Flyers must find a way to finish at the net

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Flyers must find a way to finish at the net

As good as the Flyers looked in playing a strong, overall game despite losing, 3-1, to Toronto in their season opener, they lacked in finishing at the net.
 
That is something that happened continually all last season.
 
You could make the argument that Game 1 resembled Game 16 or 26 or even 40 from last year. No finish, no goals.
 
The Flyers had 73 attempts at the net and just one goal against the Maple Leafs.
 
Viewed in that overall context, you could understand if they called up a scorer from the Phantoms to replace prospect Scott Laughton, who was sent back to his junior club in Oshawa.
 
And there’s the rub. The player they called up is more of an energy guy -- Kris Newbury (see story).
 
Yes, he’s been a consistent 62-point man in the AHL for the past three seasons. In some ways, he is the newest version of Peter White -- a bona fide minor-league scorer.
 
That’s just it, though. He’s not an NHL scorer, which is what they need instead of another Zac Rinaldo.
 
“It would be nice to bang a couple in,” Newbury said. “I don’t think they brought me up to put points on the board.”
 
It’s ironic that all the players who were vying for that extra forward spot on the final roster -- Laughton, Michael Raffl, Tye McGinn, Chris VanderVelde and Jason Akeson -- are all gone. None of them won the battle.
 
Instead, it now goes to the 31-year-old Newbury by default until someone else appears.
 
“He can play center or wing,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “He’s a good energy guy. If you’ve ever seen Newbury in the American League, he’s a good player.
 
“He comes up to the NHL whether it be with Detroit or the Rangers or Toronto a few years ago, he’s a plugger and a role player. He’s willing to mix it up. A good energy guy.”
 
Is that what the Flyers need right now?
 
“More energy or penalty killing or fourth-line guys is what we’re looking at,” Holmgren said. “Down in the American League, he plays on the power play. He has the ability to move up. He is a first- or second-line center in the American League who puts up points.”
 
Newbury was centering Akeson and McGinn on the Phantoms' first line. Again, he’s not been a proven goal guy at the NHL level -- just four goals and nine points in 72 NHL games.
 
Of course, it would help if the current group that can’t shoot straight start burying its chances.
 
“When you get chances to score, that is one thing,” Holmgren said. “We got to bear down and bury the ones we get. I would be more concerned if we weren’t getting opportunities.
 
“I do think we played a good game -- certainly well enough to win the game. The bottom line is we didn’t. Now we have to figure out a way to get back on the winning side. I thought we made a couple of mistakes at key times in the game that cost us. We have to eliminate those, too.”
 
A lot of what happened in the opener goes away if  the Flyers score on more than one of their seven power plays.
 
“There were lots of looks, good things,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I could think of times we were close as well. G (Claude Giroux) sifted one in there to Scotty (Hartnell) in the slot and he fired it and it just missed over the cross bar.
 
“There were lots of looks and in-zone and shots and maybe it hit a stick or redirected the wrong way or we weren’t in the right spot for a rebound. Again, there were good things on the power play.”
 
Just not enough goals. Again.

Flyers clash with Penguins in cheapest outdoor game this season

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Flyers clash with Penguins in cheapest outdoor game this season

Editor's note: The following is sponsored content written by TicketIQ.

Attending this year’s Stadium Series game won’t come at much of a cost for fans at Heinz Field.

With the Penguins set to host the Flyers in the 68,000-plus seat stadium on Saturday, tickets are the cheapest of all three outdoor games this season. On TicketIQ, CSN Philly’s official ticketing partner, Penguins vs. Flyers Stadium Series tickets now average $202.

Saturday’s game is considerably cheaper than the Centennial Classic and Winter Classic, which were held in Toronto and St. Louis last month, respectively. The Winter Classic between the Blues and Blackhawks averaged a $632 ticket while the Maple Leafs and Red Wings’ Centennial Classic posted a $299 average.

As it stands now, this weekend’s game owns the third lowest average for a Stadium Series game in the last four years, trumped only by a 2016 game between the Wild and Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which owned an overall average of $160. It is the cheapest two-day-out average that any game has posted, however, inching past a 2015 game between the Sharks and Kings ($203) for that title.

