Flyers Notes: Shayne Gostisbehere upbeat, focused after second benching

Flyers Notes: Shayne Gostisbehere upbeat, focused after second benching

WASHINGTON — Shayne Gostisbehere was back in the Flyers' lineup on Sunday against the Capitals after his second benching this season Saturday afternoon in Boston.
 
He had two shots during a minus-2 showing in which he played 21:22.
 
While you can question some of Dave Hakstol’s benchings this season from the standpoint that certain players — Andrew MacDonald comes to mind — seem immune to punishment, it’s perhaps reassuring to find that it doesn’t seem to be hurting the confidence level of young players such as Ghost or even rookie Travis Konecny.
 
At least, from what you can see on the outside and from what they say themselves to the media.
 
Sunday’s 5-0 humiliation to the Capitals (see game recap) — the Flyers' fourth loss in five games — could call for a full team benching, but that’s another story.
 
As for Ghost, who sat out Saturday’s 6-3 loss in Boston, he didn’t seem scared by the benching.
 
“You could let it rattle you,” Gostisbehere said. “You could let it set you back, but I am going out there and going to do whatever it takes to help the team. That’s the biggest thing. If that’s me being in the press box, then that’s me in the press box.
 
“I’m here to help the team in any way possible. Right now, it’s just getting back to work and doing the little things. It’s not going to come easy. That is something that me personally, and a lot of us have to look at.”
 
General manager Ron Hextall danced around the question of whether Hakstol’s benching of young players is a good or bad thing.
 
Hextall did say he thought that Konecny has been a “better” player since his benching, which came in San Jose on Dec. 30, a game in which the Flyers could have sorely used more offense during a 2-0 loss to the Sharks.
 
Gostisbehere echoed the thoughts of a number of Flyers, suggesting their five-day “bye” week which starts Monday would be a good time to look in the mirror, think about what has transpired recently, come back and be ready to go again with a fresh attitude and clean slate.
 
The Flyers can’t practice during this period. They will regroup at Skate Zone on Friday afternoon before hosting New Jersey on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center.
 
A good time for this break?
 
“Totally,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s huge for us, but it can work against you a little bit. We got to be smart about it obviously and come back hungry and ready to go.”
 
Gostisbehere correctly picked up on what has become a common thread in many of the Flyers' losses since their 10-game win streak ended.  One or two mistakes after a good period and things go completely awry.
 
“A relapse like that, the puck is in the back of our net,” he said. “It’s just repeatedly happening and something we have to fix. Something we have to focus on during the break and look into the mirror.
 
“Not just go back to work, but work hard. It doesn’t come to us. It’s something that we're realizing. We've got to get back to doing little things right.”
 
Shots
The Flyers held Washington to 10 shots in the first two periods on Sunday. That set a season low for shots allowed through 40 minutes. The previous low was 11 to Montreal through two periods on Nov. 5.
 
Shutouts
This was the fourth time this season the Flyers have been shut out this season. They also became the fourth team to be shut out by Washington since Dec. 31.
 
Over the Caps' current nine-game win streak, the Flyers are sixth team in which the Capitals scored five or more goals against. That includes a 6-0 win over Chicago and a 5-0 win over Columbus.

Along with Flyers, Steve Mason at a loss heading into break

Along with Flyers, Steve Mason at a loss heading into break

WASHINGTON — Steve Mason sat on the ground in a quiet, dimly lit hallway of the Verizon Center about 80 minutes before puck drop Sunday.

He whipped a rubber ball against the opposite wall, reflexively catching each return before rapidly firing the next toss.

The goaltender, beleaguered and beaten of late, was all alone, intensely focused and preparing for the Capitals, who had just walloped the Blackhawks, 6-0, two days prior.

But in the grand scheme, Mason was readying for one final start before his team’s five-day bye week, an opportunity to send himself off with a jolt of confidence and refreshed frame of mind.

For two stanzas against the NHL’s hottest club and current leader, he had done that.

“The first two periods, we played excellent road periods,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Didn’t give up much.”

Then came the third period: four goals in five minutes and an early shower for Mason, as the Flyers were all but finished in a 5-0 drubbing (see game story).

Mason, in dire need of something to build on, had crumbled along with his defense. Any good vibes gained were lost, far and deep away, within a flash.

First, it was Marcus Johansson’s blind pass — which didn’t exactly fool Mason — to Justin Williams, who went top shelf for a 2-0 Washington lead just 1:36 into the final frame.

Less than two minutes later, a misplay by Ivan Provorov resulted in a 3-on-2 rush finished off beautifully by a deceptive feed from Alex Ovechkin to Matt Niskanen.

The latter then struck again on a slap shot Mason read clearly but failed to fully glove.

And Williams, after starting it all, provided the punctuation exactly five minutes from his first tally.

In the dressing room postgame, Mason tried to find an answer for the tornado that swept through the third period and wrecked the Flyers into the break an utter mess.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “A complete 180. It’s not how we wanted to come out in the third. We’ve got to be a good third-period team. It wasn’t good.”

