Brayden Schenn opens up about being traded to Blues

Brayden Schenn opens up about being traded to Blues

ST. LOUIS — Brayden Schenn could read the writing on Ron Hextall’s wall — the one with the organizational depth chart on it.

“I probably talked with my agent a month before the draft, and there wasn’t even talk about me getting traded because I had no idea that this was going to happen," Schenn said after Thursday's morning skate. "I looked right around at St. Louis and saw that the Blues might need a centerman. It was one day we talked about it, and I never talked about it again until I got traded.”

Not long after the Flyers fortuitously leaped all the way into the number two slot at the NHL’s Draft Lottery is when Schenn realized he needed to start dissecting the trickle-down effect of Philadelphia landing a franchise center, knowing at that time the pick would either be Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick. 

“The No. 2 pick, you knew it was going to be another center, right?" Schenn said. "Leading up to the draft, there was a lot of talk about Montreal and that’s what I was kinda hearing. I was just on a golf trip with a bunch of buddies and I looked at my phone, it happened to be on ringer and it happened to be Ron Hextall, and right away I knew I was gone.

“I always felt I could go play center and that was a natural position for me. I think Philly knew I could play the wing, but they also knew I wanted to play center as well. It just kinda helped that St. Louis was the landing spot.”

Schenn was dealt to the Blues for Jori Lehtera and a pair of first-round picks, plus a conditional third rounder. As Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic wrote Thursday morning, the Blues had even reached out to the expansion Golden Knights about taking Lehtera and his $4.7 million contract off their hands, but even they had no interest in the 29-year-old Finn.

Hextall realized with Patrick there was an organizational logjam at the center position that ultimately led to not only the Schenn trade, but the decision to transition the captain and arguably their most skilled player Claude Giroux to left wing. Watching Giroux’s almost seamless transition here in Philadelphia is similar to Schenn’s changeover in St. Louis, where he has clicked almost instantaneously with linemates Jaden Schwartz and superstar Vladimir Tarasenko.

“I think it’s just maybe having the confidence that you’re going to stay at center here, I guess,” said Schenn. “I played maybe ten games at right wing (in Philly), ten games at center, 20 games at left wing. I was kinda all over the place.

“I came here Day 1 and he (coach Mike Yeo) said ‘Do you want to play center? We’ll give you a shot there.’ I think here, you get in a rhythm and get in a groove of playing down the middle and being in situations where you’re counted on to be liable in your own end, playing against good players.” 

When asked about Schenn, Tarasenko and Schwartz both referred to him as a “smart” player, which never seemed to be the label he was attached with here in Philadelphia. It’s not that Schenn is unintelligent, but possessing a high hockey IQ wasn’t one of his known attributes. Perhaps there’s a confidence boost that has accompanied him to St. Louis, as well as being more committed to the defensive side of the game. 

“Playing in the middle and taking faceoffs, I find it gets you more involved in the game right away. It’s on you to win the faceoff and get the puck right away and it gets you a little bit more involved in the game,” Schenn said.

The trade of Schenn also came roughly a year and a half after the Flyers dealt his older brother, Luke, to Los Angeles as part of a deal to shed Vinny Lecavalier’s hefty contract and a center that was no longer in their future plans. 

“I guess Schenns aren’t wanted in Philadelphia. I don’t know what it is,” Brayden said. “I think it was a little bit tougher situation with your brother being on the team with you. I just remember sitting in a car taking off for a road trip near the trade deadline, there were talks about L.A. and him going there, and I think it’s tougher when your brother’s not hopping on that flight with you. So for me, I was the only guy in Philly. It’s always tough leaving teammates and buddies, but that’s the business. I’m not the first guy ever to get traded and I won’t be the last.”

And with Luke now in Arizona, the flow of Schennergy is now amping up here in St. Louis.

Why have Penguins dominated Flyers recently?

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Why have Penguins dominated Flyers recently?

VOORHEES, N.J. — The keys to the Keystone State Rivalry are now in the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have been in the driver’s seat recently in their feud with the Flyers.

The Penguins are on the verge of a season sweep for the first time since taking all eight meetings during the Flyers' disastrous 2006-07 season.

