Rookies' inexperience could spell Flyers' end

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Rookies' inexperience could spell Flyers' end

The reason to love the Flyers going forward is the same reason why they can only go so far this spring.

Their rookies have scored 62 goals, helping them to the NHLs third-best team goal total and probably its most relentless shift-after-shift attack. These kids are good, fast, and perhaps just as important in a capped NHL will work cheaply over the next several seasons. With or without Chris Pronger, this nucleus can bring Philadelphia a long awaited Cup sometime over the next few springs.

For this one, though, we have our doubts. As sustaining as has been the play of Matt Read, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Eric Wellwood through four months of substandard goaltending and one of the leagues higher totals of man-games lost, a year from now these kids likely will be telling us there was no way their first NHL regular season could fully prepare them for their first playoff.

We wouldnt be in this situation if wasnt for the way those guys contributed through the course of the year, insisted Peter Laviolette Monday. I have absolutely no doubt that they are going to play a good hockey game for us.

From Ken Morrow to Patrick Roy to Jaromir Jagr to Laviolettes own Cam Ward in Carolina, the history of Stanley Cup winners is filled with rookie heroes. So perhaps there is strength in the numbers or in having only one first-year player Schenn playing on one of the first two lines Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Like Scott Hartnell said Monday, every team is only as good as its first line. But we have seen enough first lines choke from the scrutiny of game plans, fans and media to also believe that the only thing more important than a first line in the playoffs is scoring support from a second and third line. And going against a Pittsburgh team without a rookie, the first step of four for these Flyers, is going to be slippery.

Considering the entire NHL playoff experiences of Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek were one-time one-and-dones for Los Angeles and Columbus, the team resume doesnt report too many battle tests. The Flyers have exactly five forwards who have ever won a playoff series, going up against a team with 11 players who have won a Stanley Cup.

The Flyers have three: Jagr 20 years ago with Pittsburgh, Max Talbot with the 2009 Penguins and Ilya Bryzgalov, who played four playoff games for the 2007 Ducks. Thats a massive difference in experience that likely will overcome whatever doubts the Penguins sustained in substantially losing the season series to the Flyers, or the failure to beat them in a meaningful game at CONSOL Energy Center in the two years since it opened.

To a man, the Flyers marched in front of the microphones to announce the need for discipline against the team of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Obviously, this is the dominant talking point by Laviolette and his assistants. The Penguins, likewise, may feel they have nothing to fear but the Flyers potent power play, so indeed may the smartest team win. Pittsburgh has not played as carefully since Crosbys return, and of course, Philadelphia has a punchers chance.

The Flyers can get after you over the course of a game more than any team in the league, said an opposing coach. But I dont see the structure I see with most of the top teams.

Too many outnumbered breaks, too many guys left alone in the defensive zone. I dont know if you can win in the playoffs that way.

The defensive play got better over the last month with the acquisition of Nick Grossmann, his badly needed physicality and shot blocking working hand-in-hand with an improved Bryzgalov. The vise will have to crank one full rotation tighter to beat Pittsburgh, Boston or the Rangers, much more mature teams than the ones the Flyers beat on their 2010 Final run.

This series is going to be decided by decisions at the blue lines. And the Penguins have a much longer track record for making good ones.

Jay Greenberg covered the Flyers for 14 years for the Daily News and Evening Bulletin. His history of the Flyers, Full Spectrum, was published in 1996. He can be reached at jayg616@aol.com.

Flyers Notes: Focus of trade rumors, Mark Streit wants to stay with team

Flyers Notes: Focus of trade rumors, Mark Streit wants to stay with team

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Two days before the NHL trade deadline, Mark Streit is content.
 
Not with how the Flyers are playing or anything even close to that.
 
The 39-year-old defenseman is content with his role on the Flyers and would very much like to complete his fourth and final season with the club to the bitter end.
 
Whether that's the playoffs or going home early.
 
Somewhere out there, there's a playoff club with a struggling power play that could use his skill set. Perhaps San Jose, which has a poor power play. Yet the Sharks are in need of a scoring winger, not another blueliner.
 
As an unrestricted free agent, Streit is a perfect candidate to be moved at this point.
 
"I don't know, to be honest," Streit said on Monday. "I don't know. Maybe there is a demand for me. I don't really think about it.
 
"I'm an older guy and my contract is up. Usually, you talk about those guys being dealt. That is just the nature of the business. But I love being here, love the guys and love the team. I want to win with this team."
 
The Flyers aren't going to win the Stanley Cup this season. Right now, they're not even going to make the playoffs.
 
Kimmo Timonen was a Flyer a few years ago, missed nearly the entire 2014-15 season with blood clots, and when he was finally allowed to play, asked to be traded to a playoff contender.
 
