Holmgren doesn't see Flyers making major move

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Holmgren doesn't see Flyers making major move

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The trade rumors involving the Flyers have been blowing in the wind for a while now.

Bob Dylan notwithstanding.

Despite the Flyers' terribly inconsistent play and the very tightness of this lockout-shortened season, general manager Paul Holmgren says he is not going to pull the trigger on a major deal.

“I think we have a nucleus of good, young players,” Holmgren said Tuesday night before the Flyers' taunt 3-2 win over the Jets.

“To talk about disrupting that is not something that I am in favor of doing. We have not played exactly how I thought we would have played.

“We’re missing some key people [Scott Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros] right now. We can’t use that as an excuse. Other teams have similar issues going. We’re going to ride this out for now.

“I don’t anticipate doing anything. Obviously, there is lots of talk going on right now. Everyone is doing their due diligence, but I don’t foresee us making a move.”

Hartnell’s absence has really impacted Claude Giroux, who had eight games this season without a point. He picked up an assist on Tuesday. He needs that big guy with the long, red locks to create some space for him on the ice.

“Obviously, the other teams are keying on Claude right now, doubling on him,” Holmgren said. “He’s missing his left wing, who helps a lot. Scotty is a key for Claude and a key for our team. He needs him to create a little space for him.”

Wayne Simmonds missed three games with a concussion and is trying to get back into being a physical guy who picks up points at the net.

“With Wayne coming back and getting a couple games under is belt will be beneficial to Claude,” Holmgren said. “I look for him to get going now. You can’t ask Claude to try harder because he is trying his hardest right now. Other teams are doing a good job on him. I feel the underneath guys now need to do a better job.”

Coach Peter Laviolette has been juggling his lines regularly to try and find chemistry and make up for lost bodies due to injury.

Laviolette changed all four of lines against the Jets in part because Sean Couturier was back home resting from the flu.

Max Talbot has yet to score a goal, but Holmgren said he doesn’t expect Talbot to recreate the career high in goals (19) he posted last season. Also, he feels Talbot’s role and specialty is defensive hockey and penalty kill.

He does feel Danny Briere, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn all need to elevate their games. Voracek had two assists against the Jets and Schenn scored his second goal in three games.

“They all have to do a better job,” Holmgren said. “… As a team, we’re not operating on all cylinders and that is why we are having trouble.”

The Flyers came into the Jets' game with the second-fewest goals in the Atlantic Division -- 31. When a team is not scoring, flaws are exposed. And when it makes defensive gaffes, like it did Monday in Toronto, it leads to disastrous results on the ice.

Does this team miss Jaromir Jagr?

“Doesn’t make any sense to look back on that,” Holmgren replied. “Obviously, he was a big benefit to Claude and Scotty last year. Sometimes you have to move on.

“We were not in a situation last summer to do anything at that time. Whether we would have later, I still don’t know. But I have moved on from that.”

Holmgren said he is pleased with the progress the club has made in improving on special teams, particularly on the penalty kill. But he also feels the inconsistency on the power play has not enabled the Flyers to make up for goals elsewhere when it should.

“[Monday] night in Toronto, we had bad 7-8 minutes, down 4-1 and too many giveaways in our zone and center ice, and it cost us,” Holmgren said. “Yet, we had seven minutes in power-play time to get back in it and we didn’t get anything out of it.

“It’s a close league. If you are not on top of your game for 60 minutes, there’s a good chance you won’t win.”

He also thought the club had “turned the corner” by getting seven of eight points on the last homestand before this six-game road trip began.

“Then, we took a step backward in Toronto,” Holmgren said. “A lot of times in this league now, if you are standing still with the puck or you don’t move the puck right away, you will get in trouble.

“I don’t care who you are. We got into situations [in Toronto] where we didn’t win those little battles along the boards and on a couple goals we didn’t move the puck quick enough and got burned. We have to do a better job.”

Four games remain on the trip. Three are against teams higher in the standings -- New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Montreal.

What happens there could very well dictate if Holmgren is pushed to make a move.

Flyers Skate Update: Power-play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power-play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first-unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league (see game notes).

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit — Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds — hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists — two on the power play — against the Canucks on Sunday (see story).

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Couturier, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers (28-24-7) vs. Capitals (39-12-7)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After finding some offense to finish up a 1-2-0 road trip, the Flyers return home for a not-so-glorious welcome when they host the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

We’ll get into that and more with five things to know:

1. Capping things off
What’s the Flyers’ reward for salvaging the final game of a road swing through Canada? A date with the Capitals, who are the NHL’s hottest team since New Year’s Eve, and by a landslide.

Just how dominant has Washington been?

Dating back to Dec. 31, the Capitals are 19-3-2 and have scored an incomprehensible 104 goals in those 24 games. That’s 4.33 goals per game, while yielding only 50 markers over that stretch.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have scored an NHL-low 40 goals since New Year’s Eve and allowed 62 for an Eastern Conference-worst goal differential of minus-22.

Washington, coming off its first back-to-back defeats since Dec. 27-29, has lost three straight games only once this season.

2. A Ghost sighting
On Sunday, for the first time in close to four months, we saw the Shayne Gostisbehere from the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up season last year.

The sophomore blueliner delivered his first three-point game of his career to ignite the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Canucks.

Although Gostisbehere has made it clear he’s focused on his defensive game, the Flyers are a different animal when he’s generating offensive chances at 5-on-5 and the power play.

“He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere’s performance Sunday.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbelievable skill. He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

3. Good cage match
This one makes for an intriguing goalie matchup between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, who were once battling for the net in Washington.

Holtby is having another stud season after winning the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy (top goalie). Among all netminders, he is tied for first in goals-against average (2.01) and shutouts (seven), while he hasn’t been beaten in regulation since Dec. 27.

The 27-year-old blanked the Flyers twice in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and stopped 149 of 154 shots over the first-round series that the Capitals won in six games.

Neuvirth hasn’t been too shabby himself, starting eight of the Flyers’ last 10 games. Aside from a bad showing in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers, Neuvirth has not surrendered more than two goals in any other outing during that span.

A 2006 second-round pick of Washington, Neuvirth was brilliant last postseason against his former club, making 103 saves on 105 shots faced to get the Flyers two victories.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare can be crucial in these types of games. The fourth-line forward often sees work against the opposition’s top offensive threats and is the Flyers’ most important piece to the penalty kill. Bellemare has played 16-plus minutes in both meetings with the Capitals this season, while the PK is 15 for 17 in February and tied for the NHL’s third-fewest goals against this month.

Capitals: T.J. Oshie is such an underrated asset for Washington. The right winger, who played his college hockey at North Dakota under Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, leads the NHL with a 22.8 shooting percentage, a big reason why the Capitals are scoring 3.34 goals per game, good for second most in hockey. Oshie has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in his past 22 games and is a plus-24 on the season.

5. This and that
• Neuvirth has just two career regular-season matchups against the Capitals, going 1-0-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

• Holtby is 6-4-7 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 lifetime matchups with the Flyers.

• The Flyers are three points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, trailing the Panthers, Bruins and Islanders, all of whom have 66 points.

• Simmonds has four goals in his last five games.

• Claude Giroux has two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous 10 games.

• Washington ranks first in the NHL with a plus-69 goal differential.

• Jordan Weal (upper-body injury) is expected to miss his second straight game.