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.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.