Flyers Notes: Simmonds stoned on penalty shot

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Flyers Notes: Simmonds stoned on penalty shot

One game into the season, the Flyers are 0 for 1 on penalty shots.
 
Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier stoned ex-teammate Wayne Simmonds at the end of the second period in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Flyers (see story).
 
The game was 1-1 when Simmonds got his chance. He took a weaving route to the net and tried to go five-hole with backhand/forehand.
 
“Bernier played well, real well,” Simmonds said.
 
Anything he would have recognized or remembered from your days with the L.A. Kings?
 
“I don’t know,” Simmonds said. “You shoot on a goalie a lot of times, you change your move a bunch of times, he probably knows some of my moves, I don’t know if that went into it. It doesn’t make a difference now. It’s over.”
 
“When you get to a penalty shot situation, it’s one-on-one. He got the better of me this time.”
 
Hartnell-Giroux-Schenn
Coach Peter Laviolette has proved during his more than four seasons with the Flyers that he’s not afraid to tinker with his lines.
 
But that longstanding top line of Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux seemed untouchable.
 
Not so, as it turns out.
 
On Wednesday, Laviolette moved Voracek off the top line and onto the third line with Sean Couturier and Max Talbot. In his place, Laviolette stuck Brayden Schenn.
 
Schenn had practiced in that combination for a couple days, so when it was time for an actual game, he felt at home.
 
“Yeah, I feel good [on that line],” Schenn said. “Obviously, when you get a chance with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, you want to make the most of it. Both those guys, Hartsy obviously goes real hard and G’s real nifty with the puck. So, just try to get open and make the most of every opportunity you get there.”
 
As for why he made the decision? Laviolette said it was all about balance.
 
“We’re trying to get a balance on scoring throughout,” he said. “… I think having Brayden up there, trying to get him going, I thought he played a good game on that line, and that line was able to generate some chances, but again, you’d like to see one or two of them drop in on the five-on-five.
 
“Matt Read going with Vinny (Lecavalier), I thought that was the best Vinny’s line looked yet with having Matt on that line.”
 
Schenn, it should be noted, was the Flyers’ sole goal-scorer of the night, though that marker came on the power play and was assisted on by Lecavalier.
 
Mason ‘honored’
It wasn’t the outcome he wanted -- personally, or for his team -- but Steve Mason was ecstatic to have started in net for the Flyers’ season opener.
 
“It’s huge,” he said. “I had a great meeting with Lavy a few days ago when he told me I would play. It’s a huge honor to get the opening-night start, and Razor (Ray Emery) could have been in there just as easily as I was.
 
“It was a great honor to have it, and unfortunately we didn’t get the win.”
 
Mason looked particularly sharp through the first half of the game, no more so than when he made a stellar kick save on Leafs winger Phil Kessel. The defensive breakdowns in front of him kept him on his toes right from the first puck drop, but Mason remained calm and composed, communicating fluidly with the blueliners beside him.
 
“He did well,” Giroux said. “He kept us in the game, made some big saves for us. Anytime your goalie does that for you, you’re going to have a chance to win.”
 
Captains
Kimmo Timonen continues as the associate captain and Hartnell was named alternate captain.
 
Honored guests
The list for this one: United States Army 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Vorsky from the Striker Army Reserves in Trenton, NJ; United States Army Master SGT Robert Harris from Brooklawn, NJ; United States Air Force Master Sergeant Thomas Maxwell from Levittown, Pa.
 
Giroux’s Crew
The Flyers' captain treated kids from the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation to the game in a club suite.
 
Loose pucks
Sugar House Casino will be the presenting sponsor of the Flyers all season. ... The Flyers had an intermission game that will likely become a hit. Human bowling ball off a giant slingshot into giant bowling pins for prizes. People sit on a sled and get shot into the pins. Can’t wait to see Chris “Bundy” Therien slingshot Tim Saunders. ... Former Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is reportedly negotiating a deal with Las Vegas in the ECHL, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. ... Giroux played a whopping 26:02 because of the seven power plays. Of that total, 9:34 were power-play minutes. The only other player close to him in minutes was Mark Streit (22:42).

