Holmgren after preseason: 'Got to be better'

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Holmgren after preseason: 'Got to be better'

BOX SCORE

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.

Lopsided fight
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.

No Voracek
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.

Penalty killing
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 ejected
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.

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” said Sidney Crosby. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”

Flyers GM Ron Hextall on trade deadline: 'We're not buying'

Flyers GM Ron Hextall on trade deadline: 'We're not buying'

PITTSBURGH -- When asked Friday night at Heinz Field whether the Flyers would be buyers or sellers at next Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline, Ron Hextall didn’t flinch.
 
He was adamant he won’t be a buyer. He also intimated he’s looking to sell and that these next two games before the deadline could impact that decision.
 
“We’ll see,” Hextall said. “We’re not buying. I’ve said that for a while now. We’re not buying. We’ll see where we’re at in a couple days. Like I said, tomorrow’s a big game. I have ideas and we’ll execute them depending.
 
“We’ll be making calls and getting calls and we’ll see what’s out there and see where we’re at as a team in the standings and make the appropriate moves.”
 
The Flyers also play Colorado on Tuesday, the day before the deadline.

“It could have some effect, it could,” Hextall said on whether the next two games will impact his decision-making at the deadline. “We’ll watch the standings closely and what we’re doing tomorrow night.”

Hextall made his comments Friday night while the Flyers practiced on the outdoor ice at Heinz Field for Saturday’s Stadium Series game against the Penguins.
 
The most obvious candidates for the Flyers to move at the deadline are defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto and goalie Michal Neuvirth.
 
More than 10 NHL clubs have been scouting the Flyers regularly over the past month, home and away (see story).
 
Hextall has been saying for months he doesn’t like to make decisions based on “small samples.” Yet the Flyers have been very inconsistent the entire season, save for a 10-game win streak between November and mid-December.
 
They are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Of those seven losses, they have scored one or no goals six times. What does that say?
 
“It tells me we have to be more consistent,” Hextall replied. “It tells me what we’re capable of and at times we’re not playing anywhere near to that level. That’s been frustrating.
 
“I like our team. We’ve got some good players, but the consistency part, we have to level that out for sure, especially from now to the end of the year.”
 
Some NHL clubs -- Pittsburgh last season and Chicago this season -- have promoted scores of younger players onto their roster. The Flyers promoted Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny this season.
 
Why not promote some players from the Phantoms right now?

“Not to make us a worse team,” Hextall said. “If we make something happen and if we can bring someone up and we take a lateral move, yeah, that’s kind of where you want to get to.

“That’s why you don’t want to bring kids up, 20-year-olds that aren’t ready to play. You mentioned Pitt there, their guys that helped them last year are all 23 now except for the goalie. Keep that in mind. They were kids, but 23-year-old kids.”

The Phantoms are having a good season. They could go far in the AHL playoffs. Hextall said that wouldn’t prevent him from bringing players up, even if it hurt the Phantoms’ chances.

“Is it a factor? I guess at the bottom,” Hextall said. “My job is to do what’s best for the Flyers. Part of what’s best for the Flyers is having the best team down there that we can have to grow kids in a winning environment.
 
“That’s part of it. I wouldn’t not bring a kid up that’s ready to play because he’d be leaving the Phantoms, assuming you have a roster spot and cap space and the things that come along with that.”
 
Loose pucks
Jordan Weal (concussion symptoms) could play Saturday Hextall said. ... Konecny (ankle and knee) is ahead of schedule and could be back in four weeks or less instead of six weeks. He skated at least four times this week on his own.