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 gonna 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 were realizing. We 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.

Flyers Weekly Observations: Everything coming apart at the seams

Flyers Weekly Observations: Everything coming apart at the seams

That week was… not pretty.

Not by a long shot.

The Flyers’ busy week saw them play five games in an eight-day stretch and come out on the winning side of things just once. Overall, the Flyers went 1-3-1 last week with a 2-1 overtime loss in Columbus, a disheartening 4-1 defeat in Buffalo, a wild 5-4 shootout win over visiting Vancouver, an ugly 6-3 loss in Boston and an even uglier 5-0 loss in Washington.

There’s a lot to digest in this week’s Flyers Weekly Observations, and, needless to say, not much of it is good.

Where to even begin?

• Let’s start with Shayne Gostisbehere’s benching on Saturday afternoon in Boston, the second healthy scratch of the season for last season’s runner up to the Calder Trophy. Let’s face it, the 23-year-old defenseman has not played great this season. He’s struggled mightily defensively and he’s had a miserable time hitting the net in the offensive zone, among other warts in his game. He’s obviously not alone. After all, this 3-8-3 skid is rooted in shoddy defensive play in all zones. But he has not played well. We all know offense is Gostisbehere’s strength, but he’s got just four goals and 15 assists in 46 games. And he’s sporting a minus-17 after Sunday's loss. Dave Hakstol is obviously not happy with his young defenseman’s game and figured the best course of action would be to let Gostisbehere sit down, observe and clear his head. And I get that thought process. Sometimes that’s a good thing. But I’m of the belief it’s best to let a young player play through his struggles. Gostisbehere’s going to have to get used to doing that because this will not be the only time in his career he will struggle. It happens to every player, even the best ones. And it’s even tougher to defend Ghost’s benching with as poorly as Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Manning played in the previous game against Vancouver.

• Speaking of which, those stick penalties Del Zotto and Manning took over and over again in the first period against the Canucks were just careless and put the Flyers into a hole that could have been a lot deeper if not for the play of the penalty kill and Steve Mason. That’s the stuff that can just kill a team, and that’s the stuff that’s also very avoidable.

• One play really stuck out to me during Saturday’s loss to the Bruins in Beantown. The Flyers were down 5-3 early in the third period and attacking in the Bruins' zone when Jake Voracek hit Sean Couturier with a slick cross-ice pass. Couturier had net to shoot at and a chance to cut it to a one-goal game, but instead skated to the side of the net and backhanded the puck into the crowded slot and turned it over. When you’re down two in the third period, you need to shoot there. Even if Tuukka Rask stops it, you never know if there’s going to be a rebound. It was an example of how Couturier needs to be more aggressive offensively on a consistent basis. Especially after he was aggressive against Vancouver with a goal and a post hit after a beautiful offensive rush.

• What was that effort in Buffalo on Tuesday night? Credit the improving Sabres for playing well and earning the win, but the Flyers were just lifeless out there on the ice.

• Let’s chat some about those goalie interference calls that didn’t go the Flyers’ way in Columbus last weekend. Michael Raffl was squeezed into Sergei Bobrovsky and barely made contact with the Jackets’ goalie on the first one. Raffl is entitled to that space just as much as anyone else on the ice. It’s a hockey play, plain and simple. No idea how that one was overturned. Contact was made with Mason’s skate on the second one, but I believe that call was eventually correct as the goal stood. The problem is this: They were two similar plays with limited contact made with the goaltender. The league can’t have one count there and one not. The league is creating itself a very unnecessary grey area with those calls.

• On the NBC national telecast of Sunday’s debacle in Washington, analyst Brian Boucher said something to the effect of the Flyers were in the process of quitting the game after the Caps’ fourth goal, which was scored early in the third period. And it was hard to disagree him with what we all saw. Things can become fragile over these kinds of skids and it just seems recently when one thing goes wrong with for the Flyers, everything comes apart at the seams.

• Brayden Schenn’s stat line so far this season is uneven, literally. He’s got 14 goals on the season, but a league-leading 11 have come on the power play. So that’s 79 percent of Schenn’s goal-scoring coming on the man advantage. That’s obviously great for when the Flyers are on the power play, but with how they’re averaging 1.79 goals per game over this recent 3-8-3 stretch, that could really use it at even strength. That goes for everybody.

• I’m not sure how I feel about the bye week. On one hand, it comes at the right time as the Flyers can rest, recharge and get their heads straight after this awful stretch. On the other hand, it’s no secret this team could REALLY use the practice time right now just to get back to the basics and for the players just to get their footing back underneath themselves. They’ll next be able to practice Friday afternoon.

Coming up this week: Saturday vs. New Jersey (7 p.m./TCN), Sunday at New York Islanders (6 p.m./CSN)

Instant Replay: Capitals 5, Flyers 0

Instant Replay: Capitals 5, Flyers 0

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON – Another lost weekend for the Flyers with back-to-back defeats, as they head into their mandated bye week on a sour note.
 
The difference Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center was the Flyers had ample early opportunities before falling apart in the final period of a 5-0 beating from the Capitals.
 
After the shooting bonanza by Boston on Saturday, Dave Hakstol’s club had a strong opening period Sunday, holding the Caps to just five shots while getting off 13 themselves. But they failed to dent goalie Philipp Grubauer.

It was a mirage. Leading 1-0, the Caps scored four unanswered goals to blow it open. Justin Williams and Matt Niskanen each scored twice.
 
Offsides?
Was Sean Couturier offside in the second period? The play ended with a whistle just as Radko Gudas scored from the point. Hakstol couldn’t challenge since the whistle had blown. It was 1-0 Washington at that point.
 
Notable goals
How about the puck bouncing past Ivan Provorov at the point, Alex Ovechkin getting it from Nick Backstrom, then faking a shot on Steve Mason before lobbing a soft pass that Niskanen buried into an empty net for a 3-0 lead?
 
Goalie report
Mason was back in goal and got torched for five goals on 17 shots. His flubbed glove attempt on Niskanen’s second goal was simply brutal.
 
Power play
The Flyers had two pretty good shots on their first one in the opening period and didn’t score. To that point in the game, they had an 8-2 shot lead on the Caps. The Flyers had three shots on their next attempt and couldn’t score. Shayne Gostisbehere got some good looks, too. Their third one was a disaster with a turnover and four Caps' clears.
 
Penalty kill
Not overworked. But a glaring turnover by Michael Del Zotto handed the puck right to Andre Burakovsky in front of the net and he buried it on the Caps' second power play.
 
Injuries
Caps defenseman John Carlson was injured early in the game and did not return.
  
Scratches
Defensemen Nick Schultz (healthy) and Brandon Manning (healthy); forward Matt Read (skate cut).
 
Up next
The Flyers begin their bye week Monday. This is a mandatory four days off. They will resume practice Friday afternoon at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.