Flyers Notes: Woes to open periods continue

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Flyers Notes: Woes to open periods continue

NEWARK, N.J. -- Talk about a rough start.

In Friday’s 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils (see game recap), the Flyers gave up a goal less than a minute into both the first and second periods.

“It’s unacceptable,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said after the game. “They come off of turnovers. You got to take care of the puck and make good decisions and be in the right spot defensively and defend the rush properly, and things that we continue to harp on and look at. But giving up two goals in the first minute of each period is not a good way to start the period.

After surrendering the first marker of the game 40 seconds in, the Flyers responded with a strong effort in the first stanza. They scored three goals in two minutes and 36 seconds on veteran Martin Brodeur, which was the fastest the Flyers have ever scored that many markers on the Devils’ netminder.

The Flyers also outshot New Jersey 11-7 in the opening period and limited the Devils to just 19 shots for the game.

So where exactly did things go wrong for the orange and black?

“A couple there first shift, in the first and second period,” captain Claude Giroux said. “That didn’t help, obviously. I think the whole game we kind of gave the puck to Brodeur -- he kind of played it, it’s pretty easy for him. We played a pretty good game, but at the end of the day, it’s 3-3 going into the third. We’ve got to find a way to get that win.”

The Flyers got off to an even worse start in the second period. Alexei Ponikarovsky, in his first game since being reacquired by the Devils, beat Ilya Bryzgalov just 26 seconds into the second stanza.

Ponikarovsky’s tally proved to be the turning point. The Flyers were once again plagued by turnovers in the second period of the game and a sloppy third period ultimately led to another loss to an Atlantic Division rival.

“We gotta be a little bit more ready to start up the period,” defenseman Luke Schenn said. “Obviously, they got off to a big start. We weren’t on our toes to start both those periods.”

The Flyers won’t have to dwell on their latest defeat long. They are back in action Saturday night as they continue their six-game road trip in Montreal.

Leighton still not ready
Goaltender Michael Leighton, who sustained an upper-body injury at practice a week ago, is still not ready to return, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.

Leighton was originally expected to miss about a week. However, Holmgren said, the netminder is still at least seven to 10 days away from returning to the Flyers.

In one start this season, Leighton is 0-1 with a .808 save percentage and 5.08 goals-against average.

Knuble vs. Marty
Mike Knuble’s first-period tally was his 18th career goal against Brodeur. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the second most of any NHL player against Brodeur.

Interestingly enough, Knuble is sandwiched in between two former Flyers on the list. Simon Gagne has the most career goals against Brodeur with 19, while Jaromir Jagr has the third most with 17.

Knuble, who played just under 13 minutes on Friday, has two goals and three assists in 11 games since rejoining the Flyers this season.

Loose pucks
Friday’s game was the 300th of Claude Giroux’s career. … Giroux’s two assists matched the number of his previous five games. … The Flyers are now 1-4 against Atlantic Division teams this season. … The Flyers lost for the first time this season when leading after the first period. … For the fourth time this season, the Flyers lost a game that was tied after two periods.

Flyers clash with Penguins in cheapest outdoor game this season

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Flyers clash with Penguins in cheapest outdoor game this season

Editor's note: The following is sponsored content written by TicketIQ.

Attending this year’s Stadium Series game won’t come at much of a cost for fans at Heinz Field.

With the Penguins set to host the Flyers in the 68,000-plus seat stadium on Saturday, tickets are the cheapest of all three outdoor games this season. On TicketIQ, CSN Philly’s official ticketing partner, Penguins vs. Flyers Stadium Series tickets now average $202.

Saturday’s game is considerably cheaper than the Centennial Classic and Winter Classic, which were held in Toronto and St. Louis last month, respectively. The Winter Classic between the Blues and Blackhawks averaged a $632 ticket while the Maple Leafs and Red Wings’ Centennial Classic posted a $299 average.

As it stands now, this weekend’s game owns the third lowest average for a Stadium Series game in the last four years, trumped only by a 2016 game between the Wild and Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which owned an overall average of $160. It is the cheapest two-day-out average that any game has posted, however, inching past a 2015 game between the Sharks and Kings ($203) for that title.

