Instant Replay: Capitals 7, Flyers 0

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Instant Replay: Capitals 7, Flyers 0

BOX SCORE

There’s no way to dance around it: In a season with plenty of ugly hockey to choose from, Friday night was the absolute worst the Flyers have looked.

The thing is, it didn’t start out that way. On their way to a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, the Flyers actually started out with some jump.

But when they lost it, they lost it entirely.

It’s hard to fathom, at the close of this one, that the Flyers actually held the Capitals to 15 minutes without so much as a shot on net to start the game. It seems like ancient history that Claude Giroux was working hard on the power play, that Steve Mason was his typically reliable self, that the newest Flyer Steve Downie led the way with the first shot of the game.

That’s because it was the Capitals who owned this one after fighting past their rocky start. Joel Ward had a hat trick. Nicklas Backstrom had two goals. Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer added goals of their own. And, by the way, Caps sniper Alexander Ovechkin wasn’t even in the lineup.

The Flyers, simply put, had no answer for a Capitals team that’s only in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and not even at .500.

There’s no excuse for the product the team put out on the ice.

Restless natives
How frustrated were fans at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night? Frustrated enough that a loud "FIRE HOLMGREN" chant broke out toward the end of the second period, in reference to the Flyers’ general manager, and that a chorus of boos kicked off the second intermission.

The building was half empty by the time the third period rolled around.

FIGHT!
Shortly after the Capitals’ seventh goal, things deteriorated entirely: There was a total line brawl complete with a goalie fight. Caps netminder Braden Holtby wanted absolutely nothing to do with Ray Emery, who completely let loose on him.

The crowd went absolutely wild. At least the Flyers gave them something to cheer about.

Other notable fights: Downie lost a match to Caps winger Aaron Volpatti earlier in the game, and Wayne Simmonds, whose fight with Tom Wilson kicked off the line brawl, easily won his.

Turning point
The turning point of this one was definitely the Caps’ first goal of the affair, a Backstrom one-timer that flew over Mason’s shoulder. After that goal, the floodgates opened. While the Flyers lead in shots at the end of the first, 8-4, by the time the end of the second period rolled around, they trailed 19-17. And it got worse from there.

Turnover trouble
What’s the best way to throw away more than 17 minutes of decent hockey? To make fans forget that your team kept the opponents without a shot on net for 15 minutes? The answer: Make sloppy plays and allow yourself to get outworked. Turnovers led to each of the Caps’ three goals -- and could have led to more, had the Flyers not experienced at least a little bit of luck.

Unhappy stat
Friday marked the first time all season the Flyers were not tied, down by a goal, or leading by a goal entering the third period. They were, of course, down by six goals.

Line switches
You have to credit coach Craig Berube for trying something -- anything -- to get his Flyers going. Mid-game, he shuffled up the team’s lines, hoping to redirect the evening’s course. 

Most notably, he took Downie and Vinny Lecavalier off the top line and replaced them with Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek, then moved Lecavalier to center the second line where he moved Brayden Schenn (who also had a particularly rough night) to the wing with Simmonds. Downie joined the third line with Matt Read and Sean Couturier. 

Goalie report
Turns out, Mason is human after all.

After allowing the game’s third goal -- and on just eight shots -- Mason was pulled from the game and replaced with Emery. Mason, it must be noted, shouldn’t be blamed for what transpired Friday night. He received hardly any support from his teammates, and that’s putting it mildly.

Emery, who replaced Mason in the second period, didn’t fare any better. He allowed four goals on 15 shots. And then, following that aforementioned goalie fight, Emery was tossed from the game and Mason returned.

The new guy
Welcome to Philadelphia, Downie! The newest Flyer fought Volpatti late in the second period, and took a punch that cut his face dangerously close to his eye. That one will be black and blue in the morning.

Downie finished the game with two shots in 11:20 on the ice. 

Scratches
Adam Hall returned to the lineup after spending two games as a healthy scratch, so Jay Rosehill sat Friday night. On defense, Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill were also healthy scratches.

Interestingly, PA announcer Lou Nolan declared Tye McGinn, too, was a healthy scratch … but McGinn was in the Adirondack Phantoms’ lineup in Glens Falls, exactly where he was expected to be when the day began.

Up next
Thankfully, it’s a quick turnaround for the Flyers, who will take a trip up the New Jersey Turnpike on Saturday and face the New Jersey Devils in less than 24 hours. 

In net for the Devils, coach Peter DeBoer confirms will be Martin Brodeur. Emery is finally expected to see some playing time with the Flyers.

Ron Hextall, Flyers follow through with wingers on Day 2 of NHL draft

Ron Hextall, Flyers follow through with wingers on Day 2 of NHL draft

CHICAGO — If the Flyers had somehow managed to finagle a third pick in the first round of the NHL draft on Friday night, they had a specific kid in mind.

Guelph left winger Isaac Ratcliffe.

"When you really like a guy, you go after him and that's what happened," general manager Ron Hextall said after trading up in the second round Saturday at United Center to draft the power forward (see story).

"He fits the organizational needs at left wing. Real good size. He plays hard and can score goals. He is really raw, at the front end of the process. Some are average and some on the back end of the process. He's got work to do. We like his upside."

The Flyers swapped their own second-round pick, plus two more (75th and 108th overall selections) with Arizona to move from 44th to 35th and select Ratcliffe (see Day 2 draft tracker).

"He is a prototypical power forward," Hextall said of the 18-year-old. "Didn't quite have the power down yet in terms of his body. He needs to put some weight on and add strength. Real excited about him."

