feeling of practicing and playing in Lake Placid.
 
“It’s a good way to bond,” he said. “It’s a good way to get in a place where we’re all together and go right to work. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We’ve got things to accomplish this year and it starts when we get in.”
 
Much of what the Flyers do in Lake Placid will be behind closed doors. The bonding exercises strengthen “trust” within players. Some of them are mental exercises, some physical. Saturday is an off-day when players can choose from a variety of activities.
 
“Team-building stuff is phenomenal. I really enjoy it,” said center Vinny Lecavalier, one of several newcomers on the Flyers.
 
When Lecavalier captained the Lightning in Tampa Bay, they went to Mont Tremblant, Quebec for their team-bonding experience.
 
“It’s a great idea,” he said. “For me, I’m the new guy. You get to know the guys a lot more. You come into the locker room every day. Everybody is doing their thing when they step on the ice.
 
“When you go away three, four days, it’s like you never get to know somebody unless you go on vacation with them.
 
“It’s not a vacation, but you get to know your teammates on the ice, off the ice. It’s kinda of a four-day thing. For me, especially, getting to know the guys, it’s a great thing.”
 
The NHL has asked the Flyers several times about training in Europe and starting the season over there. The organization has always been intrigued by the idea, yet team owner Ed Snider has never been convinced it doesn’t hurt the club at the start of the season with the travel, time difference, etc.
 
In 2009, the Penguins trained 10 days in Europe, opened the season there, and won the Stanley Cup. Max Talbot, who scored the winning goal that spring in Game 7 against Detroit, said it was a unique bonding experience.
 
“I think it is necessary and I did it quite a bit of it in Pittsburgh,” Talbot said. “I always enjoyed it. What is kinda related is the year we started in [Sweden]. It’s not exactly the same kind of training camp concept, being in another country, but it was great for team bonding and we won the Cup.”
 
Defenseman Mark Streit, another newcomer, also believes in getting away.
 
“We did it in Montreal every year and I felt it was good for us,” Streit said. “Team bonding is important, but it is also a good time to practice up there. We have not had enough time here to work on a few things and this will help. It will be fun to hang with guys and be on the road a bit.”
 
Not every NHL team goes to some place special for bonding. Sometimes, they go to ordinary places.
 
When he was playing goal in Columbus, Steve Mason, beginning his first full season as a Flyer, said the Blue Jackets went away to … Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
 
“We didn’t necessarily go and take a plane and fly to a different city, but we had team-building things outside the city limits,” Mason recalled. “We got away from the families and distraction of camp in your own building. Have that bonding experience in a more intimate setting.
 
“Any time you can go away and isolate the team as a whole, it’s great moving forward. With all the new people we have this season it will be great to build new relationships with them.”

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

We begin our series reviewing the Flyers' 2016-17 roster with a look at the goaltenders. This is the first part of a four-part series.

What should have been a genuine competition in net for two players to win the prize of a long-term contract never did pan out for the Flyers this season.

Coming out of training camp, general manager Ron Hextall said goaltending was going to be the club's biggest strength with two goalies -- Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth -- essentially being 1-A and 1-B.

Instead, they both failed terribly with inconsistent performances that mirrored the skaters in front of them.

With Neuvirth already locked up for next season, all signs point to Mason leaving via free agency. That means Hextall has to find a replacement for Mason.

"We'll use the best option that's realistic for us," Hextall said recently. "Obviously, you've got salary cap, you've got term. There's a lot of factors that go into this. It's not just one. It's not just OK, let's go out and get the best goalie, whoever that might be.

"If we can get him, there's more to it than that. We'll work through our process here and in the end, we'll figure out what's our best option for next year, and the following year and after. We do have kids coming, and I think everybody knows it. 

"I don't have a lot of interest in getting into a long, drawn-out deal with a goaltender, but again we'll look at our options and move when we feel is our best option at the appropriate time."

Here's our look at the goaltenders (alphabetically) this past season.

