Flyers' offense sputters again in loss to Devils

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Flyers' offense sputters again in loss to Devils

BOX SCORE

The team captain walked out. Just left the building. Left it for others to face the music after a 15-minute team meeting.

That’s how far things have slipped for the free-falling Flyers, who lost again, 3-0, to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in what might have been the easiest shutout among the 12 Marty Brodeur has had against the franchise during his brilliant career (see Instant Replay).

“When things aren’t going for you, you tend to look for the extra play,” Wayne Simmonds said. “When things are going for you, you just throw things at the net and get bounces and get stuff off the other team’s skates and sticks.

“You get the dirty goals. That’s where it has to start at practice [on Friday]. We got to come to practice, stop in the front of the net and bury every puck we can.”

The Flyers mustered 22 shots. Outside of two scrums in front of the net where the puck was at Brodeur’s feet, and two busted two-on-one rushes, the Flyers never really tested him.

Fans' frustration began with boos in the first period and carried through right to the end. They got even louder when Andrej Meszaros, who was checked off a puck for one Devils' goal, turned another puck over to Jaromir Jagr with two ticks left on the clock for an empty-netter that really put a spike in the final score.

“You hear the boos,” Simmonds said. “That just means we’re not doing our job. The fans react to what they see and it’s not good enough.”

Coach Craig Berube was tight-lipped again about the lack of motivation to carry through and make something happen. Not just five-on-five, but on the power play where the Flyers put up such a lazy effort, Brodeur only had to flick away two shots on three Flyer power plays the entire night.

“Yeah, very frustrating, especially the power play,” Berube said. “Outworked. The power play was outworked tonight.

“I think there are some games where you can go back and the power play looked good and the puck didn’t just go in.

“But on a consistent nightly basis you have to outwork the penalty killing of the other team and you have to create momentum for your team, and they did not do that tonight.”

Claude Giroux handles the first unit power play, but he left the building after speaking to club chairman Ed Snider, whom he patted on the back outside the dressing room.

Offering comfort to the owner? Shouldn't it be the other way around given Giroux still doesn’t have a goal this season?

No one would provide specifics about the team meeting except to say it addressed accountability, work ethic and competitiveness (see story).

Giroux has accountability to his teammates not to walk away and he chose to do so. That’s a problem on a losing club. He’s about to make $66.2 million starting next season when his eight-year extension kicks in. He needs to stand up and answer questions.

Will a team meeting help?

“I think they can be good,” Berube said. “I think they can recognize what they have to do better as a team and guys can talk about things. It’s not a hard game.

“It’s the competitiveness and a will to win and doing all the little things right to win, and right now we’re not good enough. We’re not doing good enough. That’s the bottom line.”

Ron Hextall talks Flyers' draft focus, scouting reports on top prospects and more

Ron Hextall talks Flyers' draft focus, scouting reports on top prospects and more

While the NHL draft doesn't begin until Friday evening in Chicago, the Flyers' scouting department and management have been in the Windy City since Tuesday.

Talk about getting a head start for Friday's No. 2 overall selection.

"After the last meeting, you sit and we're talking about players," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said this week. "There might be certain answers we need on players and they go back and do their homework.

"You have a couple more meetings and get back with a little more information. Things will change as we get more information to gather. Things will change a little bit but not too much, but we'll be more prepared."

The Flyers are expected to select either Halifax's Nico Hischier or Brandon's Nolan Patrick — both centermen — depending upon which player the New Jersey Devils tab at No. 1.

NHL Central Scouting's final rankings had the 6-foot-3, 198-pound Patrick ranked first over Hischier, who is 6-foot, 176 pounds. Hextall cautioned that the team doesn't always go by "public opinion," nor does its rankings always mirror those of Central Scouting.

"If you look at every team's list, they're way different," he said. "If you took the 31 lists, there would be a lot of differences."

The Flyers have 11 picks in the draft. Given they are very deep in defensive prospects and goaltenders, but short on wingers, they are expected to load up on forwards (see story).

