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.

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

With the Flyers on their bye week, let’s discuss a few topics.

Going End to End this week are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

Today’s question: What adjustment would you make on the Flyers' defense?

Dougherty
There is not much in Dave Hakstol’s arsenal to significantly improve the team defense with a lineup change. Sure, scratching Andrew MacDonald could be a positive step, but that does not solve the problem here. We can point fingers at the defensive group because the Flyers have allowed the league’s second-most goals at 144. They’re part of the problem.

What is plaguing the Flyers is not just the play of their six defensemen on any given night; it’s their overall team defense. Some forwards are quitting on the backcheck, and not providing enough support in their own zone, missing their own assignments.

The Flyers, I believe, are struggling with the lack of practice time. And while it is true that every team is dealing with the same compact schedule as the Flyers, Hakstol has to maximize the little practice time he gets going forward and preach team defense. Gaps have been a major issue with the current group of blueliners, and that is an area assistant coach Gord Murphy has to fix. Hakstol has singled out the team’s rush defense as an issue, and that’s another area the team has to work on, too.

A lot of the same issues that were appearing in the beginning of the season when the Flyers were struggling are reappearing in their game now. They were able to make adjustments earlier in the season to hone their game defensively. More film study and more coaching are just a couple of the adjustments I’d make with the current options.

Hall
Sometimes it takes a fresh face, some new blood to spark change.

If anything, it sends a bit of a message.

The Flyers have options at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and general manager Ron Hextall didn’t rule anything out last Sunday.

But, of course, given the Flyers’ salary cap conundrum, it’s not as simple as just calling up a player.

So, the easiest thing that can be done is change within the current personnel. That means scratching MacDonald from time to time, just how Hakstol has done so with Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas and many Flyers forwards.

MacDonald hasn’t been as bad as some may think. Oftentimes, his mistakes are magnified more than others. But too frequently do we see him out of position or misreading a play on a goal against. And that’s been true for all Flyers defensemen, yet MacDonald seems to be one of the only spared of the consequences.

Benching MacDonald isn’t a drastic fix and it may not do much at all, but it’s something we haven’t seen since Nov. 19.

Paone
This a really tough question because, to be quite frank, there is no easy solution here to fixing a Flyers defense that has been mired in a state of miserable play and has played a large part in the team's allowing 3.50 goals per game in the 14 contests since the 10-game win streak ended in mid-December. 

It's not like Hakstol or Hextall can push some magic button here and have things fixed in a matter of moments. The Flyers have salary cap and roster issues, so it's going to be tough to bring in a player via trade to help fix things on the back end. Same goes for bringing up a prospect because space on the roster would have to be made first.

This situation leaves the Flyers to fix the problem from within with the defensemen they currently have at the NHL level. They're going to have to play their way out of this. And that's why I'm interested in focusing on the younger defensemen like Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov right now. We know what the veteran defensemen on this team are and they've been through this sort of thing before. This will not be the last team-wide rut the younger defensemen will play through in their careers. It will happen again. They're going to have to learn how to play through this and not let it affect their individual play. That's why I didn't agree with Ghost's benching in Boston last weekend.  Sure, he has not played well this season and the warts to his game have been evident. And there are times when sitting back, taking a breather and watching can be beneficial. But I'm a believer that a young player has to play through his growing pains and grow from them.

This isn't going to be an answer most of you will like to hear, but with the way the Flyers' hands are tied, they're just going to have to play their way out of these defensive struggles with what they have.