Flyers Notes: Frustration shows in line brawl

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Flyers Notes: Frustration shows in line brawl

Down by a touchdown with less than 15 minutes in the game, the home team often finds itself playing with a physical edge if it wants to stay alive.

It’s something normally seen in a football game, but not so much in hockey.

The Flyers on Friday found themselves in that situation against the Capitals (see story). Joel Ward scored a hat-trick goal to put Washington up 7-0. After the faceoff, Wayne Simmonds hit Steve Oleksy and Tom Wilson. Wilson, taking exception, dropped the gloves and fought Simmonds.

As Simmonds and Wilson fought, Ray Emery skated the length of the ice in pursuit of an unwilling Braden Holtby.

"He didn’t want to fight," Emery said. "And I said, basically, ‘Protect yourself.’ He didn’t really have much of a choice."

While Holtby and Emery tangled, Brayden Schenn took on Alexander Urbom, and Vincent Lecavalier fought Oleksy. Lecavalier suffered facial injuries in his fight, and subsequently won’t be in the lineup Saturday against New Jersey.

Reasoning for this line brawl boiled down to a simple factor -- frustration.

“As a group, I think it’s a frustrating night,” Emery said. “Frustration shows sometimes that way. We all grew up playing hockey, and sometimes that happens -- you don’t want anyone to get hurt, but we don’t take losses like that.”

In addition to the fighting majors, a variety of other penalties were assessed in the brawl. Emery was assessed two minor penalties for leaving his crease and an instigator -- both served by Claude Giroux -- as well as a game misconduct. Game misconducts were also issued to Schenn, Lecavalier, Urbom and Oleksy for secondary fighting. Aaron Volpatti also picked up a 10-minute misconduct.

In all, the brawl resulted in a total of 114 penalty minutes -- 64 from the Flyers, 50 from the Capitals. The brawl alone doubled this season’s high in penalty minutes in a game for the Flyers -- the previous high being 32, set in the Oct. 5 loss to Montreal.

“It’s a hockey fight,” Giroux said. “It’s going to happen. It’s part of the game. Obviously, we were flat. It’s not the first time that’s happened during a hockey game.”

The Flyers look to rebound from Friday’s frustration Saturday when they travel to Newark, N.J. to take on the Devils. While bouncing back from a 7-0 loss is easier said than done, coach Craig Berube offered a simple solution.

“We go play a game tomorrow,” Berube said. “Pick yourself up and go play. That’s it.”

Downie’s short stay
Steve Downie didn’t even last two periods as a Flyer before he left the game, but he left the Wells Fargo Center in apparently very dramatic fashion.

According to Holmgren, Downie was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania “for further tests and observation,” but according to reports, he left about half an hour after the game ended on a stretcher in an ambulance.

The Flyers declined to provide any other information.

‘Embarrassed’ response
Never mind all the debate about whether fighting belongs in hockey -- the Flyers’ general manager was OK with what occurred on the ice Friday.

Perhaps that’s putting it a bit lightly, but all things considered, Holmgren seemed at least satisfied that his team responded in some way to what transpired.

“When you get slapped around like that, it’s a response,” Holmgren said. “Do I have an issue with it? Probably not. It’s a response from an embarrassed hockey team.”

Pulling Mason
While Steve Mason did, in fact, look human in Friday’s loss, it wasn’t exactly his fault that he was pulled in the second period -- and not just because his teammates provided no support.

Berube made the decision after Mason allowed his third goal on eight shots. But his real hope was that he would send a message to the Flyers that would help redirect the course of the game.

“Just trying to get a response from our team,” Berube said.

Penalized
The 99 penalty minutes the Flyers took was the highest single-game total since March 5, 2004 against Ottawa -- the franchise record of 213.

Friday's total of 99 is the seventh-highest single-game total in Flyers history.

Last time ...
The Flyers were last shut out while allowing seven goals March 6, 2011, a 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Friday was just the ninth time in franchise history the Flyers have been shut out after allowing seven or more goals.

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league.

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit – Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds – hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half-wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists – two on the power play – against the Canucks on Sunday.

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Coots, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right-wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt, during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers (28-24-7) vs. Capitals (39-12-7)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After finding some offense to finish up a 1-2-0 road trip, the Flyers return home for a not-so-glorious welcome when they host the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

We’ll get into that and more with five things to know:

1. Capping things off
What’s the Flyers’ reward for salvaging the final game of a road swing through Canada? A date with the Capitals, who are the NHL’s hottest team since New Year’s Eve, and by a landslide.

Just how dominant has Washington been?

Dating back to Dec. 31, the Capitals are 19-3-2 and have scored an incomprehensible 104 goals in those 24 games. That’s 4.33 goals per game, while yielding only 50 markers over that stretch.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have scored an NHL-low 40 goals since New Year’s Eve and allowed 62 for an Eastern Conference-worst goal differential of minus-22.

Washington, coming off its first back-to-back defeats since Dec. 27-29, has lost three straight games only once this season.

2. A Ghost sighting
On Sunday, for the first time in close to four months, we saw the Shayne Gostisbehere from the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up season last year.

The sophomore blueliner delivered his first three-point game of his career to ignite the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Canucks.

Although Gostisbehere has made it clear he’s focused on his defensive game, the Flyers are a different animal when he’s generating offensive chances at 5-on-5 and the power play.

“He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere’s performance Sunday.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbelievable skill. He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

3. Good cage match
This one makes for an intriguing goalie matchup between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, who were once battling for the net in Washington.

Holtby is having another stud season after winning the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy (top goalie). Among all netminders, he is tied for first in goals-against average (2.01) and shutouts (seven), while he hasn’t been beaten in regulation since Dec. 27.

The 27-year-old blanked the Flyers twice in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and stopped 149 of 154 shots over the first-round series that the Capitals won in six games.

Neuvirth hasn’t been too shabby himself, starting eight of the Flyers’ last 10 games. Aside from a bad showing in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers, Neuvirth has not surrendered more than two goals in any other outing during that span.

A 2006 second-round pick of Washington, Neuvirth was brilliant last postseason against his former club, making 103 saves on 105 shots faced to get the Flyers two victories.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare can be crucial in these types of games. The fourth-line forward often sees work against the opposition’s top offensive threats and is the Flyers’ most important piece to the penalty kill. Bellemare has played 16-plus minutes in both meetings with the Capitals this season, while the PK is 15 for 17 in February and tied for the NHL’s third-fewest goals against this month.

Capitals: T.J. Oshie is such an underrated asset for Washington. The right winger, who played his college hockey at North Dakota under Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, leads the NHL with a 22.8 shooting percentage, a big reason why the Capitals are scoring 3.34 goals per game, good for second most in hockey. Oshie has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in his past 22 games and is a plus-24 on the season.

5. This and that
• Neuvirth has just two career regular-season matchups against the Capitals, going 1-0-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

• Holtby is 6-4-7 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 lifetime matchups with the Flyers.

• The Flyers are three points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, trailing the Panthers, Bruins and Islanders, all of whom have 66 points.

• Simmonds has four goals in his last five games.

• Claude Giroux has two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous 10 games.

• Washington ranks first in the NHL with a plus-69 goal differential.

• Jordan Weal (upper-body injury) is expected to miss his second straight game.