The Flyers came into the draft with 11 picks and ended up with nine because of a couple deals. They finished with seven forwards (three left wingers), one D-man, a goalie, and have 10 picks already stockpiled for 2018, too.

Speaking of goalies, Hextall didn't foresee himself taking one early in the draft. Yet he did, selecting Russian Kirill Ustimenko at No. 80 in the third round.

"I'm not gonna chase a goalie," Hextall said days earlier.

Did he chase this kid? Well, Ustimenko, 18, was considered to be a possible sleeper. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked fifth internationally. The Flyers saw a lot of him overseas.

"We did not chase him," Hextall said. "We were surprised he fell there. We actually talked about him much earlier. Our guys really liked him and our comfort level was better than other teams."

The 6-foot-3, 187-pound Ustimenko catches left and had some impressive numbers in 27 games for MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg this season with a 1.74 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

If you are keeping track, that's Anthony Stolarz, Carter Hart, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom, Matej Tomek and now Ustimenko.

That's an enormous number of Flyers goalie prospects at this point.

Left winger Matthew Strome fell into their laps in the fourth round, where the Flyers had back-to-back picks at 106 and 107.

They took Strome (No. 106), the third brother in recent drafts, joining Dylan (2015 draft/Coyotes) and Ryan (2011/Islanders), who has played 258 games for New York.

"Call a spade a spade — his skating has to improve," Hextall said of Matthew. "We all know it. He's a good hockey player with good size. He makes plays, scores goals and knows how to play the game.

"He's got one deficiency there he can focus on and we like where we got him. It's up to Matthew to put the work in."

A 6-3, 207-pound left winger, Strome, 18, was projected to go in the second round. Upset?

"Not really," Strome replied. "Just being drafted and being one of the top 300 players or whatever it is, just to be honored, it's very special.

"I'm going to use it as motivation to prove people wrong. If people did think I slipped down, I'm gonna prove them wrong, that they made the wrong choice."

He said "all" the attention in his family has been on his brothers. Now it's his turn. His brothers helped prepare him for the moment.

"Entering my first OHL year, they told me there would be ups and downs and I would have to work through it," Strome said. "The past couple weeks, they told me, 'Enjoy the moment, it goes by fast.'

"Once it's over, you're on that team for three years and you've got to make [sure] that first impression on them is really good."

At No. 107, the Flyers tabbed 18-year-old Russian right winger Maksim Sushko (6-0/185), who last season played for Owen Sound (OHL), where he scored 17 goals with 32 points in 54 games. He spoke through an interpreter.

"I model my game after [Nikita] Kucherov of Tampa Bay," he said. "I like a physical style of play and give out assists. I'd like to become a better sniper."

In the fifth round, at No. 137, the Flyers tabbed 18-year-old left winger Noah Cates, from Stillwater High School in Minnesota.

He served as captain of his team and scored 20 goals with 65 points in 25 games last season and has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

In the sixth round, at No. 168, the Flyers chose smallish (5-10, 163) 17-year-old Swedish center Olle Lycksell, who played for Linkoping last season in the Super Elite League where he had nine points in 29 games.

"He's a hard worker who understands the game and has good hockey sense," Hextall said.

Hextall had two final picks in the seventh round.

At No. 196, the Flyers took their only defenseman in this draft, overage Wyatt Kalynuk, who is 6-2, 186 and 20 years old.

"Really good skater," Hextall said. "Good mobility and size, good puck skills. He's been through drafts and he's going to Wisconsin, which we really like. So we have four years with him."

Ironically, Hextall traded their final pick at No. 199 to Montreal for a seventh-round pick next year so the Canadiens could choose goalie Cayden Primeau, who happens to be Keith Primeau's son.

Habs GM Marc Bergevin called and asked for the pick.

"I thought he would go sooner than he did," Hextall said.

Ron Hextall doesn't make move for veteran goalie; Steve Mason 'still in the mix'

Ron Hextall doesn't make move for veteran goalie; Steve Mason 'still in the mix'

CHICAGO — While the Flyers picked up a young first-round centerman in Nolan Patrick — who many feel will be in their lineup this season — at this weekend's NHL draft, they returned home with one major dilemma unresolved.
 
They still don't have a veteran goalie to pair with Michal Neuvirth next season.
 
The draft is usually a pretty good place to piece together a deal for a goalie about to become a free agent or one already under contract who a team might be willing to move.
 
In the Flyers' case, general manager Ron Hextall said nothing came about. That might be because a couple of teams made some moves prior to the draft involving goalies and there doesn't seem to be a rush to fill the spots.
 
"I didn't expect to [do a deal]," Hextall said. "I would have liked to have it done a month ago. But I am not going to do something just for the sake of having something in place.
 
"We are going to do our due diligence. Sometimes you have to wait and sometimes it's part of the process to see what is out there. It's a high priority. We have to get something in place."
 
Three teams have three goalies — Arizona, Dallas and Carolina. And there are several in free agency.
 
Hextall likes to get a jump on free agency but …
 
"I don't know," he replied when asked if that is where he's headed.
 
Maybe a trade? Again, no commitment. Hextall said he's not worried.
 
"My comfort level is there are a number of goalies out there," Hextall said. "So, there's not six No. 1 spots out there and just one goalie. I have comfort in that.
 
"We are still doing our due diligence and in the end, it's probably going to come down to a guy we take and term and money. I might like this guy, but is he asking unreal term? We'll go somewhere else. I keep telling you, [Steve Mason] is still in the mix."
 
Like a lifeboat in the vast ocean.