On paper, Flyers are better than record shows

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On paper, Flyers are better than record shows

This wasn’t supposed to happen.
 
The Sixers were supposed to be the worst team in town, not the Flyers. The Sixers still haven’t played a real game yet, so that means … it’s the Flyers.
 
And at 1-7, it’s the worst start to a season in the franchise’s 47-year history.
 
Incredibly, it feels a lot like last season’s lockout-shortened 2-6 start under Peter Laviolette, except the Flyers are actually a better team after eight games than that one was a year ago.
 
Now, try to convince the South Philly locals sitting around the bar at the Philadium of that. You can’t.
 
As one general manager with a recent Stanley Cup said this week, “On paper, this is a pretty good team.”
 
On the ice? There is no chemistry right now.
 
“It’s still the same feeling -- a bad feeling,” offered Wayne Simmonds after another hard, conditioning practice at Skate Zone.
 
“It feels crappy. The one thing we have going for us is our goaltending and we’re letting it kind of go to waste at this point. Both Mase [Steve Mason] and Ray [Emery] have played well for us. We haven’t picked up the slack on the other end.”
 
Flyers captain Claude Giruox did the quick math. There are 74 games left to turn this club around.
 
It’s not like the lockout when it was 48 games and because all of them were within your own conference, every night someone gained or lost in the standings, regardless.
 
“That’s a lot of games and we played eight,” Giroux said. “Obviously, the record, we’re not happy with it. We’re doing a lot of good things out there. We have to stay positive in this room. If we do, we’ll start winning games and putting ourselves back in playoff position.”
 
Asked about his message to the players as their captain, Giroux replied, “It’s not just up to me. There’s a lot of leaders here, coaches and Homer [general manager Paul Holmgren].
 
“We’re all getting on the same page. When that happens, that is when teams start being dangerous. Go out there without hesitation and just play the great game of hockey.”
 
The team has already fired its coach. Holmgren would be the next logical target, but how does firing your GM turn around a 1-7 start? And before that happens, Holmgren would likely make a major trade to shake things up.
 
That could very easily happen during this six-day break between games.
 
Newly-installed head coach Craig Berube admits you can make a case this fall resembles last January, but only in a superficial manner.
 
“It’s similar -- we’re not winning hockey games,” Berube said. “But I don’t look at it that way. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
 
Last season, the Flyers had injuries even before the games began. Their defense was a mess and remained a mess. And they couldn’t score goals. Of those three issues, goal scoring woes are still present and that is the most alarming aspect of this club so far.
 
Simmonds said he doesn’t feel players “has quit on each other,” but that the team recognize it's still not playing a full 60 minutes every game.
 
“It’s a long season, we can only get better,” he said. “I don’t think we can get any worse at this point, anyway.”
 
On Thursday, the Flyers became the first team since the 1964 Boston Bruins not to score three goals in a game in at least one of their first eight contests.
 
So far, the Flyers have a measly 11 goals -- three of them from rookie call-up Tye McGinn.
 
“We got to be better -- plain and simple,” Simmonds said.
 
You can see players pressing to score on the ice. Rolling their eyes. Smashing sticks on the ice. Looking upward toward the ghost of Kate Smith overhead.
 
“It’s my job to keep these guys motivated and upbeat,” Berube said. “Look at a lot of the positive things we are doing good.
 
“You obviously have to look at the things we’re not doing good to win hockey games but they’re professionals ... So far, they are positive and motivated and they want to do well. That’s a good sign.”
 
A few wins would be an even better sign.
 
Loose pucks
Kimmo Timonen (lower body) remains day-to-day, Holmgren said, adding he is expected at Monday’s practice. Consensus among the staff is Timonen was not injured when hooked on the Penguins' first goal, but after being checked by Tanner Glass later in the second period. … Vinny Lecavalier (lower body) and Scott Hartnell (upper body) both will skate by themselves Sunday morning before joining teammates at the Eagles-Cowboys game. … Emery and Jakub Voracek each had a maintenance day off the ice. Both have minor aches, Berube indicated. ... The Flyers are off for the weekend.

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers (28-25-7) at Penguins (37-14-8)
8 p.m. on NBC, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

It’s time for some outdoor fun.

The anticipated Flyers-Penguins Stadium Series game has arrived, as the two rivals clash Saturday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Let’s get you ready for it all with five things to know.

1. Eye on the ice
The one caveat of playing ice hockey outdoors is, of course, the weather.

The forecast is calling for rain showers from morning until noon with temperatures in the low-to-mid 50s. The precipitation is expected to taper off and temperatures are expected to dip into the high-30s for puck drop.

The ice can still be playable with some rain. Both teams are expected to have their morning skates indoors. No matter what, the game ice will certainly be a bit different than playing in a concealed arena.

“I'm sure they will do the best they can to have it ready,” Michael Del Zotto said this week (see story). “Unless it is really cold, the ice is always going to be chippy playing outdoors.

“It doesn’t matter what the ice conditions are because both teams are playing with it. It’s not an advantage or disadvantage for either team. Both have to deal with it.”

Ultimately, players are ready for anything weather-wise -- with the wind being just as big of a concern as the ice (see story).

