Penalty kill costs Flyers in loss to Sabres

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Penalty kill costs Flyers in loss to Sabres

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO -- They talked about having a quick start to the lockout-shortened season.

How critical early games were to gain momentum and avoid a slip in the standings.

How important points against divisional rivals would be.

How all the parts needed to quickly click in unison.

Two games into the Flyers 48-game blitz, and special teams have already become a headache for coach Peter Laviolette.

Like five power-play goals against the Flyers' penalty kill units.

OK, one was an empty netter by the Penguins, but still, the trend here is definitely not good after Sundays 5-2 shelling by the Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Theres lots of things, but yes, we have to be better in that area, Laviolette said. the penalty kill we have to look at it and work at it.

Every day is a new opportunity, but we gotta get on track here, get a win in the column and moving in the right direction.

The Sabres scored three power-play goals. New Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn was in the box for two of them.

The first one was a roughing, then one hooking and one tripping, one of those minor penalties you definitely cant take those and put your team down a man, he said.

He became best buds with the box, visiting three times. Schenns last misdemeanor was deadly as the resulting power play saw Tyler Myers shot from distance go off Kimmo Timonens skate and break a 2-2 tie with about five minutes left in the game.

Definitely, this is the area we have to work on, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said of the penalty kill. Every game is so important with a schedule in a short season. They are.

Were in the bottom of the standings. We gotta change the situation quickly if we want to be part of the playoff race.

Buffalo iced it minutes after Myers' goal on a Cody Hodgson crash-the-crease doozy.

Of course, the Flyers had two goals waved off one in the final minutes because the officials lost sight of the puck yet the need here is for more urgency on special teams.

In a shortened season, were thinking of getting a split this weekend or in a best case scenario, winning two, Scott Hartnell said. Its frustrating. Were losing battles we shouldnt be.

Were not getting breaks like the other team. A power play and it goes off Kimmos skate and in. Its a frustrating start.

You cant blame the penalty kill in losses unless they are scoring four-to-five goals, but it has been the difference these first, two games. I think we have to look at it.

Just like the Pittsburgh loss, it took the Flyers until the second period to find their legs and energy.

Back-to-back games with travel in between in less than 24 hours resulted in the Flyers skating with heavy legs at the start. But unlike on Saturday, they did seem to have their hands in this one, as their passing and puck movement was far better.

Those back-to-backs are not easy, but I think we got our legs going and our second period was again our best period, Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. We need to find a way to play the first period like that.

Giroux agreed the team is missing Danny Brieres stick right now.

He can get those big goals for us, Giroux said.

The officials also grabbed control of the game again -- not allowing anything and whistling bogus roughing calls, in addition to the wave-offs.

Not an excuse, Giroux said.

To be honest, I dont know about the replays if there were goals or not, Giroux said.

Any time theres two goals taken away, obviously, it can change a game. Obviously, bounces are not going our way right now.

Buffalo led 1-0 after one period on a one-timer from the left circle by Steve Ott during the Sabres' first power play. Ott had never scored in a season opener during his previous eight years in the NHL.

Max Talbot had the equalizer waved off later because of light contact from Ruslan Fedotenko on goalie Ryan Miller. Talbot batted the puck out of the air.

It looked fairly clean to me; our player was outside the crease, Laviolette said.

The Flyers also lost Zac Rinaldo in the first following a collision with Robyn Regehr. Rinaldo suffered a nasty skate cut above the right knee that required 20 stitches. He did not return.

Much like the Penguins game, the second period saw a turnaround.

Sean Couturier picked up his first goal at 2:23 with a tip-in of Andrej Meszaros wicked point shot to tie it.

At 4:57, the Flyers finally scored their first power play goal after going 0-for-7 to start the season. Giroux ripped a one-timer from the circle off a nice feed from Timonen to give the Flyers their first lead in two games.

They just couldnt hold it.

A bench minor for too many men coupled with Luke Schenns hooking call gave Buffalo a 5-on-3 power play.

As that penalty was about to go into a 5-on-4, the Flyers tried an ill-fated rush into the Sabres' zone. Coupled with Scott Laughton coming out of the box and then a bad change at the bench between Couturier and Talbot, the Sabres caught a break.

I dont think we had the right D out there but those things happen, Hartnell said. Sooner or later it is going to be us getting the breaks and taking advantage of the other teams mistakes.

The result was tic-tac-toe passing starting with Buffalos Jason Pominville to Drew Stafford, who found Thomas Vanek on a breakaway. He deked goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and just like that, it was 2-2.

It was indicative of the way the entire, lost weekend went for the Flyers.

Oh yeah, Vanek had five points in the game.

