WASHINGTON -- OK, the preseason is over and so are the games.
So how did Flyers look? They lost. Again. This time it was 6-3 at the Verizon Center to the Washington Capitals.
Their 1-5-1 preseason record means absolutely nothing. Yet it also invites concern.
“I don’t like the record or the way we played some nights,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “We got to move on now. It’s obvious now it’s got to be better. We've got some work we got to do and clean up some things for the regular season.”
In fairness to coach Peter Laviolette, we need to point out that of the Flyers’ seven exhibition games:
• Four games saw them with a split roster
• One game was a “B” roster minus eight regulars
• Two games they had a full NHL roster but were missing key players in Luke Schenn (first game against New Jersey) and Jakub Voracek (final game).
That said, the Flyers came into this game absolutely goal-starved in the preseason with 12 goals scored and 18 against. They finished with just 15 goals scored from 15 different players.
“I wouldn’t get too worried about it,” Matt Read said. “I think we have a lot of scoring power on our team. Maybe it hasn’t clicked yet.”
They trailed 3-0 in the second period against the Caps, then scored three unanswered goals in four minutes, 45 seconds from Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds to tie it.
Washington scored three times in the third period to win it.
Defensively, the Flyers looked out of sync and out of position the entire preseason -- too many uncontested goals between the dots.
Also, their third periods, much like last season, lacked comeback ability.
Brayden Schenn, trying to ignite something in the first period after the Flyers fell behind 2-0, got dusted in a lopsided fight against a much larger opponent, Tom Wilson.
The potentially bad news is that Schenn took several shots to the head -- his helmet came off.
There were five fights in the game -- two involving Adam Hall.
Voracek, whose lower back (left side) has presumably been ailing him since going into the goal post against New Jersey this week, did not play.
He was supposed to play and that also raises a mini-alarm bell. Fortunately for the Flyers, the season does not open until Wednesday against Toronto.
The Flyers came into this final preseason game No. 1 in the NHL in penalty killing, having killed off 25 of 26 power plays (96.2 percent efficiency).
Washington scored a power-play goal from Alex Ovechkin in the first period. That was actually a five-minute power play because of a Zac Rinaldo major for elbowing.
Rinaldo drew a game misconduct in the first period because of an elbow to Caps center Mikhail Grabovski that drew blood from his mouth. Grabovski was in a vulnerable position on the back boards.
Rinaldo appeared to get him with his shoulder, although he appeared to leave both his feet to deliver the hit. Normally, that would hurt his case with Lord of Discipline, Brendan Shanahan.
Except ... Grabovski never left the game and had no injury, which is always a factor in supplemental discipline.
Sources said the league has already looked at the Rinaldo hit and didn’t see an elbow, which would imply Rinaldo will escape any additional punishment.
Holmgren said he had not heard anything from the league.
When Ovechkin loudly objected to Rinaldo on the ice, the latter told him to, "Shut the [expletive] up."
It's important to point out Aaron Volpatti hit Flyer defenseman Nick Grossmann in the head with an elbow that same period without a penalty.
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.”
The Flyers on Monday night kick off their preseason schedule, with split squad games against the Islanders in Brooklyn and New Jersey Devils in New Jersey.
And Monday night offers the first chance for prospects Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to impress the Flyers' brass in game competition, as their quest to make the orange and black continues. Both Konecny and Provorov will be with the Flyers' split squad in New Jersey.
Carter Hart and Mark Dekanich will be the goalies with Konecny and Provorov in New Jersey, while Anthony Stolarz and Martin Ouellette will goaltend in Brooklyn.
Travis Sanheim and Sam Morin will be with the split squad team in Brooklyn, along with veteran defenseman Michael Del Zotto.
The Flyers' game in Brooklyn can be streamed on their official website, while the game in New Jersey will be aired on the radio at 97.5 The Fanatic.
Here are the full lineups for Monday's split-squad contest, via the Flyers.