Flyers cap turnaround with playoff-clinching win


Flyers cap turnaround with playoff-clinching win


SUNRISE, Fla. -- They had been beaten up 4-1 by the Penguins a few days earlier. A few days later, on Oct. 21 at its practice site in Voorhees, N.J., team captain Claude Giroux boldly predicted the Flyers would make the playoffs.

They were 1-7 at the time, having fired coach Peter Laviolette and replaced him with Craig Berube just three games into the season.

“Eighty-two games is a lot of games, and it was only eight games and we had to believe in ourselves,” Giroux said Tuesday after his improbable prediction came true.

“When we started believing how good we were, we started winning games. [Someone] looked at me with crazy eyes when I said that, but it’s good to be in the playoffs. I just believed in our team. We had a good team.”

Berube’s Flyers clinched a playoff spot Tuesday with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center (see Instant Replay).

A four-goal outburst in the second period made it 4-0 as Giroux scored twice.

“Last year, not making the playoffs, it’s Philadelphia and it’s unacceptable and we were aware of that,” he said. “For us to make the playoffs this year after the start we had, we got to be proud of ourselves and make sure we keep playing like that.”

Truth be told, the Flyers had a poor start to this game after a scoreless opening period, a great second period and then, in the words of goalie Steve Mason, a “terrible” third period when the Flyers -- knowing they had it clinched -- let up and allowed the Panthers back into the game at 4-2.

“Our third period was terrible and we all know it and we addressed it after the game,” Mason said. “Come playoff time, we’re going to have to be better with it.”

Several individual heroes besides Giroux contributed. Vinny Lecavalier scored a goal and had a nifty assist on Tye McGinn’s marker. Adam Hall had two assists.

And lastly, Mason had 38 saves, including 14 in the third period when the Flyers were a defensive wreck for long stretches.

“The last seven or eight minutes we played some pretty good hockey, but there might have a little bit of a letdown,” Lecavalier said.

“Overall, we played a good game. First period, both sides weren't all that great but we came out in the second and scored four goals and had a lot of good chances offensively and it paid off.”

Lecavalier, who turns 34 this month, has been on five previous playoffs teams, including with Tampa Bay where he won a Stanley Cup in 2004.

The Flyers could have clinched a spot last weekend, but a four-game losing skid ended that chance. Lecavalier admitted there was a sense of relief in the dressing room tonight.

“It’s nice. You always want to finish strong and the right way, but we accomplished a lot from the start of the year, the first 10 games,” Lecavalier said. “We have to be proud of what we’ve done. We have to finish strong and make sure we’re ready and confident for that first round.”

The Flyers remain likely to face the Rangers and open in New York next week. The Rangers (93 points) won, 4-1, over Carolina to stay two points ahead of the Flyers (91) in the Metro Division. Columbus won, 4-3, in overtime against Phoenix to remain two behind the Flyers.

Berube’s team almost has to win out to overtake the Rangers. The Flyers have a game in hand.

“I told the guys you should be proud of yourselves,” Berube said. “They went through a lot. They battled hard all year. They’re a good group of guys. Good character and they deserve a lot of credit for making the playoffs.”

Berube’s focal point of what was the turning point in the season wasn’t back in October, but after Christmas when the Flyers went on a 5-1 road trip through Western Canada -- sweeping Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary for the first time since 1996 -- then finishing up in the Western U.S. against Colorado and Phoenix and finally, New Jersey.

“That trip after Christmas was a very important road trip,” Berube said. “I believe we went there with a purpose on that trip and came back with five wins out of six. That made believers out of our team more than anything. It put us in a good situation.”

The Flyers were 4-1 in February, then 9-3-2 in March to solidly position themselves as a playoff contender. However, they recently lost four games in succession mostly because they couldn’t score a goal even though they weren’t giving up any, either.

They can’t relax if they want to catch New York.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but within this organization, it’s something that is expected,” Mason said. “It’s one goal achieved and now we have an even bigger one.”

Flyers' defense continues to abandon team through 1-2-1 start

Flyers' defense continues to abandon team through 1-2-1 start

It was the home opener Thursday night and his team went 1 for 7 on the man advantage with five such opportunities in the second period alone.

However, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol remembers one play more than any other in his team’s 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Wells Fargo Center (see game recap).

The Flyers had swung and missed on their final power play of the middle stanza, when the Ducks came pushing up ice with post-kill energy. Somehow, Anaheim came barreling down on the Flyers with a four-on-two rush seconds after the orange and black just had the benefit of an extra player.

Center Ryan Getzlaf dumped a pass back to winger Corey Perry, who had all the time in the world to wind up and blast one home thanks to 6-foot-4 Getzlaf’s screening of 6-foot defenseman Ivan Provorov.

Just like that, the game was tied when it looked like the Flyers would add cushion and cruise into the third period with a lead to protect.

“Our power play was OK,” Hakstol said. “The bigger thing for me is the goal that we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals as a team that we can’t give up.”

The rookie Provorov couldn’t find his way around the veteran Getzlaf, while defenseman Brandon Manning stayed in retreat, allowing Perry to unleash a slap shot.

“It’s the best league in the world, the best players play here,” Provorov said. “Even a little mistake can cost you, slightly out of position can cost you. I’m still learning.”

Provorov has endured his rookie lumps through the Flyers’ 1-2-1 start. A game after finishing with a minus-5 rating against the Blackhawks, the 19-year-old committed two giveaways and a cross-checking penalty for a minus-1 mark Thursday.

