Another solid effort for Flyers not enough in loss to NHL-best Capitals

Another solid effort for Flyers not enough in loss to NHL-best Capitals

BOX SCORE

You see it in their faces. Feel it in their voices.
 
And you wonder how it affects them night after night.
 
The Flyers played another pretty solid loss, as they say, Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
A lot closer than 4-1 makes it appear (see Instant Replay). It was a lot like that solid loss last week in Calgary, too.
 
“Maybe a little bit similar,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Our effort was good start to finish. There’s always a couple mistakes you make you want to clean up and do better. I thought tonight we had more opportunities than we did in the Calgary game.”
 
They had more goals, too. Except two got taken away.
 
One for goalie interference. The other hit the crossbar and even after a long celebration and delay, was ruled no good.
 
That’s been the Flyers’ no-luck this season. It’s all gone wrong for them as their wild-card aspirations slip further away.
 
“It’s very frustrating,” team captain Claude Giroux said. “Same story. We need to find a way here. We say the same thing after each game. I like the way we’re playing.
 
“We played a good hockey game, not good enough. We have a challenge in front of us. In the past, we’ve been a team that doesn’t back down. We have to keep our heads high and [battle].”
 
The Flyers had the right approach, coming out fast and aggressive on the Caps. In fact, Jakub Voracek scored 23 seconds into the game during a net scrum.
 
Thing was, Caps coach Barry Trotz correctly saw goalie interference as Dale Weise actually pushed Braden Holtby aside (see feature highlight). It was an easy coach’s challenge to overturn the goal and that’s what happened.
 
Weise was beside himself after the game.
 
“What I was trying to do was brace myself so I didn’t bowl him over and it comes back the other way,” Weise said.
 
“I don’t know what else to do there. I’m trying to poke the puck with one hand and brace myself so I don’t hit him.”
 
Naturally, six minutes later, Brandon Manning turned a puck over along the boards with T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin, and it resulted in Nicklas Backstrom getting a great setup in the high slot for a 1-0 Caps lead.
 
“Even after that, we came back and played well and had good chances,” Weise said. “It’s the same story every night. We don’t capitalize on it and give up a few chances and they score on their opportunities.”
 
That’s when frustration seeped in on the Flyers and the penalties began to mount. Sean Couturier tried to get away with an elbow. Didn’t work.
 
The Caps dazzled the Flyers with brilliant puck movement, culminating with Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal to make it 2-0 at 16:28. He had two goals in the game.
 
While that could have ruined them, the Flyers came out hard in the second as Ivan Provorov appeared to score in the opening minute. However, replay confirmed his shot hit the crossbar. Two near-goals for the Flyers.
 
“I shot it and saw that [the puck] went up and I didn’t hear a sound,” Provorov said. “I thought it went in.”
 
No matter. Manning atoned for his first-period miscue by saving a puck from leaving the zone and then firing on net where Brayden Schenn scored a rare 5-on-5 goal by batting the puck out of the air to cut the Flyers’ deficit in half.
 
Of Schenn’s 19 goals, 14 have come on the power play.
 
Giroux’s line with Schenn and Wayne Simmonds consisted of the Flyers’ only players on the right side of the plus-minus category. And to show how deceiving that can be, Voracek worked his tail off, too, but was minus-3.
 
That’s how it goes these days for this group.
 
“It’s been a lot of games where it’s been one- or two-goal hockey games and it’s tough to do,” Schenn said. “We’re generating shots, but I don’t know if we’re generating enough chances.
 
“At the end of the day, you feel you play hard and a pretty good hockey game and end up scoring one goal again. Whether it’s 3-1, 4-1, you score one goal, you won’t win many hockey games.”
 
The Flyers are 3-6-1 since coming out of the All-Star break. Of those seven total losses, including overtime, they have scored more than one goal just once.
 
“We’ve got to rise above it, each and every one of us,” Hakstol said. “Get back at it. And that is what this group has continually done. We have to do that one more time here.”

Flyers Skate Update: Power-play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power-play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first-unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league (see game notes).