It’s a complete turnaround from the Flyers' eight-game winning streak from November 2013 to April 2015. PPG Paints Arena, formerly known as Consol Energy Center, could also be commonly referred to as Wells Fargo Center West.

However, in the Dave Hakstol era, which has also coincided with the Mike Sullivan era in Pittsburgh, the ice has been tilted toward Lake Erie. The Flyers are just 3-7-1 against the Penguins over the past three years.

Over time, that vitriolic and acrimonious attitude seems to be missing from a once-bitter feud and the Flyers seemed to thrive off that animosity.

“There’s not as many fights as we used to and not as many hits,” captain Claude Giroux said. “If you don’t take care of the puck and you don’t play smart out there, it’s going to cost your team.”

Since the third period of their first game in November, there have been costly mistakes and very little pushback from the Flyers. They’ve been outscored 14-4 in their last seven periods and a brief overtime against the Penguins.

“It’s a matter of us going out and being ourselves for a full 60 minutes,” Hakstol said. “We haven’t done that against Pittsburgh and you’ve got to credit them for that. They can push teams off balance.”

And clearly, the Penguins have presented a matchup problem for the Flyers, regardless of which team has owned last change. Sidney Crosby has thrived this season with a plus-6 rating against the Flyers.

With Sean Couturier serving as Evgeni Malkin’s shadow dating back to his rookie season in 2011-12, Giroux had been tasked with matching up with Crosby’s line. Now with Couturier and Giroux paired together, the task of containing Crosby has shifted elsewhere, whether it’s been Valtteri Filppula, Scott Laughton or Nolan Patrick.

The Flyers' 19-year-old rookie center has quickly discovered what works and what doesn’t against arguably the NHL’s best all-around player.

“You have to be a little more defensive-minded when (Crosby) is out there, and even Malkin too,” Patrick said. “Crosby’s not really a guy you can go after and knock the puck off. You just got to try and contain them and have a good stick on him.”

“I don’t think we’ve given them our best effort so far this year,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “We were a little timid last time. We were trying to feel out the game and see what kind of game it was going to be, rather than dictate the play.”

The Flyers haven’t exhibited their best effort against any team recently, and no need to prove a point against the Penguins this late in the season.

The Flyers simply need points and the Penguins just happen to be the next team on the schedule.

Devils' Hall wastes no time in overtime

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Devils' Hall wastes no time in overtime

PITTSBURGH -- Taylor Hall beat Matt Murray on a breakaway 27 seconds into overtime to lift the New Jersey Devils to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

Hall was all alone when Nico Hischier found him with a long lead pass. Hall then slipped the puck between Murray's legs for his 33rd goal of the season as New Jersey picked up two vital points in the race for one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.

Hall added two assists for New Jersey. Hischier finished with a goal and an assist, and Blake Coleman and Will Butcher also scored for the Devils. Keith Kincaid made 40 stops for the Devils, who finished a season-high six-game road trip 4-2.

Sidney Crosby scored his 25th of the season for Pittsburgh. Brian Dumolin and Phil Kessel scored in the third period as the Penguins erased a two-goal deficit. Murray finished with 30 saves as the Penguins lost for just the second time in their last 17 home games.

New Jersey's drive to end a six-year playoff drought has stalled since the All-Star break. A lopsided loss in San Jose dropped the Devils to just 13-12 since Jan. 30 and skated onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena with a tenuous grasp on the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see full recap).

Bruins win on Pastrnak’s last-second goal
DALLAS -- David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card (see full recap).

Berglund, Blues push win streak to 4
ST. LOUIS -- Patrik Berglund scored twice and the surging St. Louis Blues beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Dmitrij Jaskin also scored for St. Louis. Jake Allen made 19 saves in his eighth straight start as the Blues won for the sixth time in seven games.

Sam Gagner scored for Vancouver, which has lost eight of nine. Anders Nilsson stopped 21 shots.

The Blues swept the season series and have won their last five games against the Canucks.

Tarasenko extended the lead to 3-1 just 14 seconds into the third period, slipping Jaden Schwartz's pass between Nilsson's legs. Tarasenko missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury.

Jaskin's sixth goal of the season with 2:29 left sealed it for St. Louis (see full recap).