Steve Mason 
Age: Turns 29 on May 29
Record: 58 GP; 26-21-8
Stats: 2.66 GAA; .908 SV%
Cap hit: UFA who earned $4.1 million

We've got to give Mason this much credit: For a guy dealing from the bottom of the deck, he has a lot of guts. How else can you explain how he went into Hextall's office on breakup day and asked to know his status ASAP and oh, one more: I didn't like Dave Hakstol's goalie platoon idea, and if you want me back, that's a dealbreaker. This was Mason's poorest season among the four full ones in Philadelphia. He, like Neuvirth, was maddeningly inconsistent right from the get-go until the final 17 games, when he produced some impressive numbers as the club's true No. 1 -- 10-5-2 record, 2.14 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts. In between, anything else was possible. There's a reason why the Flyers didn't re-sign him in-season like they did with Neuvirth. They feel he's going to want more term, more money and they have a slew of talent in the minors and Europe itching to get a chance to play in Philadelphia. At least one of the four goalie prospects will be NHL-ready within two years. Mason talked like a goalie going out the door down the stretch and yet, he played like one deserving of a new contract over the final month-plus. His unedited yet honest criticism of the team on a nightly basis earned him the respect of the media but did little to gather support within the room from teammates. Many felt he needed to shut his mouth. There are two kinds of goalies: those you play for and those you play in front of. The feeling was more than a few Flyers would choose the latter and those are not the type of goalies teams rally around to win Stanley Cups. It appears management realizes that could be a problem. He'll most likely go to free agency.

Michal Neuvirth 
Age: Turned 29 on March 23 
Record: 28 GP; 11-11-1
Stats: 2.82 GAA; .891 SV%
Cap hit: $2.5 million (re-signed in-season)

After a strong playoff performance in 2016 in which he showed he could be a No. 1 goalie again, Neuvirth came into the season much like Mason, knowing a good year would mean a new deal. Well, he got a two-year contract at a reduced price because of injury. A left knee strain caused him to miss 24 games this season. His start was poor -- e.g. four goals against on 16 shots vs. Chicago -- and despite a few wins, he continued to give up too many goals, showed some promise in February, but never really gained his footing in the crease. To his credit, he doesn't pout when he's not playing and he almost never criticizes the club in such a way as to offend his teammates. And teammates respect him for that. Near the end of the year, he collapsed in net from a sinus infection and dehydration and then concussed himself by passing out backward onto the ice. Hextall is convinced he'll have a bounce-back season next year, but the bottom line is that he'll never survive a full season and 30-32 games played is the most you can count on from him. Given the club chose him over Mason to re-sign, it's unlikely he'll be exposed in the expansion draft.

Anthony Stolarz
Age: Turns 24 on January 20 
Record: 7 GP; 2-1-0
Stats: 1.93 GAA; .936 SV%
Cap hit: RFA, who earned $753,333 (pro-rated)

Remember the movie There's Something About Mary? Well, if the Flyers produced such a movie, it might be titled, There's Something About Stolie. As in, there's something about this 6-foot-6 giant that the organization doesn't like. Maybe it's his mechanics, which seem awkward at times. Or maybe it's because some in the Flyers' organization feel he makes the tough saves but gives up the easy one down low, or whiffs with the glove hand. He only had seven appearances this season. Hakstol flatly refused to play him when Neuvirth was injured -- Mason got 22 starts -- and that showed a lack of confidence. That apparently extends to Hextall as well. When asked during his after-the-season press conference whether he would be comfortable with Neuvirth as his starter and Stolarz as his backup next season, Hextall didn't answer the question in affirmative fashion. With Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Felix Sandstorm all vying for the same opportunity Stolarz got in limited doses, the position of backup on this club remains unsolved. The door is not shut on Stolarz yet, but it's not fully open either. Stolarz suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee at season's end with the Phantoms and will miss up to four months. All meniscus tears require surgery. This is worse than an MCL sprain. The 23-year-old needs to have a great training camp to change people's minds in the organization that he's the real deal. And that's complicated by the fact his injury now sets him back. Expect him to be exposed in the expansion draft.

Up next: A look back at the defense.

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).