Flyers stumped by Bernier, PK in opening loss

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Flyers stumped by Bernier, PK in opening loss

BOX SCORE

Updated: 11:42 p.m.

They had energy. They were sharp much of the game. As was their goalie, Steve Mason.

The only troubling carryover from exhibition play that doomed the Flyers in their season opener Wednesday night against Toronto was … their power play.
 
Seven opportunities. One goal. Thirteen scoring chances.
 
“Yeah, we had our chances,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux after a 3-1 loss. “(Jonathan) Bernier played well but we had the offense. It’s a tough loss but we did a lot of good things out there and most of the game, we dominated.”
 
Bernier -- 31 saves -- was superb in goal, even denying Wayne Simmonds on a penalty shot.
 
The goals on Mason weren’t his fault. Two saw breakdowns in front of him. Did we mention he became the eighth different starting goalie for the Flyers in the past 11 seasons?
 
“You make the initial save and do your best to get into position for the next shot,” Mason said. “They made some good plays on rebounds.”
 
This was a back-to-back for Toronto, which was without one of its top forwards -- David Clarkson (suspension). The Leafs were very strong in the final period. Once they took the lead, they hunkered down.
 
“It's never easy to come into this building, especially on a back-to-back,” Bernier said. “We got in to a little bit of a PK problem but we came back from it, and that's what a good team does.”

Dave Bolland broke a 1-1 tie just 2:30 into the third period with an uncontested shot on Mason as Matt Read pretty much lost sight of him in the slot.

The Flyers then had consecutive power plays, failed and visibly sagged as Toronto’s PK momentum kicked in.
 
“Yeah, it seemed after that it wasn’t like the first period,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “We had trouble getting in there and keeping position. They played back more when they went up 2-1. They played a good road game.”
 
There were a couple of surprises in this one.
 
Jakub Voracek, who spent time in practice on the third line this week, stayed there working with Sean Couturier and Max Talbot.
 
His spot on the top line with Scott Hartnell and Giroux was taken by Brayden Schenn.
 
“We’re trying to get a balance on scoring throughout [the lineup],” explained coach Peter Laviolette. “We threw 75 attempts at the net and 30-plus shots. You’d like to walk away with more than one goal.
 
“Having Brayden up there and trying to get him going, I thought he played good on that line. That line generated some chances. Again, you’d like to see one or two of them drop in on five-on-five.”
 
Poor opening periods have been the Flyers' nemesis during the regular season in past years, but that wasn’t the case here.
 
Despite being outshot early, they rallied off a couple of very strong power plays and had the puck in Toronto’s end most of the opening period.
 
So dominant were the Flyers early, that Toronto went 12:13 without a shot.
 
“Defensively, we were responsible,” Giroux said.
 
Hartnell, in perhaps the best shape of his life as a Flyer, had an excellent chance off the rush that period on a pass from Giroux, but his quick redirect kissed the left post. He had seven attempts at the net in the game, yet just one official shot.
 
Actually, the Flyers had a number of good scoring chances and were finally rewarded on their third power play of the game with 6.9 seconds left in the period.
 
Schenn, who had briefly fought Joffrey Lupul (check on Giroux), got out of the box in time to camp out in the slot. Lecavalier sent him the puck from behind the net, and Schenn one-timed it past Bernier.
 
“Anytime you score a goal and help contribute to the team is obviously a plus and a bonus,” Schenn said. “There was some pretty nifty work by Vinny down low, which just goes to show you how good he is.”
 
Mason had a very strong second period, facing nine shots, and he nearly escaped unscathed. He stopped Lupul in the crease around the 12-minute mark, had a nice kick save on Phil Kessel after Kimmo Timonen turned it over at the blue line and two stops on Bolland.
 
Kessel, however, seemed determined to score after that save and put in a late rebound to tie it. That goal began with a bad, errant long pass by Max Talbot in neutral ice that quickly got turned back up on the Flyers.
 
To make matters worse, Talbot didn’t get back quick enough and defenseman Nick Grossmann got tangled up with Nazem Kadri after Dion Phaneuf’s shot became the rebound for Kessel.
 
Still, the Flyers caught a break with 3.1 seconds left as Simmonds stole a puck for a breakaway and was awarded a debatable penalty shot after being tripped by Paul Ranger.
 
