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).

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process. 
 
Today, we finish up by taking a look at the Flyers.

 
How did we get here?
The Flyers' rebuild had begun when Ron Hextall returned to his old stomping grounds in the summer of 2013 as the team's new assistant general manager.
 
He took over GM duties after one season and the philosophical change was in place. Paul Holmgren was made president and Hextall's imprint, which had already started, was ready to become bigger.
 
What Hextall inherited was a cap-stricken team fresh off a first-round playoff loss, an organization that had tried to spend its way to immediate results instead of putting greater focus on the long game.
 
Some of the past decisions are well-documented: signing enigmatic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in 2011 after trading for him. With a buyout, the Flyers are still paying Bryzgalov through 2027. Signing veteran center Vinny Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract in 2013. And signing imposing defenseman Chris Pronger to a seven-year, $34.55 million extension — nobody could foresee the unfortunate concussion issues that suddenly derailed Pronger's career, but it was nonetheless a hurdle for the Flyers moving forward.
 
Hextall has adeptly maneuvered through much of those rocky waters.
 
Now, the Flyers are a more cost-efficient (partly because they have to be in this salary cap world), draft-oriented organization planning for the future while not ignoring the present. This rebuild hasn't been a total demolition, but more of a retooling — a smart but tricky process, especially down the line.
 
Are the Flyers on the right path back to prosperity?
The youth is coming.
 
Hextall, oftentimes close to the vest, made that abundantly clear at his end-of-the-season press conference.
 
"Our young players, they've done enough," Hextall said in early April. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."
 
But the really hard part is just beginning — results. Can the prospects catch up and meet the current core? The pressure for it to start has never been higher.
 
Help does appear to be on the way, though, for a team that regressed this season and missed the playoffs for the third time in the past five years.
 
Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart give the Flyers future options in net.
 
Two promising prospects are expected to join Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and company on the blue line.
 
Oskar Lindblom, a dynamic 20-year-old winger, could crack the Flyers' group of forwards, which should have Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula for a full season.
 
Also, don't forget forward Mike Vecchione, a Hobey Baker finalist who signed with the Flyers out of Union College in late March.
 
Oh, and the No. 2 pick of the draft — likely a talented center — is in the Flyers' grasp.
 
The 2017-18 season will be a telling time for the Flyers. Patience has been required, but when will it be rewarded?
 
The clock is ticking.