"You kind of look at it that we do have a lot of defensemen," Hextall said. "Right now, in a perfect world, sit here and say, 'If we got seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie,' [that would be ideal]. We're not going to pick a goalie if we don't see a goalie as a value pick.

"If we get to a guy we like and he's still there, then we'll take a goalie, but we're not going to chase a goalie this year. I would expect we'll pick one, but we're not going to chase one. On D? If we get two, I'm OK with that."

There is separation after Patrick and Hischier in terms of how other players in the first round relate to them.

It's fair to say that had the Flyers been picking at No. 13 — their original spot before they got lucky in the draft lottery — the field would have been wide open with a number of players of equal ability at 13, whereas, at No. 2, there's a defined two.

"It's harder to sort," Hextall said of his original draft position. "Because there's a lot of good players. There really is. We were sitting there at 13 and we were kind of zeroing in and we were pretty excited about the player we were going to get at 13.

"People talk about this draft, they say it's not a very good draft. They're wrong. It's a good draft. It might not be like the last two were, but the last two were bumpers. This is a good draft."

Here's Hextall's quick take on a few of the top players in the first round, in no particular order after Patrick and Hischier:

"We had dinner with both of them," Hextall said of the top two players in the draft. "And we met with them at the combine. So we've got certain more information on those two than some other guys. There were some other guys we had more time with, too.

"They're both two-way players. They both make plays. They can both score goals. They both compete hard. Hischier has a little bit more quickness and speed to his game. Patrick's a little bit more looks for the right play and makes the play. They're both really good players. Both should be top NHL players."

Gabriel Vilardi: 6-2, 193-pound center, who played for Windsor in the OHL (see story).

"I was in Europe during the Memorial Cup," Hextall said. "He's another good player. Smart, really skilled, big body."

Klim Kostin: 6-3, 198-pound center/left wing, who played for Dynamo Moscow in Russia.

"He's a big horse, talented guy," Hextall said. "That's another thing, the Russian thing. How much do you put into it? But he's a high-end talent."

Cale Makar: 5-10, 175-pound defenseman, who played with Brooks in the Alberta Junior League.

"Really good," Hextall said. "He skates really well. He's got a really high skill level. Moves the puck well. Right-handed shot. Played in Brooks. Played at a level that's not the major junior level, but he's a really good player."

Miro Heiskanen: 6-0, 174-pound Finnish defenseman, who played with HIFK.

"Heiskanen's a really good player," Hextall said. "Very well-rounded defenseman, moves the puck. He's a good one."

Although he is not expected to be among the top 100 players taken in the draft, Keith Primeau's son, Cayden, a 6-2¾, 181-pound goalie, who played with Lincoln in the USHL, is expected to be drafted (see story).

Primeau was ranked seventh by Central Scouting among North American goalies.

"I saw Cayden here at the prospects game," Hextall said. "He's good, he's got good size, good positioning, he moves well. Seems to read the game pretty well. He's a good prospect."

Ron Hextall: Vegas 'obviously did their homework' on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Ron Hextall: Vegas 'obviously did their homework' on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall on Wednesday night reacted to losing alternate captain Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft (see story).

"There were a number of guys I felt like there was a chance we would lose," Hextall said. "And Belly was on that list.

"Vegas obviously did their homework and have themselves a good player. Pierre-Edouard is a character member of our organization and he'll be missed."

Bellemare is the Flyers' second alternate captain to depart the club in the same calendar year. Mark Streit, whose "A" Bellemare inherited, was traded to Pittsburgh via Tampa at the NHL trade deadline.

Streit will likely see his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. The Penguins plan to petition to get his name on the Cup even though Streit did not play in the Final against Nashville.

As for Bellemare, the 32-year-old center was left unprotected by the Flyers last weekend. He signed a two-year contract in March that carries a $1.45 million cap hit per.

Bellemare had 17 goals and 34 points in 237 games in three seasons with the Flyers after signing with the team in June 2014.

"He's a terrific team player and an even better human being," Hextall said. "He was great in the community and he'll be a real nice piece for Vegas."