Youthful at 35, Mark Streit likes Flyers' grit

slideshow-070913-flyers-streit-ap.jpg

Youthful at 35, Mark Streit likes Flyers' grit

At the tender age of 35, Mark Streit won’t dodge the fact that he’s not a rookie coming out of the NHL draft.
 
At the same time, how many other 35-year-old puck-moving defensemen do you know of who have played only seven seasons in the United States?
 
Most of the Swiss defenseman’s time has been spent in Europe, which means his body, in NHL years, is probably like 29.
 
Outside of missing the 2010-11 season with a labrum tear in his shoulder, Streit’s body hasn’t been exposed to the every night, physical punishment that is seen with every scar of those who play in the NHL.
 
That means, in theory, Streit has some solid years left on the blue line for the Flyers, who traded for him this summer from the Islanders before signing him to a four-year, $21 million contract.
 
“There is a big difference when you are 35 and have played 15 years [versus] playing eight,” Streit said during a news conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, including the one year he missed with the shoulder injury.
 
“The wear and tear is big in the NHL. I feel great, feel healthy," Streit said. "I had one unfortunate season with Islanders when I was hurt the whole year, but other than that, I played almost all games every year. I’m in good shape. I want to play a long time. I can help this team.”
 
Considering the uncertainty of Andrej Meszaros, with all his assorted and bizarre injuries over the last 18 months, the Flyers needed another body who could skate and move the puck.
 
“We added Mark, who is the type of defenseman we need,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “He can play on the power play. He can provide offense five on five.
 
“He gets up in the rush, he joins the rush and, at times, can lead the rush and make plays coming out of our end. [He’s] an offensive defenseman we felt we needed badly.”
 
The Islanders had a competitive showing in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins before losing.
 
“After the season, I felt it was time for me to move on,” Streit said. “I got traded to the Flyers. After the season, I was thinking about teams. I had a few teams on my mind. The Flyers were atop that list. I always loved playing against them.
 
“A great mix of younger and older players. A lot of skill and grit. It was tough to play against those guys. It’s a great hockey town. A great tradition.
 
“As soon as I [got] traded, I was hoping to get something done here. I’m excited. I’m thankful they gave me the opportunity. I’m thrilled.”
 
Combined with adding Ray Emery in goal, the Flyers have changed their look on the defensive end in terms of the breakout.
 
Along with Steve Mason, they now have two goalies who will play the puck to the defense instead of making the defense go the distance behind the net.
 
“I’m a puck-moving defenseman,” Streit said. “It goes hand-in-hand. You want to feed the forwards with good passes. You want to follow up the play and join the rush. There is so much skill here up front, such big potential. For me as a defenseman, it [is] fun to play here.
 
“The mix between skill and grit is how you win. You will not win with just skill or just grit. You need to have a healthy mix, which is why I am excited to be a Flyer.”
 
The Flyers defense should have more energy this season not battling against other teams' forecheck if their goalies do their job in assisting on dump-ins, etc.
 
This is something that Kimmo Timonen railed about for the past couple of years, especially when Ilya Bryzgalov was in goal.
 
“If you got a goalie back there who can play the puck and handle it and make plays, it makes it so much easier,” Streit said.  
 
“Offense starts with a good first pass. If the puck gets dumped in and goes past the net every time, you have to get past the forecheck.
 
“If he can stop the play, move it to the defense or off the glass, it’s the difference between being in your own end 20 to 30 seconds and losing a lot of energy and being out of the zone right away and creating offense.
 
“In today’s game it makes a huge difference. When your goalies handle the puck it makes it way easier.”
 
How much easier and how much of a difference it makes, we’ll see come October.

Gustafsson signed
Erik Gustafsson, who got his qualifying offer recently from the Flyers, signed a one-year deal worth $1 million.

Lauridsen too
The Flyers also agreed to terms with restricted free agent defenseman Oliver Lauridsen on a two-year deal Wednesday.

Lauridsen appeared in 15 games with the Flyers in 2013, registering two goals and one assist.

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

WASHINGTON — As the Flyers filed into the visiting locker room of the Verizon Center, no temper tantrums were thrown, nor were any chairs.
 
