Holmgren after preseason: 'Got to be better'

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Holmgren after preseason: 'Got to be better'

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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.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process. 
 
Today, we finish up by taking a look at the Flyers.

 
How did we get here?
The Flyers' rebuild had begun when Ron Hextall returned to his old stomping grounds in the summer of 2013 as the team's new assistant general manager.
 
He took over GM duties after one season and the philosophical change was in place. Paul Holmgren was made president and Hextall's imprint, which had already started, was ready to become bigger.
 
What Hextall inherited was a cap-stricken team fresh off a first-round playoff loss, an organization that had tried to spend its way to immediate results instead of putting greater focus on the long game.
 
Some of the past decisions are well-documented: signing enigmatic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in 2011 after trading for him. With a buyout, the Flyers are still paying Bryzgalov through 2027. Signing veteran center Vinny Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract in 2013. And signing imposing defenseman Chris Pronger to a seven-year, $34.55 million extension — nobody could foresee the unfortunate concussion issues that suddenly derailed Pronger's career, but it was nonetheless a hurdle for the Flyers moving forward.
 
Hextall has adeptly maneuvered through much of those rocky waters.
 
Now, the Flyers are a more cost-efficient (partly because they have to be in this salary cap world), draft-oriented organization planning for the future while not ignoring the present. This rebuild hasn't been a total demolition, but more of a retooling — a smart but tricky process, especially down the line.
 
Are the Flyers on the right path back to prosperity?
The youth is coming.
 
Hextall, oftentimes close to the vest, made that abundantly clear at his end-of-the-season press conference.
 
"Our young players, they've done enough," Hextall said in early April. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."
 
But the really hard part is just beginning — results. Can the prospects catch up and meet the current core? The pressure for it to start has never been higher.
 
Help does appear to be on the way, though, for a team that regressed this season and missed the playoffs for the third time in the past five years.
 
Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart give the Flyers future options in net.
 
Two promising prospects are expected to join Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and company on the blue line.
 
Oskar Lindblom, a dynamic 20-year-old winger, could crack the Flyers' group of forwards, which should have Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula for a full season.
 
Also, don't forget forward Mike Vecchione, a Hobey Baker finalist who signed with the Flyers out of Union College in late March.
 
Oh, and the No. 2 pick of the draft — likely a talented center — is in the Flyers' grasp.
 
The 2017-18 season will be a telling time for the Flyers. Patience has been required, but when will it be rewarded?
 
The clock is ticking.