Flyers embrace spoiler role in win over Bruins

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Flyers embrace spoiler role in win over Bruins

BOX SCORE

In the grand scheme of things, it was a victory without reward for the Flyers. But from the Boston Bruins side of things, it could be a major headache.

The Flyers routed the Bruins, 5-2, on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center and may have done some serious spoiler damage to the Bruins, who are tied with Montreal with 59 points.

Boston had the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Montreal was the fourth seed.

Essentially, this was a game the Bruins needed to win to secure that seed.

“It’s almost something that is fun to do,” Simon Gagne smiled. “It’s not fun where we are at in the standings.

“There was a lot of expectations with [us] this year. Everything we’re doing right now maybe shows management what kind of team we will have next year.”

Goalie Steve Mason again looked sharp with 39 saves, while Jakub Voracek scored his 21st goal of the season.

Mason was making his fifth start in eight games. He had six critical saves in the final four minutes of the second period with the Flyers ahead 3-1 that made a statement.

“A team like that, they have some great offensive talent and myself, it was a great challenge,” said Mason, who is now 3-0-1 lifetime against Boston.

“We got [to] talk about the way the guys played, the goals they scored for us to respond.”

Coach Peter Laviolette said he wanted to “flip flop” Mason for Ilya Bryzgalov and not to read anything into Mason playing against Boston.

“He’s been pretty good for us since being here,” Laviolette said. “You start to see things in practice. You see his glove. He has a real good glove and that kills a lot of plays when there is no rebounds.

“You see his puck skills and his ability to move pucks out of our end or up to a defenseman or winger.

“His athleticism when he makes a save and gets over to another position to make a save. You start to see things in his game that are real positives.”

Mason got more goal support in the final period from Voracek and Gagne, sandwiched around a David Krejci goal.

“I’m not really looking toward next season yet,” Mason said. “I just want to finish off with a strong note.”

Mason had to be sharp, too, because the Flyers again played without another key defenseman, this time Kimmo Timonen, whose season is over with a foot injury (see story).

“Just part of the challenge,” Mason said. “Obviously, losing Kimmo is a huge loss. One of our top defensemen and on the power play. Guys are having ice time right now and doing a great job with it.”

Guys like Eric Gustafsson, who logged a team-high 23:56.

Backed by an emotional “Boston Strong” tribute to the city of Boston and its people (see story), it didn’t take the Flyers long to grab a lead on backup goalie Anton Khudobin.

“Yeah, of course, you know it’s been hard to see what’s been going on in Boston,” Voracek said.

“But it’s obviously a great thing that we kind of think about it and do what we did, you know. And it’s over and they did a great job with it.”

Not even two minutes into the game, Krejci threw a lazy puck off the board into the high slot.

Scott Hartnell all but tripped over it. He couldn’t believe how it was just sitting there. Hartnell roofed a high shot into the net for his eighth goal.

“What an emotional video to start the game,” Hartnell said of the Flyers' “Boston Strong” pregame video tribute. “We wanted to come out with a big start. It couldn’t have worked out better.

“I came on to the ice from a change and just kind of worked my way to the slot. I don't think their guy knew I was there. I was able to get the turnover and get a shot off.”

Three minutes later, the Bruins charged the net hard, making rather obvious contact with Mason.

They were in pursuit of Jaromir Jagr’s shot off Mason that Wade Redden put into the net to make it 1-1.

Redden, who was in the middle of that scrum, is fighting five other players to make the Bruins’ playoff roster.

The Flyers chased Khudobin for Tuukka Rask just before the midway point of the second period after two bad goals.

Khudobin left a fat rebound in the right slot for Matt Read at 11:24 to break the tie. Seven seconds later, another sloppy clear by the Bruins came back to bite them.

This time, former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara cleared a dump-in from Oliver Laurdisen into the slot from behind the net and the puck went off his goalie’s stick into the net, which infuriated Khudobin.

Then Bruins coach Claude Julien pulled him.

“Awesome, absolutely awesome,” Lauridsen said of his goal. “I mean, it wasn't the dream goal but I'll take it. It was just a dump-in and a lucky bounce but it's my first NHL goal, so I'll take it.”

Now, the second half of that period saw the Flyers get rather sloppy, forcing their penalty killers out there for a brief five-on-three kill that they survived.

Actually, Mason was the reason for the survival. He has a 2.08 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in six overall appearances as a Flyer.

“His confidence is getting bigger and bigger every game,” Gagne said. “It’s something we were talking about on bench. You can see it every practice he is getting better. It’s tougher to score in practice on him. He was really solid for us again tonight.

“As a team, even if you are out of the playoffs, you want to get ready for next season. Show what you can do as a team. Right now, we like what we see from him.”

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.