Flyers-Canadiens: 5 things you need to know

flyers-canadiens.png

Flyers-Canadiens: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Canadiens
7 p.m., CSN

The Flyers will try to bounce back from back-to-back losses when they host the Montreal Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.

Montreal could become the first team to reach 3-0 this season while the Flyers will try to avoid an 0-3 start for a third consecutive year.

Here are five things you should know before puck drop:

1. Fright night
Halloween came early for Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn, who had arguably his worst outing as an NHL player in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the New Jersey Devils. The 24-year-old was on the ice for five goals against and had a puck deflect off his skate and past netminder Steve Mason.

Schenn wasn’t alone, however. The entire defensive corps was underwhelming. But it’s a telling stat that Schenn has been on the ice for six of the eight goals scored against the Flyers through the first two games.

So how will Schenn bounce back? According to the rugged blueliner, it’s as simple as just forgetting about it.

“You pick your head up and get back to the drawing board and work hard,” he said Thursday. “I felt good tonight. It’s bounces, bad luck, gaps. You have to have a short memory to move on.”

2. That’s a relief
The Flyers received good news Friday as it pertains to Braydon Coburn’s lower-body injury (see story).

General manager Ron Hextall said Coburn still needs to see a specialist Monday, but is optimistic the defenseman will miss only a few days.

“I’m hoping it’s short-term instead of mid-term is the best way to put it,” Hextall said. “Before, I was thinking weeks … hopefully now, it’s less than that.”

Coburn receives quite a bit of criticism from a portion of the Flyers’ fanbase. Yes, he’s prone to make some questionable decisions on the ice and doesn’t use his huge frame enough. But with Kimmo Timonen already on the shelf, Coburn is one of the hardest players for the Flyers to replace. He can play a lot of minutes and his valuable on the penalty kill. His absence Thursday was noticeable.

3. Line changes … already?
It took Flyers coach Craig Berube four and half periods to shuffle his lines this season.

Sure, the Flyers had just one goal during that span, but it was still interesting to see Berube mix up his players so quickly.

Michael Raffl saw time with the top line, R.J. Umberger skated with Sean Couturier and Matt Read and Vinny Lecavalier had Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn on his wings for much of the third period.

One thing that didn’t change was the Flyers’ fourth line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Zac Rinaldo and Jason Akeson. All three skaters have been solid through the first two games, often pinning the opposition in its defensive zone and working hard along the boards.

It’s unclear what Berube will opt to do with his lines for Saturday’s game. Guess we’ll have to wait until gametime to find out.

4. Keep an eye on …

Flyers: Wayne Simmonds was a beast Thursday night. Plain and simple. The Flyers’ new assistant captain did the best he could to help the Flyers claw their way back into a game that looked out of reach after the first 35 minutes. He scored twice in the final minute of the second period — once on the power play — and picked up an assist on Vinny Lecavalier’s third-period marker, which came just 15 seconds after New Jersey took a 4-3 lead. He was also ferocious on the forecheck. Expect Simmonds to carry over that intensity into Saturday’s game.

Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec is off to a hot start for the Habs. The 31-year-old centerman has three of Montreal’s five markers this season and is playing with a ton of confidence. He’s fired seven shots on goal through two games and gave Toronto and Washington defenders headaches with quickness and playmaking instincts. He’s not a true sniper, but he will burn teams if given him time and space. Plekanec posted two points (one goal) and averaged just over 20 minutes of ice time in three games against the Flyers last season.

5. This and that

• The Flyers won two of three meetings against the Canadiens last season. Brayden Schenn had an assist in each contest.

• Montreal goalie Carey Price is 8-9-0 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 18 career games — 17 starts — against the Flyers.

• The Flyers were 1 for 12 on the power play against the Canadiens in 2013-14. Montreal went 2 for 14 on the man advantage in the season series. 

• Entering Saturday, there are six players in the NHL who are minus-4 or worse. Five of them are Flyers (Voracek, Raffl, Claude Giroux, Michael Del Zotto and L. Schenn).

• For only the sixth time in NHL history, all 30 teams will be in action during a 15-game Saturday. The last time all 30 clubs suited up on the same day was April 7, 2012, the final day of the 2011-12 regular season.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process. 
 
Today, we finish up by taking a look at the Flyers.

 
How did we get here?
The Flyers' rebuild had begun when Ron Hextall returned to his old stomping grounds in the summer of 2013 as the team's new assistant general manager.
 
He took over GM duties after one season and the philosophical change was in place. Paul Holmgren was made president and Hextall's imprint, which had already started, was ready to become bigger.
 
What Hextall inherited was a cap-stricken team fresh off a first-round playoff loss, an organization that had tried to spend its way to immediate results instead of putting greater focus on the long game.
 
Some of the past decisions are well-documented: signing enigmatic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in 2011 after trading for him. With a buyout, the Flyers are still paying Bryzgalov through 2027. Signing veteran center Vinny Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract in 2013. And signing imposing defenseman Chris Pronger to a seven-year, $34.55 million extension — nobody could foresee the unfortunate concussion issues that suddenly derailed Pronger's career, but it was nonetheless a hurdle for the Flyers moving forward.
 
Hextall has adeptly maneuvered through much of those rocky waters.
 
Now, the Flyers are a more cost-efficient (partly because they have to be in this salary cap world), draft-oriented organization planning for the future while not ignoring the present. This rebuild hasn't been a total demolition, but more of a retooling — a smart but tricky process, especially down the line.
 
Are the Flyers on the right path back to prosperity?
The youth is coming.
 
Hextall, oftentimes close to the vest, made that abundantly clear at his end-of-the-season press conference.
 
"Our young players, they've done enough," Hextall said in early April. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."
 
But the really hard part is just beginning — results. Can the prospects catch up and meet the current core? The pressure for it to start has never been higher.
 
Help does appear to be on the way, though, for a team that regressed this season and missed the playoffs for the third time in the past five years.
 
Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart give the Flyers future options in net.
 
Two promising prospects are expected to join Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and company on the blue line.
 
Oskar Lindblom, a dynamic 20-year-old winger, could crack the Flyers' group of forwards, which should have Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula for a full season.
 
Also, don't forget forward Mike Vecchione, a Hobey Baker finalist who signed with the Flyers out of Union College in late March.
 
Oh, and the No. 2 pick of the draft — likely a talented center — is in the Flyers' grasp.
 
The 2017-18 season will be a telling time for the Flyers. Patience has been required, but when will it be rewarded?
 
The clock is ticking.