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.”

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top-two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Our recap of Tuesday's underwhelming performance by the Flyers in Winnipeg.

Their Tragic Number is now 13, meaning the number of points either lost by the Flyers or accrued by the second wild card -- Toronto -- that totals 13 will eliminate the Flyers from the playoffs.

Sean Couturier said it best prior to the road trip: Unless the Flyers won in Winnipeg, then anything positive they achieved in coming from behind to beat Carolina was wasted.

And it was.  

If you watched the telecast with John Boruk, Alfonso Morganti and myself, you already know how I feel about the loss.

But for those of you who are gluttons for further punishment, here's 10 Things I think, I think, as Bill Lyon used to say:

1. A couple players gave everything they had to make a difference in this game. Radko Gudas had eight of the Flyers' 17 hits. Michael Del Zotto had five strong shots from the point, two of which were almost goals. Shayne Gostisbehere had four shots, two of which almost gave them a goal.

2. The Jets had five injured defensemen out of their lineup, which meant the Flyers' forwards should have been attacking them at the net. Again, the only offense generated for 50 minutes was from the point and not down low, where the Jets were vulnerable.

3. Valterri Filppula matched up against Patrick Laine and held him -- with help from Steve Mason -- to no points, a task in itself. Laine generated five shots and two prime scoring chances that Mason took care of.

4. Jets rookie defenseman Julian Melchiori had played just eight NHL games and had a total of four shots. He had three in the first period alone Tuesday and tied Laine with a team-high five for the game. He was more determined to make something happen than most of the Flyers. That should embarrass coach Dave Hakstol, who insisted the Flyers come out strong. They didn't.

5. Winnipeg moved up and down the ice well in transition. They came into the zone with speed and spread their attack out. Blake Wheeler's goal that made it 2-1 in the third period was the result of the Jets' precise puck movement from Mathieu Perreault to Mark Scheifele to Wheeler that demonstrated nothing moves faster on the ice than the speed of the puck. Wheeler got the puck with a wide-open look inside the right circle. The Flyers didn't have a single play during the game that mimicked that rush.

6. Although the Flyers' penalty kill units gave up a 10th goal in their last 24 chances, they shut down the Jets' the final four power plays of the game, including the four-minute double-minor to Ivan Provorov in the second period. The PK got no help from the power play (0 for 3).

7. Mason had four saves during the Jets' four-minute power play, which should have given the Flyers some momentum for the remainder of the second period and into the third. He also had a terrific stick save on Laine in the slot after the PP that left the rookie so angry he was jamming his stick violently into the ground on the Jets' bench.

8. Following up on that, why were the Flyers hesitant in the third period, tied 1-1, while the Jets peppered Mason at the outset? Where's that sense of desperation Hakstol's team should have shown? This is precisely what happened in Boston a few weeks ago. Game tied going into the third and instead of playing for two points they absolutely had to have, the Flyers were playing to get the game into overtime and earn at least one. That strategy failed spectacularly in Boston when the Bruins won the game in the final 5.6 seconds of regulation and failed again Tuesday.

9. Hakstol talked about effort and determination, yet the numbers say otherwise. With 13:34 left in regulation, the Flyers had just two shots in the period. Two! In the final seven minutes of the game, their sense of urgency finally kicked in when they kept the puck in Winnipeg's zone to the end and even scored shorthanded. That again raises this question: Where was that urgency at the period's start when it was 1-1 and not 3-1?

10. Finally, the Flyers had three power plays in this defeat. During their second power play, trailing 2-1, Winnipeg's lowly PK unit generated two shorthanded chances and cleared the zone four times. On the Flyers' final power play -- they trailed 3-1 at that point -- Hakstol pulled Mason to create a 6-on-4. The Flyers generated several scoring chances. They have scored three times this season under that scenario. Young goalie Michael Hutchinson, who had a 4.06 goals against average head-to-head against the Flyers, had a couple of terrific saves, including one on Wayne Simmonds in the slot. Where was that pressure on Hutchinson earlier in the period? Or earlier in the game?