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.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe he saw some old video of how Chris Therien did it.
 
Or maybe Ivan Provorov just shrugged his 19-year-old shoulders and figured he’d do it his way.
 
Whatever the Flyers' rookie defenseman did, he shut down the ageless Jaromir Jagr during Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers. 
 
Just like Therien used to do back in the day. 
 
Provorov frustrated Jagr into taking penalties. And when he wasn’t in the box for hooking the rookie, you could visibly see Jagr’s frustration across his face.
 
At one point, they were talking to each other on the ice. A Russian and a Czech. What was said?
 
“It stays in the game,” Provorov said with a smile Wednesday.
 
Provorov said he didn’t spend time watching a ton of video.
 
“We did our pre-scout in the morning,” he said. “That was it.”
 
Provorov, with help from centerman Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, held Jagr to one shot. His teammates were impressed.
 
“Unbelievable, a 19-year-old kid going against Jaromir Jagr,” Wayne Simmonds said. “I think he did a pretty good job. 
 
“I think he has done a great job all year long and he is only going to get better. If you watch him play, he is getting better and better, not every game but every shift.”
 
Provorov had an assist and two blocked shots, including a critical block on Reilly Smith that could have been a game-winner in overtime.
 
“Well we haven’t used him a lot in the 3-on-3 but we felt that it was time,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Again, coming off of a real solid night where he’s playing against really good players all night long, he continued that right through the OT. 
 
“The impressive thing on that play is the read that he made to make that block … I haven’t looked at it on the replay or on tape yet. But I think that Mase might have been over on it but that play that Provy made was potentially a game saving play right there.”
 
Provorov doesn’t make flashy plays. He just makes the steady play every time he needs to. At season’s start, he was struggling to get his shot off without being blocked. Now he finds space along the blue to better position himself to get his shot through. He thinks before he reacts.
 
Behind the net, he is one of the few Flyers defensemen who almost never loses a puck battle. It’s often hard to believe he’s as young as he is.
 
“He moves so well and makes good reads, he’s a very intelligent player,” Andrew MacDonald said. “He has great poise with the puck, and not just for a 19-year-old, but for any aged player. 
 
“Defensively he always seems to be in the right positions and communicates well. We were fortunate to have some time together in camp, and a few games. I feel like we picked up where we left off the past few games.”
 
Jagr’s assets are size, strength — especially his lower core — and a skill set of moves without blinding speed.
 
Thursday will present a new challenge for Provorov: Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer with 36 points. McDavid is all about youth and raw speed. 
 
“They’re different players, but it doesn’t matter,” Provorov said. “You take away time and space. Don’t give him time to get a lot of speed.”
 
This is another learning experience for Provorov. In a different age category. Hakstol credits assistant coach Gord Murphy for bringing Provorov up to speed at the NHL level.
 
“I think Murph has done a really good job in managing that progression along, most importantly, with Provy, managing it," Hakstol said.
 
“You can go back to the tell-tale sign of the tough night back in Chicago [third game]. That didn’t shake or rattle Provy in any way. He came back with pretty good determination the next day.
 
“You have to be an honest evaluator of your own game. I think Provy … whether it’s a real good night or a tough night, that allows you to keep an even keel and an even balance. I think that’s a real strength.”

Injury update
The Flyers on Wednesday placed left winger Matt Read on injured reserve and activated center Boyd Gordon. Gordon has been out since Nov. 3.