Flyers Notes: Holmgren seeing another slow start

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Flyers Notes: Holmgren seeing another slow start

Paul Holmgren was grim.

His hockey team, which lost six of its first eight games last season, has lost four of its first five games this season and already fired one coach.

That same Flyers squad has six goals through five games in what may be a franchise low -- still checking on that.

So what does the Flyers’ general manager see?

“I thought we had enough opportunities to score,” Holmgren said after the Flyers' 2-1 loss to the Coyotes on Friday night (see story). “We’re just fighting it right now.

“We are obviously having a difficult time and you know we had some good opportunities as Wayne Simmonds had that open net on the power play -- I think it was a power play.”

They have had good scoring chances every game. They've fired high and wide on open nets and fired right into goalies when other parts of the net are open.

“Obviously, we need to do a better job in front of the net,” Holmgren said. “And we are in one of those situations where I thought the difference in the game earlier was they scored a goal because they were in front of the net, hit somebody and ran.

“Then we shot at their goalie, we didn’t have anybody in front of the net, had lots of guys off to the side but unfortunately we need to score goals and to get into those areas.

“It’s hard to score and the fact that we are [pressing forward], I thought there were more good things again tonight -- still going to take a while to catch on with what Craig [Berube] wants them to do. Overall, it’s a loss and we need to turn around quickly.

Compensating for injury
Berube compensated for Scott Hartnell’s early absence (upper-body injury) by moving one player up from each of the team's remaining three lines.

That meant Brayden Schenn replaced Hartnell on the first line with Claude Giroux and Simmonds. Matt Read moved up to Schenn’s spot on the second line and Adam Hall took Read’s spot on the third line.

However, when Vinny Lecavalier got hurt in the second period, it was a mad scramble with the lines.

Rinaldo vs. Bissonette
Zac Rinaldo drew a deserved charging call in the opening period on Tim Kennedy, and linemate Paul Bissonette immediately went after Rinaldo.

It was pretty good fight, too, with each player taking the other down and the decision going to Bissonette.

Loose pucks
The Flyers had a season-high 37 shots. Another 11 attempts were blocked and 22 shots missed. ... Andrej Meszaros and Braydon Coburn each were credited with four blocked shots. ... The Flyers had three forwards play 6:11 or less -- Rinaldo (6:11), Jay Rosehill (3:18) and Hartnell (3:28). ... Sean Couturier was 10 for 17 (59 percent) on faceoffs and now sits at 57.5 percent on the season.

Best of NHL: Capitals blow lead, rebound for OT win over Bruins

Best of NHL: Capitals blow lead, rebound for OT win over Bruins

WASHINGTON -- Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 after blowing a three-goal lead Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston outshot Washington 34-20. The Capitals have won two straight following a three-game losing skid (see full recap).

Staal scores on Leafs again in Wild win
TORONTO -- Eric Staal scored yet another goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.

Staal has 47 points in 43 career games against Toronto, and three of his six goals this season have come against the Leafs.

Jason Zucker and Chris Stewart also scored for the Wild, who wrapped a five-game trip 2-1-2.

Ben Smith and Tyler Bozak had goals for the Maple Leafs, who dropped to 8-4-0 at Air Canada Centre.

Devan Dubnyk made 35 saves for Minnesota and Frederik Andersen stopped 17 shots for Toronto (see full recap).

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.