Timonen won a Cup with Chicago.
 
Streit has a modified no-trade clause and can give the Flyers a list of 10 clubs to be traded to.
 
"[Timonen] was in a little bit of a different situation," Streit said. "He didn't play a big part of the year and he came back and we were out of the playoffs.
 
"If I were 100 percent sure this was my last year and I would retire, then I would probably look at it differently. I still feel great, I still want to play. So this is a little different.
 
"I am not looking like I want to get dealt and go to a contender or anything like that. That's why I don't look at it like Kimmo's situation."
 
It's entirely possible the Flyers move Streit and then re-sign him for one year to act as a veteran presence in the dressing room next season to bring along some of the younger defensemen, perhaps Robert Hagg and/or Sam Morin or Travis Sanheim.
 
Streit told CSNPhilly.com Monday even if he finishes the season here, he would like to return to the Flyers on a short-term deal to help transition some of the young talent the Flyers are expected to promote next season.
 
"It's on my mind," Streit said. "We're going to have a lot of free agents (defensemen) and maybe there's going to be changes and maybe not.
 
"There's young guys on the team. ... I would like doing that, like I have with Ghost [Shayne Gostisbehere] and Provy [Ivan Provorov] and I think it'd be a great thing to do. I've already thought about that and yeah, it's an option for sure."
 
Group meeting
Streit was part of a leadership group meeting at center ice Monday at Skate Zone during Flyers practice with coach Dave Hakstol. Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds were included, as well.
 
Neither Hakstol nor those involved in the meeting would speak to its specifics.
 
"When you win 10 in a row, everything is easy," Streit said. "Everybody is happy and everything works itself out. Times like [this] it's up to guys in the room to lead by example.
 
"If you play good, you've got to play great. If you're playing great, you've just got to play a little bit better and help the team in a good way, a positive way. You can only do it as a team ... you're not going to do it as individuals."
 
Giroux offered his take on the meeting, as well.
 
"We have to find a way to win hockey games," Giroux said. "Everybody is frustrated right now. We can't be pointing fingers.
 
"Everybody needs to be a little bit better and give a little more and go one game at a time here. Tomorrow, we're back in front of our fans. We've got to get this win, we know that. We've just got to keep at it."
 
Loose pucks
Steve Mason is expected to start in goal Tuesday against Colorado after sitting six consecutive games. ... Travis Konecny (ankle and knee) skated with assistant coach Ian Laperriere and then participated in limited practice with the team. He could return by the weekend. 

Brandon Manning suspended 2 games for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning suspended 2 games for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning was suspended two games for his illegal hit to Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel during Saturday's 4-2 loss in the Stadium Series game at Heinz Field.
 
Manning's shoulder made contact with Guentzel's head.
 
Manning wasn't surprised and even admitted to reporters that he fully expected "one or two" games because he hit a player who didn't have control of the puck yet.
 
Strangely, there was no penalty on the play for interference, yet the NHL's explanation on Monday afternoon specifically cited "interference" as the reason for the suspension.
 
This is Manning's first NHL suspension.
 
The hearing was conducted on the phone Monday with Stephane Quintal, senior vice-president of NHL Player Safety. Manning will forfeit $10,833.34 in salary.
 
"It was late," Manning said of the hit. "He didn't touch the puck after it hit his skate, which I thought he was going to do. They do their whole breakdown by time frame."
 
Manning said he caught Guentzel's shoulder first, then his head "on the follow through" because Guentzel is shorter than him. The 6-foot-1 Manning has two inches on Guentzel.
 
Guentzel, who had two assists in the game, was not injured.
 
"Looking at it, [the hit] is a little late," Manning admitted. "I thought he was going to touch the puck. Usually, when a puck hits your skate, you pick it up, and he kinda left it. ... The hard part is, there was no penalty called on it."
 
Manning said he had to make a hit or face an odd-man rush.
 
"There were two players there and if I don't play my guy there, it’s a 3-on-1 the other way," he said. "You're giving up scoring chances. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt. He finished the game and that's always the good thing."
 
Mark Streit, sitting on the bench at the time, said he saw the hit and was shocked at the suspension.
 
"It was a great hit," Streit said. "You look at the replay and everything looks different. You can slow down every hit and talk about it. I guess it was a little late ..."
 
Manning's suspension likely means Michael Del Zotto will play against Colorado on Tuesday.
 
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Manning has been a "solid piece" for the club this season.
 
"He brings that physical edge, he's been reliable, and he's been a staple for our lineup," Hakstol said. "That's a hole we'll have to fill over next couple of games here."
 
Manning will also miss Thursday's game against Florida.