Flyers Notes: Are second-year players hurting team?

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Flyers Notes: Are second-year players hurting team?

For much of last year, the Flyers’ rookies were a big part of the team’s success.

This year, though, those very same players might be more of a liability. And there's a few reasons for that, according to Kimmo Timonen.

“I’ll tell you this,” Timonen said. “The second year was the toughest year of my NHL life. And we have a lot of second-year players. You’ve got to work even harder to get to the point where you were in your first year.”

In Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders (see story), the Flyers dressed five second-year players: forwards Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Zac Rinaldo, and defenseman Erik Gustafsson.

Certainly, those players weren’t the reason the Flyers lost the game, even after leading 2-0 in the first period. But, Timonen said, experienced teams are usually the type that are able to play complete games. Not the type to put in one good period, or a fraction of a good period, and sit back on their heels.

That’s something the Flyers have failed at consistently this year.

"I’ve been on a lot of teams," Timonen said. "And an experienced team plays the same way pretty much the whole 60 minutes. And sometimes I feel like I said earlier a couple weeks ago: We play 30 minutes good and 30 minutes bad, and we lose the game because of that. We’ve got to find a way to play 60 minutes. The teams that are playing 60 minutes usually win the game."

Timonen called it an issue of mental toughness, something that, once again, younger players often struggle with.

“We can’t put the blame on the kids,” Timonen said. “Young guys, they have to learn. Maybe this is the learning period. It’s a tough learning period, but we have to take it. There’s us older guys, we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to be the leaders out there and show these young guys how to play the game. It’s too much to put these young guys on the spot and say they’re the reason we are where we are. That’s not the case.”

As for that proverbial sophomore slump?

“Expectations are higher,” Timonen said. “Obviously, first year, you come in the league and you play well and there’s no pressure. But second year, there’s pressure. That’s something you have to learn to play with. That’s how I felt when I was second year in the league.”

Call me, maybe not
Scott Hartnell fought Islanders winger Colin McDonald in the first period because, in his opinion, McDonald threw an ugly hit on Timonen -- and no call was made by the officials.

Later, in the third period, Claude Giroux appeared to have been boarded violently behind the Islanders’ net. Again, no call.

Hartnell wasn’t happy.

“It’s just weird we never get a call these days,” Hartnell said. “A high hit on an all-star, one of the best defensemen in the league, no call. Giroux, at the end, there’s no more boarding penalty than that I don’t think, and no call as well. Linesman had to make the call on the faceoff there to get the six-on-four attack there at the end. It’s frustrating that we’re not getting any breaks that way, but they’re not going to hand games to us, that’s for sure.”

McGinn scratched, Knuble plays
In an unexpected move, the Flyers elected to scratch Tye McGinn from Thursday's game.

McGinn had been recalled from the Phantoms, played a little more than 20 minutes against the Rangers on the Flyers’ top line, then dropped down to a lesser unit, then was scratched against the Islanders. An odd series of events.
 
He sat healthy in the press box. That allowed Mike Knuble to finally dress for a game.
 
Knuble spent eight straight games as a healthy scratch before scoring his third goal of the season late in the opening period against the Islanders.
 
“I think you want to come in and want to play a good game,” Knuble said. “That's your main priority. You want to play strong defensively and try to string some strong offensive shifts together.
 
“Obviously, scoring a goal tonight is a bonus. It is good to get back out there. We are all competitive as players. You want to be out there every night and when you're not playing it hurts.”
 
Loose pucks
Giroux had two assists in the first period. … Danny Briere, who is out indefinitely with a concussion, attended the first two periods only in the press box before leaving. …  The Islanders had a goal waved off at the end of the first period because it was scored after the buzzer. … Hartnell had his first two-goal game of the season. … The Flyers blocked 26 shots, their second-highest shot-blocking total of the season.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH – They won the battle inside the faceoff circle. Outshot their opponent badly. Blocked more shots, too.

And the Flyers still lost. Sound familiar?

Saturday's 4-2 defeat (see Instant Replay) to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series outdoor game likely confirms for general manager Ron Hextall it’s time to be a seller at the trade deadline with a playoff berth seemingly out of sight.

"We gotta score goals. We got good opportunities, but it’s getting old," Jakub Voracek lamented. "If we don’t find a way to win a game, nobody cares."

Not enough scoring from their pop-gun offense, which now has just 25 goals over their last 16 games. Which is a major reason why they've lost seven of their last nine.

"It's that cliché, gripping your stick and I don’t like to use that," Voracek said. "The bottom line, if we want to make the playoffs we got to score the goals. We're not scoring."

It was 36 degrees at puck drop and there were swirling wind gusts. Players said the first period was tough, but they adjusted as the game went on.

"It feels good. It feels awesome," Wayne Simmonds said. "It's the way ice hockey should be played."

That good feeling didn't translate to offense Saturday. They played well enough to win but ...

"We got to get going here," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We're [five] points back and that's the biggest thing and it's in all of our heads now. It's getting down to not a lot of games left and we've got to get two points."

Goalie Michal Neuvirth did not have a strong game facing 29 shots.

"We walk away with the wrong result," coach Dave Hakstol said. "We have a day in-between to turn the page and get back at it."

Things began Pittsburgh's way with Sidney Crosby scoring at 11:18, sneaking to the low right slot near the goal line to take a perfect pass from Jake Guentzel and one-time into the far side on Neuvirth for his 34th goal.

Brayden Schenn, centering a new line with Nick Cousins and Jakub Voracek, had a solid scoring chance in the final minute of the period, but Pens goalie Matt Murray turned his shot aside. Murray also had two good saves on Sean Couturier earlier from in tight.

Nick Bonino, one of the heroes from the Stanley Cup Final last season, made it 2-0 at 6:44 of the second period on the power play. He scored almost from the same spot where Crosby scored.

Minutes earlier, Guenztel took a questionable hit to the head area from Brandon Manning which the Penguins felt was illegal (see video). Pittsburgh came back with Chris Kunitz rocking Ivan Provorov two shifts later.

Manning’s hit energized the Flyers, who owned the second period.

Hours before the game, Voracek said what most people were already thinking.

"I would expect this to be the biggest game of the year," he said. "You look at the standings. We can’t afford to lose."

Voracek wasn't kidding when he said the Flyers needed to do something here. He went behind the net 4-on-4 with Justin Schultz and came around the front with the puck to muscle it past Murray at 11:14, cutting the Flyers deficit in half.

Voracek's goal, his second in three games, gave the Flyers even more of a lift and they made a strong push to tie the game before the period ended.

"We spent a lot of time in their zone and we were very strong on the forecheck," Voracek said. "We had comebacks early in the season … but two penalties in the end, it's tough … How do you rebound? You have no choice. We're not out. We have to start winning."

The Flyers killed off a carryover penalty to start the third but immediately after, the Pens got a strong forecheck with Eric Fehr behind the net, getting the puck over to 40-year-old Matt Cullen, who snuck up on Neuvirth and stunned him with a wraparound.

That was a terribly costly goal and made it 3-1, but Gostisbehere got it right back minutes later with his first goal in 34 games off a point shot during the power play.

It was as close as the Flyers got. Pittsburgh scored off a faceoff to make it 4-2 in the final six minutes. Sean Couturier lost a draw to Evgeni Malkin and the Pens scored off a point drive Neuvirth couldn't find.

"That was deflating," Gostisbehere said. "We can be sad for ourselves all we want … bad bounces or we can say, 'well, it's lucky.' But you know, it keeps happening for a reason."