In the end, “What good does that do?” head coach Dave Hakstol asked.
 
Instead, the Flyers’ dressing area Sunday felt like a morgue. Players quietly and somberly stuffed their gear away. Once all dispersed, in walked Ron Hextall — and none too pleased.
 
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us,” he said softly, “and quite honestly, we’re not very happy right now.”
 
For a man that loathes losing more than anyone, nobody expected him to be. That much was already understood during the third-period catastrophe of his team’s demoralizing 5-0 defeat to the Capitals.
 
What wasn’t known was what follows? The Flyers have gone from 10 consecutive victories — the franchise’s longest winning streak in 31 years — to 11 losses over the following 14 games and a state of dismay.
 
As the Flyers limp into their NHL mandated five-day bye week, do players sense an imminent shakeup within the roster?
 
“It’s a good question,” Claude Giroux said, “but I don’t know.”
 
Despite never losing his sense of prudence, Hextall ruled nothing out.
 
“Obviously we always keep an eye on the big club and the Phantoms, as well,” Hextall said. “Right now, we’re going to stick with what we’ve got here and move forward. But on a day-to-day basis, I always look at how we can make our club better and, if there’s something that we think makes our club better, we’ll do it."
 
If Hextall wants to add some fresh blood from within, the organization is not lacking for young and spry prospects full of energy down at Lehigh Valley, where the Phantoms are 24-10-2 and third among the entire AHL entering Monday.
 
For the Flyers, who have surrendered a league-worst 144 goals, could defensemen T.J. Brennan, Travis Sanheim or Robert Hagg be options? Brennan owns NHL experience, has 30 points and is a plus-10 with Lehigh Valley. Sanheim, a big and touted prospect, is also a plus-10 to go along with seven goals and 11 assists. And Hagg, a seasoned 21-year-old, is “just about NHL-ready,” according to Flyers assistant general manager Chris Pryor, via ESPN’s Craig Custance (see Future Flyers Report).
 
“The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren’t going right and that’s not going to happen,” Hextall said. “But if we can find a way to make ourselves better, we will.”
 
Hextall’s biggest gripe with his current team is its dearth of mental fortitude.
 
“Right now we’re making a lot of mental mistakes and it’s killing us,” he said.
 
And then it snowballs, Hextall said, which good teams prevent from happening.
 
“When things are going wrong, all of a sudden something happens and things tend to really go wrong,” he said. “That’s where we have to get better. Mentally we have to be better, have to be better. If something goes wrong, let’s move on. It happened a lot earlier in the year where things go wrong and we fought through it. Right now, the negative energy seems to be a landslide.”
 
Following the meltdown in Washington, players didn’t question the effort.
 
“We care,” Michael Del Zotto said. “No one likes losing. It’s not fun for anyone. But sometimes effort's not enough. Everyone wants to win in this league. It's a matter of execution. Whether it's offensively or defensively in all situations, we're not doing it.”
 
Hextall believes the effort has been “sufficient.”
 
“Again, the mental mistakes,” he said. “It seems like when something goes against us, it goes against us hard and that’s something we’ve got to battle through. You can’t let a little bit of adversity turn into a lot of adversity. You’ve got to nip it in the bud and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
 
As for the leadership structure and coaching, Hextall defended both.
 
“Our leaders haven’t been good enough. Neither have our lesser guys,” Hextall said. “Nobody’s been good enough right now. You don’t win 10 and then go through a stretch like this without responsibility being everywhere.
 
“Line changes, different D combinations, flipping [Steve Mason] and [Michal Neuvirth]. Everything that’s there, Hak has tried. In the end, it comes down to our whole group just being better and not reacting the way we do when something negative happens. That’s the game of sports, right?”
 
The game goes away for the Flyers this week (see 10 observations). When it returns, who knows which team we’ll see.
 
“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror, hold ourselves accountable,” Del Zotto said. “As far as changes and personnel moves, that's out of our control.”
 
That, of course, is up to Hextall.
 
“We’ve got to keep our heads now,” the GM said. “Nobody’s going to get us out of this. It’s the whole group. This isn’t about one thing or one move or one player not playing or one player playing. This is about our whole group.”