Only a 2014 Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium between the Rangers and Islanders owned a lower get-in price ($45) two days out than Saturday’s game at Heinz Field. Penguins vs. Flyers tickets currently start from $67 each in the 500 sections.

The Flyers will play in their first Stadium Series game since the format was created in 2014. It will be their third overall outdoor game after 2010’s Winter Classic at Fenway Park and 2012’s Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.

The game comes at a crucial time for the Flyers, who remain on the cusp of a playoff spot in a crowded Eastern Conference. As of Thursday afternoon, they sit just three points removed from the second wild-card spot. Some pushing and shoving will occur over the next two months, however, as several other teams fight for that last playoff berth.

The Penguins play host to their second outdoor game at Heinz Field following 2011’s Winter Classic against the Capitals. It will be the reigning Stanley Cup champions’ fourth outdoor game since 2008. They enter Saturday owners of the second seed in the Metropolitan division behind the league-best Capitals with 82 points in tow.

 

Flyers focused on actual game instead of Stadium Series event

Flyers focused on actual game instead of Stadium Series event

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The toughest challenge for the Flyers this weekend might be themselves.

They’re playing the Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors on Saturday as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series event. That should be a big deal.

Yet, given their circumstances right now, how can they possibly enjoy the moment?

Maybe had this game been played in early January, before the team hit a crisis point in the standings, and was winning, it would be easier to relax.

The fact is, the Flyers have lost seven of their last 10 games, are drifting as the 11th team in the Eastern Conference, and the second wild card they held for so long seems far from their reach.

Tough to have fun and soak up the atmosphere when there’s so much pressure to start making up ground in the playoff hunt.

“Yeah, we’re there to have two points,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said Thursday. “If this was earlier in the season, we could take it in a bit more, but it’s all business for us right now. It’s just playing.”

That attitude extends right up to coach Dave Hakstol, who didn’t break a smile when talking about what’s really important here.

His team is desperate for points. There are 22 games left in the regular season and 19 are against Eastern Conference opponents.

The Flyers need to win a bunch of games and get hot like they did last season in March if they are going to recapture a wild-card berth.

“Honestly, it’s business first,” Hakstol said. “There is something to the event and certainly something important with family and the type of event it is. But, let’s be honest. Right now, it’s business first. That’s what our focus will be.

“Points. Simple as that. It’s two points. We need the two points and it’s a road game and it happens to be in an event-type situation.

“So we’ve got to make sure we handle all of that in terms of our preparation. But the bottom line is it comes down to the two points that are at stake on Saturday night.”

Michal Neuvirth will make his sixth consecutive start in goal for the Flyers. He was a backup to Semyon Varlamov at Heinz Field during the 2011 Winter Classic as a member of the Washington Capitals against Pittsburgh.

“We’ve got to focus on the game,” Neuvirth said. “There is going to be a lot of distractions. Lot of families and friends in town. But we’re gonna go there and it’s all about business and trying to get the two points.”

Hakstol is only slightly concerned about the hype taking away from the players’ focus. If the Flyers were coming into this game on a win streak, he and his players wouldn’t be quite as uptight as they are right now.

You can cut the tension in the Flyers' dressing room these days with a skate blade.

“You need a little mental attention to detail there,” Hakstol said. “That’s what it is. We’re in that mold. I don’t think that’s a big hump to overcome. I think we’ll be OK.”

Heinz Field holds 68,000 people. The NHL expects 60,000 in attendance. Regardless, it will be the largest crowd ever to witness a Flyers game.

“It’s more exciting and a must-win for us,” said Michael Raffl, who played outdoors once in Europe. “A huge game no matter where we would have played it. We could play it at Skate Zone and we’d be excited.”

Giroux said it will be “weird” being on the ice because his past experiences in outdoor games saw him drown out the fans as much as possible. Yet he admitted the sheer number of fans this time might make that difficult to do.

“It’s pretty exciting to play in the Steelers' stadium,” he said. “Playing against Pittsburgh, it should be a great game.”