Philadelphia Flyers

Instant Replay: Capitals 7, Flyers 0

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Instant Replay: Capitals 7, Flyers 0

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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.

Forcing the Flyers' hand? Travis Sanheim's chances at roster spot grow in preseason loss

Forcing the Flyers' hand? Travis Sanheim's chances at roster spot grow in preseason loss

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NEW YORK — Is starting the season with three rookie defensemen asking too much?

Travis Sanheim might be making it possible.

“We got another good night of information," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Monday after a 3-2 overtime preseason loss to the Rangers (see observations). "Those two young guys (Sanheim and Robert Hagg) played pretty well — Sanheim had a real impact on the hockey game tonight. We’re going to let these guys make those decisions.”

If the brain trust of Hakstol and Ron Hextall was expecting two of their three rookie defensemen to separate themselves during the preseason test run, well that hasn’t quite happened, as the 21-year-old Sanheim has displayed an offensive element that would give the Flyers a much-needed weapon from the blue line. Sanheim’s NHL-caliber slap shot, coupled with his mobility and ability to read plays in the offensive zone have set him apart from fellow rookies Hagg and Sam Morin.

“I’m slowly starting to build my game, get a lot more confidence and get comfortable playing with the guys around me,” Sanheim said. "I’m getting more comfortable with the team, systems, and players around me. It’s been good so far. Obviously, we wanted a different outcome tonight, but I like where my game’s at.” 

If it wasn’t for Sanheim, the Flyers would have been shut out in each of their last two games, as he’s provided their only offense in overtime losses to the Bruins and Rangers. A week ago, it appeared all signs were pointing to Lehigh Valley and another year of AHL seasoning, but that’s when Hakstol noticed a change in Sanheim.

“I learned more about him five to six days ago,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t have a great night (preseason opener against Islanders). Sometimes you learn as much about a player and where he’s at coming off a night like that. It didn’t shake him. He came back and had a great practice the next day and he carried that into the next game. To me, that showed maturity on his part.”

Sanheim has continued to rise up the charts coming off a strong performance against the Islanders in Allentown, Pennsylvania, last Wednesday, and he’s rolled that over into the past two games, playing mostly with NHL regulars. What’s even more impressive is that Sanheim is having a tremendous offensive outburst despite seeing very little time on the team’s power play, as he logged just 36 seconds with the man advantage, a unit that came up empty once again and is now 0 for 14 over its last two games.

Still, captain Claude Giroux can’t see any reason why three rookie defensemen can’t make this team out of camp.

“You’ve seen them play. They can play,” Giroux said. “We have a lot of young D that are ready to play in the NHL, and they’re competing right now for a spot. For us, it’s fun to see because every day they’re doing stuff and it’s pretty amazing. It’s a long season — whoever’s hot, whoever’s playing good will have the opportunity to play.”

With Morin receiving his first night off from preseason action, Hakstol had Sanheim paired with Radko Gudas, while Hagg was working with Flyers top defenseman Ivan Provorov. Outside of a slow start and an unfortunate bounce on the Rangers' second goal, Hagg continued his steady play.

“I thought he didn’t have the cleanest start to a hockey game, but to his credit, he worked his way into the game,” Hakstol said. “The goal against — there’s a couple of things that happened before that that led to that play, but he had a hard-working night.”

You can be my wingman
Giroux’s much-anticipated left wing audition could be described as a good first night and worthy of a callback, whether that comes Tuesday night against the Rangers or Thursday against the Bruins.

Unofficially, the top line of Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek saw 15 shifts together at even strength, and then chemistry appeared to grow as the game progressed.

“It was good," Giroux said. "As the game went on, I started to feel more comfortable. We had a lot of chances, just some mistakes that you don’t see during the season, like a 2-on-0 with Jake, usually our chemistry is better than that. As the game went on, our chemistry got better and we were able to find each other a little bit more."

Giroux and Voracek had a prime scoring opportunity in the opening period, but Giroux’s shot from the right side went just wide of the net. Combined, the Flyers' top line finished the night with a minus-2 rating and six shots while winning 67 percent of its faceoffs.