Mason recognizes he hasn’t been good, going south simultaneously with the Flyers since the 10-game winning streak — which now seems so long ago (see 10 observations). The 28-year old, in the final year of a three-year contract, is 0-6-2 with a 4.07 goals-against average in his past eight games. He has not recorded a win since Dec. 21 and made just 12 saves on 17 shots against the Capitals following a yanking from his previous outing, as well.

Mason, likely deflated at the moment of the question, stayed positive when asked for his confidence level.

“It’s definitely a tough stretch right now,” Mason said. “Not proud of the way things are going — kind of have to step back here and get away for a few days, which will be good I think at this point in time. Just come back and reset.”

That is what the Flyers will have to do, having permitted a league-most 144 goals. As they’ve lost 11 of their last 14, Mason obviously isn’t the only one searching for answers.

“Line changes, different D combinations, flipping Mase and [Michal Neuvirth]. Everything that’s there, Hak has tried,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. “In the end, it comes down to our whole group just being better and not reacting the way we do when something negative happens.”

Which has been often.

“It’s definitely not good,” Mason said. “Since the start of the New Year, it hasn’t been a good start for us. We’re struggling to find that consistency. I think everybody just has to come back from this four-day break here with a fresh mindset, fresh outlook and put this behind us.”

If anyone is welcoming the bye week, it’s likely Mason with open arms.

Flyers' team defense falls apart in loss to Bruins

Flyers' team defense falls apart in loss to Bruins

BOSTON – You can argue all you want about an absurd five-minute major as a game-changer, yet the bottom line to Saturday’s numbing 6-3 loss to the Bruins at TD Garden is team defense.
 
That means the forwards on the backcheck, the defense behind them and timely saves from the goalies, too.
 
All of that was missing. That’s why the Flyers were blown out.
 
“We need to clean our game up,” said general manager Ron Hextall. “We got some good players who aren’t playing the way they can play. They need to turn it around. We need to be better.”

Boston scored four goals on Michal Neuvirth off just 14 shots in the second period. The six goals against gives the Flyers 143 goals against – most in the NHL. They are also 0-6-2 in their last eight road games.
 
“We need to be better on the road, we need to start better,” Hextall said. “We need to play a smarter game. There’s times when we get the big breakdown and it ends up in our net.”
 
In this one, the Flyers gave up a shorthanded goal, two power play goals, and a terrible goal off the rush to hand the game over.
 
“We got to shore it up,” said coach Dave Hakstol “Three areas are obvious. Spending too much time killing penalties. Turning pucks over in succession at a critical time in the game to pass on momentum.
 
“And then mistakes we are making this time of year, especially, on the rush coverage where it’s been the last two or three games. Those are areas that get you in trouble …”
 
Ironically, you couldn’t have asked for a better start. The Flyers actually scored first, somewhat of a rarity for this bunch. 
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare redirected Ivan Provorov’s shot off the post and past Tuukka Rask.
 
“Good start and then we fell apart afterwards – no excuses,” Wayne Simmonds said.
 
Turnovers have been the Flyers' bane. Weise’s bouncing pass to Sean Couturier eluded him at the point during a power play. Brad Marchand turned it into his 15th shorthanded goal over the past five years to make it a 1-1 game.
 
That’s eight shorthanded goals against by the Flyers – worst in the NHL.
 
Boston then scored twice more in the opening six minutes of the second period to make it 3-1. First David Krejci roofed a wrister from the circle under the crossbar on Michal Neuvirth, then Torey Krug beat the defense off the rush for a tip-in, from Marchand, who had a five-point game.
 
“Too many penalties, after that first goal I gave which I gotta have but a tough game, in general,” Neuvirth said. “They threw so many pucks [39] at the net and they are so good as screening and tipping. I don’t know how many goal they scored by tips.”
 
Brayden Schenn, who only scores on the power play, nailed his lead-leading 11th power play goal to cut the deficit to 3-2.
 
Then Jakub Voracek was hit with a five-minute major for boarding Kevin Miller in a play where he turned his body to avoid the hit, going butt cheek-to-butt cheek with Miller stumbling on his own.
 
A terrible call. It turned the tide dramatically as Patrice Bergeron’s shot from the circle off Andrew MacDonald’s stick regained the two-goal lead. The Flyers were within 24 seconds of killing it off, too.
 
“I didn’t want to smash him into the boards,” Voracek said. “I felt we were in the same lane and would collide to battle for a puck. I got him a little bit. An unfortunate play.
 
“I don’t think it’s a suspendable play … I tried to go butt-to-butt with him then battle … It changed the momentum. We had scored that second goal.”
 
Even he admitted though, what followed was worse.
 
“It’s a tough break, but we gave up six goals,” Voracek said. “It’s hard to win on the road when you give up six goals.”
 
Zdeno Chara finished them off with a goal near period’s end to make it 5-2.
 
“We’ve got to look in the mirror … we have given up way to many goals,” Simmonds said. “Way too many. We got to lock it down.”
 
Since winning 10 straight, the Flyers have fallen to 3-7-3.
 
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Simmonds said. “We got everyone in the dressing room and we got to support one another and come out of this together.”