Its not the start weve been looking for, losing two in a row, Giroux said. We just have to fight through it and come back.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

A healthy Nolan Patrick to Flyers? 'He won't let anybody down,' Brandon GM says

A healthy Nolan Patrick to Flyers? 'He won't let anybody down,' Brandon GM says

As he met with general manager Grant Armstrong, Nolan Patrick had just finished an injury-marred junior season.

The 18-year-old missed the WHL playoffs and was limited to 33 games because of two separate injuries. He underwent sports hernia surgery the offseason prior, a major impediment to his summer training. He never quite "caught up to the year," as Armstrong put it.

"I don't think he really ever got himself into a situation where he was 100 percent," the Brandon Wheat Kings GM said in a phone interview last week with CSNPhilly.com.

But none of that was about to crack Patrick's confidence.

"When we had our exit meetings, he told me he was going to play in the NHL," Armstrong said. "I wished him the best of luck and I expect that's where he'll be next year."

Where he could be is Philadelphia sporting Flyers orange. Patrick and Nico Hischier are the consensus top two picks for the June 23-24 NHL entry draft. The Flyers, of course, thanks to a stroke of good luck, will be happily sitting at No. 2 overall. The Devils will make Ron Hextall's decision much easier when they pick at No. 1.

The Canadian Patrick and Swiss-born Hischier are both centers. Coming into the season, Patrick was viewed as the draft's top dog, but his health and Hischier's rise have tightened the race.

Will the injuries cause apprehension?

"I think there's no concern at all," Armstrong said. "Injuries are a part of the game and I don't see it being an issue for Nolan at all. He trains well, he works hard at it and rehabs properly. I don't see it being an issue and currently, I think he's at 100 percent."

Despite the hampered summer and shortened season, Patrick showed why he's so heralded, compiling 46 points in 33 games for the Wheat Kings, his third year with the junior club. He scored 20 goals and collected 26 assists. Why that might not be mind-blowing is because Patrick had 102 points in 2015-16 on 41 goals and 61 assists for an astounding plus-51 rating. He went on to record 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 playoff games, leading Brandon to its first WHL title in 20 years alongside current Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov.

Similar to Provorov, Patrick's hockey smarts belie his age.

"His presence on the ice, he just thinks the game, he puts himself in positions to be successful all the time," Armstrong said. "He's almost above the ice in his thinking aspect. He sees the game so well, he's a student of the game, he understands and puts himself in positions of success. That hasn't changed, it's only getting better for him.

"He's a difference-maker."

Armstrong joined the Wheat Kings last summer but had scouted and seen plenty of Patrick as Armstrong worked the previous four seasons for the WHL's Victoria Royals.

"He's a very elite player with a tremendous hockey sense," Armstrong said. "I think that's his biggest attribute is he thinks the game so well, he thinks it ahead of what's really happening on the ice a lot of the times. He's a player that's really starting to come into his own. 

"This next season will be a real opportunity for him to showcase his elite hockey sense and his athleticism and all the things that combine to make him a great player."

It appears Patrick, who has great size at 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, is ready to showcase those traits at the NHL level. His future club will ultimately decide that in training camp.

"We would like to think we know that, but until the kid comes in and shows you what he can do," Hextall said earlier this month. "You make an educated judgment and then you go from there. A player has to come in and prove that he's ready and at this age not many are, so we'll wait and see which way [the player] goes from there."

Armstrong said there's constant communication between Brandon and NHL teams throughout a season and that it escalates this time of year as the draft nears.

What about with the Flyers?

"The Flyers are a great organization and obviously we have ties to their GM," Armstrong said. "It's a good fit and they know what's going on.

"They're dialed into what's going on and they have all kinds of ways to communicate with people."

While Patrick may not jump off the charts with Connor McDavid-like scoring ability, he prides himself on being complete. Armstrong said Patrick models his game after Kings center Anze Kopitar, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and 2015-16 Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's top defensive forward.

It's the do-it-all mentality Armstrong believes was special, night in and night out.

"Just the way he makes small plays in a game that would set up a teammate," he said. "He plays a 200-foot game, he's coming back hard and supporting the D in the defensive zone. Switching to offense, he's quick and he does things that make him such a great player.

"I think everybody thinks that a No. 1 or 2 centerman is going to be completely focused on the offensive side, but no, he's very committed to the defensive side of the puck — I think that's one thing that's a little bit misunderstood about him. He's got such an ability to play in any situation — killing penalties, late in the game, taking big faceoffs, that's his game."

Armstrong extolled Patrick for making everyone around him better on the Wheat Kings.

If that's with the Flyers next, Armstrong believes you won't be disappointed.