“Maybe there was a tendency to make one more pass instead of putting it on net and stopping at the net and looking for one of those greasy goals,” Hakstol said. “But overall, there’s some good things there. There were enough positives to see if it can grow.”

Nolan's night
The No. 2 pick continues to settle into his role as the Flyers' No. 2 center. Once again, Nolan Patrick centered a line that included Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Patrick’s defense has been a steady component of his game since camp began, and now the rookie is sprinkling in some offense. Patrick contributed the primary assist on Sanheim’s first goal, which came during 4-on-4 play in the first period.

“Those are the kind of things he can do,” Hakstol said. “That’s hockey sense. That’s knowing what’s around him and being a step ahead. He’s building. As the speed of the games go up, there’s always more to learn. I think over the last week, he’s done a little more offensively. Each and every night he’s impacted the game offensively in our last three games, and that’s been a real positive.”

Flyers-Rangers preseason observations: Travis Sanheim's push to make team heats up

Flyers-Rangers preseason observations: Travis Sanheim's push to make team heats up

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NEW YORK — Dave Hakstol conducted some garden variety experimentation Monday night against the Rangers, by moving Claude Giroux to left wing for the first time in his Flyers career.

"It's definitely a change but you know I'm just trying to be in good position and make the right play," Giroux said. "Slowly, I'm feeling more comfortable."
 
The line combination of Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek failed to generate a point, but it was the play of rookie Travis Sanheim that took center stage off Broadway.

Sanheim notched a pair of goals, but the Flyers fell, 3-2, in overtime at Madison Square Garden. Ryan McDonagh scored the game-winner for New York in the 3-on-3 OT.

"It's really high right now," Sanheim said of his confidence. "Obviously, I don't want it to get too high. I just have to try and keep an even-keel here and finish up strong."

Sanheim has now scored the Flyers' last three goals of the preseason.

• For the fourth time in five preseason games, the Flyers went to overtime. The Rangers finished the job Monday, as the captain McDonagh collected his own rebound and pushed the puck past Michal Neuvirth for the game-winner with 1:09 remaining in OT.

• New York scored on its first shot on net, when Rick Nash deflected McDonagh's shot from the point to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 3:16 into the game.

• Sanheim tallied his first just 2:23 after the Rangers' first goal. The defenseman ripped a rocket past Henrik Lundqvist from the top of the left circle. It was his team-leading second of the preseason with assists from Jordan Weal and Nolan Patrick, who picked up his second assist in four preseason games.

• Sanheim added his second goal in the final moments of the second period, when he pinched behind the Rangers' defense and corralled Radko Gudas' shot from the point and backhanded it past Lundqvist with four seconds remaining in the period.

"I'm just trying to play my game,” Sanheim said. “All along I play that offensive side. I'm just trying to keep it simple defensively and trying to make smart plays and make good reads to get in the play and it's been working so far."

Sanheim has continued to make significant strides and show improvement throughout the preseason, and his offensive upside has to give Hakstol some serious consideration to how he wants his defense to look when the regular season begins (see story). There have been few lapses defensively since the preseason opener against the New York Islanders.

• The Rangers tied the game at 2-2 when Neuvirth knocked away Mika Zibanejad’s wrist shot with his blocker, but the rebound hit Robert Hagg, deflected off Neuvirth and just over the line for a goal.

• The Flyers' power play continues to work out the kinks. The team worked on the PP structure for the first time over the weekend. That unit is now 0 for 14 over the last two games. The Flyers finished Monday’s game 0 for 5.

• Scott Laughton continues to be a valuable asset on the Flyers' penalty kill. Laughton broke up several passes on the Rangers' early power play of the second period.  
  
• Gudas fell to the ice late in the first period and then appeared to be holding his hand in obvious pain. Gudas didn’t miss any time and made a pronounced statement in the third period when he unloaded an open-ice hit on Rangers center Filip Chytil. Mats Zuccarello rushed to Chytil’s defense, which resulted in a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a Flyers power play.

• The two teams will continue their preseason home-and-home series Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center as Brian Elliott is expected to play the entire game in net. Elliott turned aside all 18 shots in two periods of action last Thursday in Boston.

Lines, pairing and scratches:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Sam Morin, Taylor Leier, Mike Vecchione, Dale Weise, Oskar Lindblom