Nonetheless, the Flyers went from a man up to two down in a matter of seconds to relinquish the lead.

“We didn’t handle that well,” Hakstol said. “When you give up a four-on-two after you’ve had those kind of opportunities, it’s going to change the momentum of the game.”

Were the defensemen in a bad spot?

“Yes,” Hakstol said.

Poor defensive coverage cost the Flyers momentum in the second and the game in the third.

About midway through the period, Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer carried the puck behind goalie Steve Mason before adeptly finding Ryan Garbutt uncovered with a reverse pass. The Anaheim center scored easily top shelf as Flyers defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Shayne Gostisbehere were caught standing in front of the net without seeing Garbutt.

“We had a little bit of tired legs,” Hakstol said. “We lost coverage on that play. There was a switch. We didn’t lose coverage for long. We had communication, we had talked, but we lost coverage for a split second and that allowed them to make the play to the same side on the backdoor.”

Gostisbehere had trouble working his power-play magic and played big minutes with 22:58 of ice time.

“They’re a big-bodied team,” Gostisbehere said. “We just have to make our plays a little quicker.”

Even on the Ducks’ first-period marker, an outlet pass found its way behind the defense of Provorov and Gostisbehere. Over the first four games, the Flyers have allowed 16 goals, tied for the NHL’s most.

“You’re playing against a heavy team and they put a lot of pressure on the group back there when they’re able to get pucks deep,” Hakstol said. “So, I don’t think it was particular to one or two guys. When you let them gain the zone with some speed and get in on pucks, they’re a heavy team to handle.”

Facing a heavy team or not, the Flyers know defensive execution must be cleaned up.

“I think that from everyone’s personal standpoint we can all be better,” Mason said. “When you lose three games in a row, we can’t worry about what other people are doing, you just have to focus on your own job. From a goaltender’s perspective, personally, I have to find ways to come out and get a win here.”

Flyers' celebratory home opener spoiled by 'big-bodied' Ducks

Flyers' celebratory home opener spoiled by 'big-bodied' Ducks


It should have been a grand evening of celebrating 50 years of hockey in Philadelphia and Ed Snider’s legacy.
Instead, it evaporated into the Flyers' third straight loss, 3-2, at the hands of the Anahiem Ducks (see Instant Replay).
Coach Dave Hakstol could blame his power play for failing six times in seven chances, but even five-on-five, the Flyers lacked. The Ducks take teams to the net and make you pay, as the players on their roster average a 13-pound advantage than the average Flyer.
“You’re playing against a heavy team and they put a lot of pressure on the group back there when they are able to get pucks deep,” Hakstol said.
“You got to try and create gaps and that doesn’t start in your own zone, it starts up ice as a five-man unit. You got to carry good gaps through the neutral zone into your zone to defend some of those plays.”
Anaheim leaves teams black and blue as the Flyers no doubt will discover Friday morning.
“That's just the way Anaheim plays,” Wayne Simmonds said. “They play a rough style, but we're not going to back down from them. This is our building.”
While the Flyers didn’t back down, between turnovers and misreads and players failing to get back up ice, a lot of things went wrong in this one.
The turning point in the game came late in the second period when the Flyers were coming off their fifth power play of the period. The forwards – Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise – were slow getting back up ice.
That left rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov to handle Ryan Getzlaf one-on-one with Corey Perry behind him near Brandon Manning on a four-on-two rush.
There was a drop pass to Perry and he fired from the circle to tie the game, 2-2.
“They do a good job, killing off three in a row and come down and score,” Simmonds said. “If we put one in on the power play there, it’s probably a different story.
“We’re turning pucks over in the neutral zone. Make sure we’re bearing down on it. We gotta be better at it.”
Among the issues in this one, both young defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (minus-2) and  Provorov (minus-1) struggled on the offensive and defensive side of the puck.
"Ghost" is having too many shots blocked and fumbling pucks. Provorov is having difficulty making quick reads and pucks are ending up in the net.
Aside from rookie mistakes, some of that has to do with the forwards not backchecking and the Ducks’ overall size.
“They’re a big-bodied team. They pinch hard and they cut down time and space,” Gostisbehere said. “We have to make our plays quicker.”
While the Flyers talked about feeding off the energy of the night, it just didn’t materialize. They got an early power play and produced just one shot with Gostisbehere hitting the post.
The Ducks produced an early goal after a Flyers power play ended with Sami Vatanen’s stretch pass to Jared Boll for a two-on-one.
Boll went to the net, screened out Steve Mason and left a drop pass that Chris Wagner buried. On top of that, a bad line change, as well.
Mason had to defend quite a bit of net in this one without much defensive support.
“From everyone’s personal standpoint, we can all be better,” Mason said. “When you lose three games in a row, you can’t be worrying about what other people are doing.”
“It’s a tough go in the second period. They kill off [four power plays] and then Perry comes down and scores a goal there. We can’t dwell on that. I have to find ways to get back on top here.”
Anaheim’s winning goal midway into the third came when Korbinian Holzer ripped a pass from behind the net into the slot for Ryan Garbutt. He one-timed the puck before Mason knew it was there. There was no coverage on him, either.
“You focus on your own job,” Mason said. “From a goaltender’s perspective, personally, I have to find ways to come out and get a win here.”