"I think they just have to be patient and allow the player to grow. He won't let anybody down," Armstrong said. "I just think he's an elite talent with an elite sense for the game. At some point, he'll be a great two-way centerman in the league. He'll put up offensive numbers. They won't be in the elite category, but he'll be a guy that'll chip away at his game, he'll produce. You just have to take your time and be patient."

End to End: Is it really a 2-player race atop the NHL draft?

End to End: Is it really a 2-player race atop the NHL draft?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.
 
Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.
 
The topic: Is it really a two-player race atop the NHL draft?
 
Dougherty
Maybe it's because the Flyers have the No. 2 pick and we tend to put the top prospects under an unfair microscope in years that do not include bona fide picks atop the draft.
 
Maybe it is as simple as whoever the New Jersey Devils do not draft.
 
Maybe we're overthinking this. Maybe we're not.
 
These are the questions that Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and his staff are asking themselves in the weeks leading up to the June 23-24 NHL entry draft in Chicago.
 
It appears to be a two-player draft, or at least that is what we've talked ourselves into. All the chatter has been around Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier.
 
"I would say it's pretty accurate," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron recently told the team's website. "They're both excellent players. … I think the media maybe has it that way, but I think there are other players that could come into play as well."
 
I am on the record saying the Flyers should get an immediate impact player at No. 2 in either Patrick or Hischier, unlike the last time they picked in this slot in 2007.
 
So, I believe the Flyers will be coming away from Chicago with either Patrick or Hischier, but I also don't believe it is as much of a slam dunk as we've made it out.
 
By many accounts, it is not a projected deep draft class. ESPN's Corey Pronman recently told TSN Radio 1040 he doesn't believe the two are "completely clear of the pack."
 
"The last time we had a draft like this — say 2012," Pronman said. "I think many scouts had Alex Galchenyuk, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly … it all depended on which teams were picking where. I think this is another one of those years.
 
"I do think Hischier and Patrick are the likely No. 1 and 2, but if somebody else snuck into there, I wouldn't really be surprised."
 
There also doesn't appear much separation between Patrick and Hischier themselves. Hischier has been trending up, while questions remain about Patrick's durability.
 
While both the Devils and Flyers have publicly downplayed injury concerns about Patrick, we don't know what goes on behind closed doors. If New Jersey decides to draft Hischier with No. 1, I could see a scenario in which the Flyers opt to go another route than Patrick.
 
In early May, Hextall said with "any young player who has had injuries, you do background checks." What if the Flyers find something in those background checks they don't like?
 
Therefore, I don't think we're overthinking it too much to take a look at other top prospects in this class, such as Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi, Portland center Cody Glass or Owen Sound center Nick Suzuki. Because I do think there is a legitimate possibility the No. 2 pick could be someone other than Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.

Hall
The Flyers, in an overly advantageous position, should not get cute here. 

Depth at center is so vital to any organization. The Flyers have been lacking just that and it has shown the past three seasons.

With this draft, a high-end center is falling into their lap at the No. 2 pick. From all indications, Patrick and Hischier are at the head of the class.

Sure, the Flyers should do their homework, and they will. They'll be thorough in their scouting and preparation leading up to June 23.

To me, though, this is pretty simple. The Flyers' decision will essentially be made by the Devils' choice at No. 1 — and that's the odd convenience of the second overall selection.

Unless Hischier goes to New Jersey and alarms sound on Patrick's health, the Flyers need to make the obvious call and add one of these two centers.

Paone
Let's break this question down into simplest terms.

Could the Flyers take someone other than Patrick or Hischier at No. 2 come June 23 in Chicago? Of course, they could.

As Tom mentioned above, Vilardi, Glass and Suzuki are all up there at the head of this class with the projected top two, though seen by many as a slight level down from Patrick and Hischier.

A lot of times, decisions like these come down to team preference of a certain player. But don't expect Hextall to make that preference known until he steps to the podium to announce the Flyers' pick on draft night.

But could and should are two very different questions.

Should the Flyers take someone other than Patrick or Hischier at No. 2?

Nope.

Let's be honest, the Flyers fell backward into this No. 2 pick. And with that, they have the chance to select a potential stalwart forward with a strong knack for putting the puck in the net, which both Patrick and Hischier possess. And each should be able to show that off in the NHL sooner rather than later. Remember this: The Flyers' "Big 4" of Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux scored 90 of the Flyers' 212 goals last season. That accounts for 42.5 percent. Immediate scoring help is needed and both Patrick and Hischier should have the ability to bring that to the table.

Yes, the questions about Patrick's durability are legitimate. And yes, Hischier is trending even further upward.

But, to me, this goes back again to simplest terms.

The Flyers should pick whomever New Jersey doesn't out of Patrick and Hischier.