2. Two directions
The Flyers and Penguins are in contrasting spots.

Pittsburgh is built for another Cup run.

The Flyers are not yet. Instead, they are fighting simply for their postseason lives.

The orange and black have lost seven of their last 10 games. Since the 10-game winning streak, they are 9-15-4 with the NHL’s second-fewest points at 22.

When the Flyers won 10 straight, they had a plus-14 goal differential over that span. In the 28 games since, they have scored an NHL-low 48 markers and own a minus-36 goal differential.

So, like last season, the Flyers have a mighty mountain to climb for a playoff berth (see story). They are now five points back of the Islanders, who currently hold the second wild-card spot with 68 points. The Flyers, at 63 points, also trail the Bruins (68) and Panthers (66), while the Sabres (62) and Lighting (62) are right there in the mix.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Penguins are third in the NHL with 82 points and first with 3.47 goals per game, spearheaded by Sidney Crosby’s league-best 33 scores.

3. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Brayden Schenn is on a three-game goal streak and ranks No. 1 in hockey with 14 man-advantage tallies. Since Jan. 8, he is tied with Wayne Simmonds for the Flyers’ lead in goals at eight. He also owns eight goals and eight assists in 23 career games against Pittsburgh.

Penguins: Right winger Patric Hornqvist, who plays alongside Crosby, was super active in the first meeting with the Flyers, recording two assists, five shots on goal, three hits and three blocked shots. The 30-year-old has 17 goals, 18 assists and a plus-19 rating, while the Penguins are 12-3-0 when he scores a goal.

4. This and that
• Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth is making his sixth straight start and ninth in the last 10 games. He is 2-2-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and two shutouts in seven lifetime matchups with Pittsburgh.

• Penguins goalie Matt Murray is 5-1-2 in his last eight games with a .940 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average. In two career games (one start) against the Flyers, the 22-year-old is 1-0-0 and has stopped 39 of 41 shots faced.

• Pittsburgh has won four of the last five meetings with the Flyers. This is Game 2 of the four-game regular-season series between the teams. The Penguins won the first matchup, 5-4, on Oct. 29 at the Wells Fargo Center.

• Penguins defensemen Justin Schultz (upper body) and Kris Letang (upper body) will be game-time decisions. Schultz is a team-best plus-31 on the season, while Letang is a two-time All-Star.

• Jakub Voracek has 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 29 career games against Pittsburgh.

5. The rivalry
Relive some great moments from the Flyers-Penguins rivalry with these terrific pieces from CSN’s Orange Line.

Danny Briere recalls brawl in Pittsburgh

The origin of Philly’s hatred for Crosby

Reliving Flyers’ five-overtime playoff win

Mario Lemieux returns to form in first game back

Top Flyers-Penguins moments

Another wild-card run? Flyers need it to start outdoors

Another wild-card run? Flyers need it to start outdoors

PITTSBURGH -- At this point, the Flyers are sick of talking about Saturday night's Stadium Series outdoor game against the Penguins at Heinz Field.

They just want to get it on and get it over with. Too much buildup.

“Yeah, kind of,” Simmonds said Friday. “For us, this is an extremely important game. We’ve got to get all the points we can possibly get going down the stretch if we want to make the playoffs.

“Obviously, it’s going to be an exciting time. A lot of guys have families here. But we have to stay focused on the goal.”

To say the Flyers need points right now is a huge understatement. They are five points behind the New York Islanders for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot.

That’s the farthest they have been behind since occupying the wild card on Dec. 4. When the Flyers won their 10th consecutive game Dec. 14, they were 14 points ahead of the Islanders.

That’s a 19-point swing in the standings since then.

“So, we just have to find a way to get two points and get some wins in a row here,” Jakub Voracek said. “Every game against Pittsburgh is special. Playing an outdoor game -- I don't know how many people are going to be here -- but it's going to be a great experience.

“For us, every game is a huge game. So, if you play Pittsburgh or Colorado, it doesn't matter. You have to get two points.”

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Friday night he believes his team can still make a playoff run and salvage a wild card.

The thing is, when the Flyers made their second-half push last season, it actually began in mid-February -- earlier than now.

A couple players got hot, as did Michal Neuvirth and then Steve Mason, and you could see momentum building in the team over weeks.

That hasn’t been the case here. It’s almost March and the Flyers are floundering, no one is scoring and they are losing games despite playing pretty good hockey with no answer on how to turn things around without a major scoring increase across the board.

“It's a different season,” Voracek said of the comparison. “Different teams. You could use it as an advantage. … We have to play our hockey. The last two games, we went 1-1, but we played pretty good. We have to be ready [Saturday].”

Hextall said what happens this weekend and Tuesday against Colorado will have a trickle-down effect on what he does Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline (see story).

“We’ve played well enough at times this year that we can mount a run,” Hextall said. “I have no doubt in my mind. We’ve been playing pretty good the last eight, nine games. Except for the Edmonton game.

“But we haven’t gotten results. We need to get results. It’s not about moral victories or playing good against Washington. That’s fine and dandy, but not good enough. We have to win games.”

It starts tonight.