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.

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.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).