Only a 2014 Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium between the Rangers and Islanders owned a lower get-in price ($45) two days out than Saturday’s game at Heinz Field. Penguins vs. Flyers tickets currently start from $67 each in the 500 sections.

The Flyers will play in their first Stadium Series game since the format was created in 2014. It will be their third overall outdoor game after 2010’s Winter Classic at Fenway Park and 2012’s Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.

The game comes at a crucial time for the Flyers, who remain on the cusp of a playoff spot in a crowded Eastern Conference. As of Thursday afternoon, they sit just three points removed from the second wild-card spot. Some pushing and shoving will occur over the next two months, however, as several other teams fight for that last playoff berth.

The Penguins play host to their second outdoor game at Heinz Field following 2011’s Winter Classic against the Capitals. It will be the reigning Stanley Cup champions’ fourth outdoor game since 2008. They enter Saturday owners of the second seed in the Metropolitan division behind the league-best Capitals with 82 points in tow.

 

Flyers focused on actual game instead of Stadium Series event

Flyers focused on actual game instead of Stadium Series event

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The toughest challenge for the Flyers this weekend might be themselves.

They’re playing the Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors on Saturday as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series event. That should be a big deal.

Yet, given their circumstances right now, how can they possibly enjoy the moment?

Maybe had this game been played in early January, before the team hit a crisis point in the standings, and was winning, it would be easier to relax.

The fact is, the Flyers have lost seven of their last 10 games, are drifting as the 11th team in the Eastern Conference, and the second wild card they held for so long seems far from their reach.

Tough to have fun and soak up the atmosphere when there’s so much pressure to start making up ground in the playoff hunt.

“Yeah, we’re there to have two points,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said Thursday. “If this was earlier in the season, we could take it in a bit more, but it’s all business for us right now. It’s just playing.”

That attitude extends right up to coach Dave Hakstol, who didn’t break a smile when talking about what’s really important here.

His team is desperate for points. There are 22 games left in the regular season and 19 are against Eastern Conference opponents.

The Flyers need to win a bunch of games and get hot like they did last season in March if they are going to recapture a wild-card berth.

“Honestly, it’s business first,” Hakstol said. “There is something to the event and certainly something important with family and the type of event it is. But, let’s be honest. Right now, it’s business first. That’s what our focus will be.

“Points. Simple as that. It’s two points. We need the two points and it’s a road game and it happens to be in an event-type situation.

“So we’ve got to make sure we handle all of that in terms of our preparation. But the bottom line is it comes down to the two points that are at stake on Saturday night.”

Michal Neuvirth will make his sixth consecutive start in goal for the Flyers. He was a backup to Semyon Varlamov at Heinz Field during the 2011 Winter Classic as a member of the Washington Capitals against Pittsburgh.

“We’ve got to focus on the game,” Neuvirth said. “There is going to be a lot of distractions. Lot of families and friends in town. But we’re gonna go there and it’s all about business and trying to get the two points.”

Hakstol is only slightly concerned about the hype taking away from the players’ focus. If the Flyers were coming into this game on a win streak, he and his players wouldn’t be quite as uptight as they are right now.

You can cut the tension in the Flyers' dressing room these days with a skate blade.

“You need a little mental attention to detail there,” Hakstol said. “That’s what it is. We’re in that mold. I don’t think that’s a big hump to overcome. I think we’ll be OK.”

Heinz Field holds 68,000 people. The NHL expects 60,000 in attendance. Regardless, it will be the largest crowd ever to witness a Flyers game.

“It’s more exciting and a must-win for us,” said Michael Raffl, who played outdoors once in Europe. “A huge game no matter where we would have played it. We could play it at Skate Zone and we’d be excited.”

Giroux said it will be “weird” being on the ice because his past experiences in outdoor games saw him drown out the fans as much as possible. Yet he admitted the sheer number of fans this time might make that difficult to do.

“It’s pretty exciting to play in the Steelers' stadium,” he said. “Playing against Pittsburgh, it should be a great game.”