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until Oct. 6 if not Oct. 8, the final exhibition game. 

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

VOORHEES, N.J. — Even before Flyers training camp opened, Ron Hextall talked about a plenitude of internal competition for jobs.
 
It’s all over the ice, too.
 
Who starts in goal: Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth, who came on strong at the end of last season? 
 
Does Ivan Provorov win a spot on the roster? And if he does, who gets sent packing?
 
Between Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who gets the lion's share of ice time? 
 
Can Travis Konecny or Roman Lyubimov force a veteran forward off the team?
 
Then there’s free-agent signee Boyd Gordon, a PK specialist who was second only to Claude Giroux in the league last season on winning defensive zone draws. More competition.
 
Well, one of the key battles in training camp for both roster space and minutes concerns how veteran fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde handles the competition from Lyubimov — the 24-year-old Russian who plays a heavy game and can handle special teams — and others.
 
VandeVelde saw a bit of an offensive drop-off last season with 14 points. Though just a point fewer than the year before, the bigger dip was going from nine goals to two.
 
With no real goal-scoring additions in the offseason, Hextall is expecting bigger outputs from returning players.
 
In VandeVelde’s case, two goals is something Lyubimov could easily match or exceed.
 
“You have to go out there and give it your all,” VandeVelde said. “Hopefully, work hard and kinda make an impression. There’s a lot of guys fighting for a fair amount of spots. It’s going to be interesting.
 
“I think I’ve felt pressure every year. Obviously, you want to make an impression and get noticed out there. Reassure [them] I can still do the job and add a few things to my offensive game.”
 
And his self-evaluation?
 
“I think I was solid,” he replied. “As a fourth line, we were very good at times. Individually, I can add a little more and chip in a little more.”
 
VandeVelde is not scheduled to play in either of Monday’s split-squad games in New Jersey or Brooklyn.
 
At stake here isn’t just his job on the fourth line but the penalty kill, as well. VandeVelde’s 2:17 shorthanded ice time per game was second only to linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2:35) among the forwards.
 
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Lyubimov has played on the penalty kill in the KHL, and Gordon is a PK specialist. What was VandeVelde’s edge is now something up for grabs, especially given both Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol have vowed there will be improvement on the PK, which ranked 14th last season after being among the bottom 10 much of the year.
 
Hakstol has said he intends to tweak the PK with some structural changes. That sounds like personnel changes and Gordon could be a guy on the fourth unit and will certainly be in the mix on the penalty kill.
 
How to make the kill better remains at large.
 
“We have to start a little more aggressively,” VandeVelde said. “Kinda like we finished last couple games there against Washington (in the playoffs). We kinda got burnt there 6-1 (in Game 3). We switched styles a little too late.”
 
The Flyers gave up five power play goals in Game 3 to the Caps.
 
VandeVelde admits his penalty kill experience gives him a bit of an edge going into camp.
 
“If I can bring that extra edge and solidify a role, that is huge,” he said.
 
VandeVelde returned to his home in Moorhead, Minn., over the summer to focus on his skating, hoping to get a more explosive start on the ice that he could utilize better during the penalty kill.
 
One thing seems certain: VandeVelde says there’s a greater comfort level for returning players as to what to expect from Hakstol. Also, whereas last year’s camp was one of implementing systems, this year’s camp is one of expanding on them.
 
“Everyone knows what to expect,” VandeVelde said. “So do all three coaches. They are going to tweak some things, whether it's penalty kill or power play or other systems. We’ll learn that. That is what preseason is for. All the players know what to expect and are ready to go.”
 
VandeVelde said he’s already been informed what the team expects from him this season. The competition could push him in that direction.
 
“I know what they want,” he said. “Obviously, I can do more offensively and want to chip in a little more as a fourth line and as an individual. Maybe just work on that.”