Holmgren hopes Flyers hit rock bottom in rout

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Holmgren hopes Flyers hit rock bottom in rout

BOX SCORE

It got so bad, general manager Paul Holmgren left his suite high atop the Wells Fargo Center after the second period to address the Flyers himself.

At that point, they were trailing 6-0 to the Alexander Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals, on their way to an eventual 7-0 thrashing (see Instant Replay).

Friday night was the worst the Flyers have looked in a season defined so far by its ugly hockey -- and the GM’s attempt to wake up his team after 40 minutes wasn’t able to accomplish a thing. 

Is this rock bottom?

“I hope so,” Holmgren said.

To add injury to insult, the Flyers lost two key players to fights Friday night. Vinny Lecavalier has a facial injury and will miss at least Saturday’s game. Steve Downie was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after the game. He will be out indefinitely with a concussion, resulting from a second-period fight with Caps winger Aaron Volpatti.

“It’s embarrassing to play in front of our fans and lose 7-0 like that,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s unacceptable. We need to figure it out.”

The thing is, the Flyers actually started the game with some jump. They had early pressure on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, and held the Caps without a shot for the first 15 minutes.

But once they allowed center Nicklas Backstrom to score -- on just the team’s second shot of the night -- everything crumbled. The Flyers stopped skating. They committed turnover after turnover. They could barely carry the puck past the red line. 

“The second period was pretty rough,” Holmgren said. “I thought we played pretty good for 15 minutes, and once they scored the first goal, we kind of just stopped playing. I think we just seem like we’re afraid to play the game right now, and we’re afraid to make plays, afraid to battle for pucks, afraid to skate after pucks.

“It’s tough to watch. I’m sure the players are very embarrassed like we all are. We’ve got to do better than that.”

The Flyers, obviously, are frustrated. The coaches are frustrated. The general manager himself is, too.

But no one has taken the Flyers’ rough start harder than the fans. To that end, before the second period had even come to a conclusion, “Fire Holmgren” chants rang out loud enough for the GM to hear. When the horn sounded to kick off the second intermission, loud boos filled the Wells Fargo Center.

Holmgren understands where it’s coming from.

“I can’t blame the fans,” he said. “We’re as frustrated as they are. If I was sitting in the stands, I’m not sure I’d be chanting, but I might be thinking the same thing. It’s part of the business.”

After Joel Ward had registered a hat trick, after Backstrom’s two goals and the tallies from Troy Brouwer and Jason Chimera, things truly deteriorated.

It started with a fight between Wayne Simmonds and Tom Wilson. Suddenly, Ray Emery was skating across the ice to take out his frustrations on Holtby, who wanted nothing to do with the fight. A complete line brawl ensued, resulting in 114 penalty minutes.

The time during the fights was the only time Friday the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center rose to its feet and cheered.

“Frustration shows sometimes that way,” Emery said. “We all grew up playing hockey, and sometimes that happens -- you don’t want anyone to get hurt, but we don’t take losses like that.”

Emery was kicked out of the game after his fight, and very well might receive a suspension for his actions. Steve Mason, who had been pulled after allowing the game’s third goal, went back in. He actually played well ‘til the final horn, too.

Where do they go from here? Where can they go from here?

“We go play a game tomorrow,” head coach Craig Berube said, referencing Saturday’s game in Newark against the Devils.

“Pick yourself up and go play. That’s it. Everybody’s been involved in these games before, they’re not fun obviously, but we can’t sit there and dwell on it, you’ve got to go play a game tomorrow. We’ll go compete tomorrow, work hard. That’s what you do.”

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

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.”

Flyers reveal split squad rosters for Monday's preseason opener

Flyers reveal split squad rosters for Monday's preseason opener

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.