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.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres 4-1
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story). 

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers (16-10-3) vs. Stars (11-11-6)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Remember when it was a fight for the Flyers to simply sew together back-to-back wins?

Prior to this run, they had done it just twice in the first 22 games.

Now, they’re the hottest team in the NHL, winners of seven straight and trying to make it eight on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. The great eight?
Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins.

Roman Cechmanek and Brian Boucher.

These are just some of the players that were wearing Flyers jerseys when the team last won eight consecutive games, back on Jan. 6-19, 2002.

It’s worth mentioning, before the 2004-05 season, winning streaks were a bit more challenging with a tie being the result if overtime went scoreless. The extra session was also not 3-on-3, like it is now.

Still, what the current Flyers are doing is impressive. They’ve gone to the shootout only once over the seven-game spurt and have outscored the opposition by 10 goals, 27-17.

2. Raffl winners
Dave Hakstol has called Michael Raffl a big-bodied, straight-line forward, which is certainly not off the mark.

But from time to time, Raffl will show the deceptive skill side of his game.

He did it Thursday night to win the Flyers’ 6-5 affair over the Oilers in the final minute and a half of regulation for his second game-winner over the last three contests.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," Steve Mason said postgame Thursday (see story). "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl is quietly making teams pay. The Flyers are 4-0-2 in games that he scores a goal. Despite missing eight games because of injury, the 28-year-old Austrian is on pace for around 20 goals.

That’s much-valued secondary scoring and complementary play.

3. Not so bright
Before reeling off seven straight wins, the Flyers were in a similar spot to which the Stars are in now.

Dallas, which finished 50-23-9 last season — best in the Western Conference — after starting 19-5-0, can’t find consistency through 28 games this season. The Stars have won back-to-back games just once thus far and goaltending has been an issue as Dallas is surrendering an NHL-worst 3.18 goals per game.

The Stars do not lack offensive firepower, however. Center Tyler Seguin is tied for second in the NHL with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists), while linemate Jamie Benn isn’t far behind at 24 (eight goals, 16 assists).

Also, veteran forward Jason Spezza is coming off a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in Dallas’ 5-2 win over the Predators.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’ve got to go Jakub Voracek after the winger’s one-goal, three-assist performance on Thursday night. Voracek has been an absolute monster on the seven-game winning streak, posting 11 points with three goals and eight assists for a plus-6 rating.

Stars: It’s hard not to say Seguin, a dynamic player who always gives the Flyers trouble. His 21 career points (nine goals, 12 assists) against the orange and black are his second most versus any team.

5. This and that
• Mason is on a career-best six-game winning streak in which he’s posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Since Nov. 12, Mason is 9-3-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

• Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is a dreadful 1-10-3 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage, while backup Antti Niemi is 4-1-0 with 1.48 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

• Dallas has won its last three meetings with the Flyers by a combined score of 7-3.

• The Stars have lost 11 of 15 on the road.

• Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games.