Simmonds attacked Bernier with a weaving attempt to get him moving, then tried to go five-hole and was denied.
 
“It would have been the difference in the game I think,” Simmonds said.
 
Not as much as the failed power play chances.

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top-two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Our recap of Tuesday's underwhelming performance by the Flyers in Winnipeg.

Their Tragic Number is now 13, meaning the number of points either lost by the Flyers or accrued by the second wild card -- Toronto -- that totals 13 will eliminate the Flyers from the playoffs.

Sean Couturier said it best prior to the road trip: Unless the Flyers won in Winnipeg, then anything positive they achieved in coming from behind to beat Carolina was wasted.

And it was.  

If you watched the telecast with John Boruk, Alfonso Morganti and myself, you already know how I feel about the loss.

But for those of you who are gluttons for further punishment, here's 10 Things I think, I think, as Bill Lyon used to say:

1. A couple players gave everything they had to make a difference in this game. Radko Gudas had eight of the Flyers' 17 hits. Michael Del Zotto had five strong shots from the point, two of which were almost goals. Shayne Gostisbehere had four shots, two of which almost gave them a goal.

2. The Jets had five injured defensemen out of their lineup, which meant the Flyers' forwards should have been attacking them at the net. Again, the only offense generated for 50 minutes was from the point and not down low, where the Jets were vulnerable.

3. Valterri Filppula matched up against Patrick Laine and held him -- with help from Steve Mason -- to no points, a task in itself. Laine generated five shots and two prime scoring chances that Mason took care of.

4. Jets rookie defenseman Julian Melchiori had played just eight NHL games and had a total of four shots. He had three in the first period alone Tuesday and tied Laine with a team-high five for the game. He was more determined to make something happen than most of the Flyers. That should embarrass coach Dave Hakstol, who insisted the Flyers come out strong. They didn't.

5. Winnipeg moved up and down the ice well in transition. They came into the zone with speed and spread their attack out. Blake Wheeler's goal that made it 2-1 in the third period was the result of the Jets' precise puck movement from Mathieu Perreault to Mark Scheifele to Wheeler that demonstrated nothing moves faster on the ice than the speed of the puck. Wheeler got the puck with a wide-open look inside the right circle. The Flyers didn't have a single play during the game that mimicked that rush.

6. Although the Flyers' penalty kill units gave up a 10th goal in their last 24 chances, they shut down the Jets' the final four power plays of the game, including the four-minute double-minor to Ivan Provorov in the second period. The PK got no help from the power play (0 for 3).

7. Mason had four saves during the Jets' four-minute power play, which should have given the Flyers some momentum for the remainder of the second period and into the third. He also had a terrific stick save on Laine in the slot after the PP that left the rookie so angry he was jamming his stick violently into the ground on the Jets' bench.

8. Following up on that, why were the Flyers hesitant in the third period, tied 1-1, while the Jets peppered Mason at the outset? Where's that sense of desperation Hakstol's team should have shown? This is precisely what happened in Boston a few weeks ago. Game tied going into the third and instead of playing for two points they absolutely had to have, the Flyers were playing to get the game into overtime and earn at least one. That strategy failed spectacularly in Boston when the Bruins won the game in the final 5.6 seconds of regulation and failed again Tuesday.

9. Hakstol talked about effort and determination, yet the numbers say otherwise. With 13:34 left in regulation, the Flyers had just two shots in the period. Two! In the final seven minutes of the game, their sense of urgency finally kicked in when they kept the puck in Winnipeg's zone to the end and even scored shorthanded. That again raises this question: Where was that urgency at the period's start when it was 1-1 and not 3-1?

10. Finally, the Flyers had three power plays in this defeat. During their second power play, trailing 2-1, Winnipeg's lowly PK unit generated two shorthanded chances and cleared the zone four times. On the Flyers' final power play -- they trailed 3-1 at that point -- Hakstol pulled Mason to create a 6-on-4. The Flyers generated several scoring chances. They have scored three times this season under that scenario. Young goalie Michael Hutchinson, who had a 4.06 goals against average head-to-head against the Flyers, had a couple of terrific saves, including one on Wayne Simmonds in the slot. Where was that pressure on Hutchinson earlier in the period? Or earlier in the game?