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit — Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds — hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists — two on the power play — against the Canucks on Sunday (see story).

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Couturier, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth

Flyers' lineup decision backfires in chippy loss to Oilers

Flyers' lineup decision backfires in chippy loss to Oilers

BOX SCORE

EDMONTON, Alberta — Just about everything that could go wrong for the Flyers did Thursday night against the Oilers at Rogers Place.
 
Dave Hakstol dressed seven defensemen to get Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup off injury.
 
That backfired because Jordan Weal suffered an upper-body injury in the first period, leaving the club with just 10 forwards.
 
Edmonton targeted Brandon Manning the entire game because of the Connor McDavid fiasco and, as expected, Manning had to drop gloves with 230-pound heavyweight Patrick Maroon. Manning got pounded but didn’t go down (see story).
 
And to top it off, goalie Michal Neuvirth, who had been giving the Flyers chances to win without the team scoring much, had a terrible game as he yielded four goals on the first 12 shots he faced.
 
All of which played a part in the Flyers’ 6-3 defeat (see Instant Replay). Couple that with the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Rangers, and the Flyers are now behind the Isles at sixth in the Metropolitan Division standings.
 
The game was barely two minutes old when Neuvirth gave up a Mr. Softee goal to Matt Hendricks of all people.
 
“A tough start. The first one I had to have,” Neuvirth said. “I had a tough night.”
 
Now the deal was Mark Letestu appeared offsides and Hakstol challenged. The goal stood, which is how the Flyers’ luck is running these days.
 
Del Zotto, dressed as a seventh defenseman after missing 10 games with a bone bruise in his leg, rotated through four partners in the opening period and was caught on the ice for Leon Draisaitl’s 22nd goal at 15:19 that made it 2-0.
 
What set that up was Manning got slashed by Milan Lucic coming around the Flyers’ net. Yet, he was hit with an embellishment call, which led to the 4-on-4. Del Zotto iced the puck and then the Oilers scored right after the faceoff (see feature highlight).
 
Once Weal went down, the Flyers had a depleted lineup on the second night of a back-to-back set trying to keep up with Edmonton via rotations.
 
“Definitely a factor and that’s the risk,” Hakstol said of the lineup decision. “The one risk you run is exactly what happened. We lost Jordan. … That puts our forwards in a hard situation. They battled awful hard through it.”
 
Unlike the Calgary game when they had significant offensive zone time, the Flyers went the final 9:32 of the first period without a shot. However, they played better in the final two periods.
 
In the second period, Jakub Voracek was stopped on a breakaway by Cam Talbot with the score 2-1. If Voracek ties it, who knows.
 
“It was huge,” Voracek said. “I thought I had less time than I actually did. I should have spread him out more and tried five-hole, but I was a little too quick on that. It was a 2-1 game. Maybe it [would] be a little different.”
 
Hakstol said he felt Del Zotto’s speed would help against Edmonton, but the truth is it didn’t slow the Oilers, who then roared back with two goals in 1:15 to make it 4-1.
 
The Flyers mounted a small comeback after a Wayne Simmonds goal late in the second and a power-play goal from Brayden Schenn near the midpoint of the third period.

But McDavid had the last laugh as he finished off the scoring for the night with a goal late in the third period to run his league-leading point total to 66.
 
That only added to the tough night for the Flyers and Manning, who was marked from the get-go.

“He comes into this building, fans are on him, he steps up and fights a tough guy and got challenged all night,” Schenn said. “He dropped his gloves. Full marks to him. Not easy for a guy like him to fight a guy like that with a size advantage going to Maroon.”
 
Hakstol was very impressed with how Manning handled himself.
 
“We know who Brandon Manning is and anyone who has spent any time around him knows, in terms of the honor of the game, there is no one in front of the line before him,” Hakstol said. “He’s first class. He went out and battled hard and did everything he needed to do.”
 
Simmonds agreed.
 
“They were chasing him all over the ice all game long and he did a great job when he fought,” Simmonds said. “Props to him.”