Flyers

Flyers blanked again by Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

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Flyers blanked again by Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

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They played a very strong second period and had nothing to show for it.

So when it came around to the third period, which has been the Flyers' best period all season, everyone expected they would eventually erase a 1-0 deficit against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Instead, the Flyers came out inexplicitly flat against a team they could have pretty much buried in the Metro Division standings.

Even worse, they gave up a quick goal.

Poof! It was 2-0 and game over at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night, as the Blue Jackets are now just two points behind the Flyers in the playoff hunt for third place (see Instant Replay).

“We came out flat, we let them come into our zone too easy and just let move the puck around way too easy,” Scott Hartnell said.

“The first two periods we battled and were strong on pucks, but that third period, I don’t if it was that power-play goal they scored late [in the second], but to come out flat like that wasn’t our MO and it hasn’t been our MO all year.”

The loss allowed Pittsburgh to officially clinch the division title. The Flyers still need six points to earn a playoff spot.

This was Sergei Bobrovsky’s first start against his former teammates in Philadelphia.

“Yeah was special, definitely,” Bobrovsky said. “It was exciting. It was different; it’s tough to explain. I think it was different. It was special.”

As good as the former Vezina winner was in earning his fourth shutout, the Flyers didn’t make it hard enough on Bobrovsky with quality shots.

“Any time you don’t score, you didn’t test him enough,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We certainly didn’t test him enough in the third period.

“We stopped playing our game for a while. They came at us hard and it looked like we got frustrated.”

Ten shots behind 2-0. Yeah, that won’t cut it.

“They had 22 blocked shots, which is too many and we have to do a better job of getting shots through,” Berube said. “Get rebounds. Bobrovsky challenges. You have to find a way to get rebounds and get rebound goals and we didn’t do that.”

They also had no help from their power play (0-4), which is now 0-7 in the past three games while the Flyers have been shut out consecutively now for the first time since the final two games of John Stevens’ tenure in 2009 (Nov. 28 and Dec. 3).

Berube’s bunch hasn’t scored in 130:25 when they got a late goal against Boston on March 30.

They could have had a penalty shot in the second period but it wasn’t called when Sean Couturier was hooked on a breakaway.

Meanwhile, Claude Giroux went pointless for his third straight game, something he has not done since October when he went five straight without a point to start the 2013-14 season.

“Even though we didn’t score, we did a lot of good things,” Giroux said. “Our third period has to be better.”

The power play was pretty much discombobulated. Then again, it’s been on the downside lately, too. A few dirty goals would likely get the confidence back up.

“The power play, some games it is going to go in and some it isn’t,” Giroux said. “We had our chances … You got to keep doing the same thing as when we were successful.”

Things only get harder for the Flyers from here, too. They meet the Bruins on Saturday in Boston to close our their “Deadly Dozen” of games against all playoff contenders.

So far, the Flyers are 6-3-2 with 14 points during this stretch. A few power-play goals and they would have won three in a row instead of losing three straight.

“We haven’t been able to score over the last two games, but we’re playing great defensively,” offered Wayne Simmonds.

“Obviously, our power play has to step it up. Special teams are a key. Our power play hasn’t been the best these last couple games.”

The big positive is the Flyers are playing well defensively. Their shutout string against opponents ended at 136:02 in the second period on James Wisniewski’s power-play goal -- his third shot on goalie Steve Mason in that sequence.

Hartnell said the focus now shifts to Boston and Sunday’s home game here against Buffalo.

“We have to leave these two games behind us and get a few points this weekend,” he said.

Andrew MacDonald out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

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Andrew MacDonald out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

A roster spot for Samuel Morin appears to have opened up.

Andrew MacDonald will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced Sunday. MacDonald will likely land on injured reserve.

The injury likely occurred midway through the third period against the Oilers on Saturday, when MacDonald blocked a Mark Letestu slap shot with 10:48 left in regulation and 1:44 left on an Edmonton power play.

MacDonald hobbled around on basically on one leg before being able to clear the puck and make it to the bench after 44 seconds. MacDonald blocked a game-high six shots Saturday.

“You just got to get up,” MacDonald said after the Flyers’ 2-1 win. “If you don’t get up, it’s 5-on-3. There are other opportunities that can arise from it. Do your best and try to hang in there. Wait for some help. Wait until you clear it. Everyone battles through it.

“You take a shot. You just get up, get back in there and help your guys.”

With MacDonald injured, the Flyers now have six defensemen. Brandon Manning has been a healthy scratch the past two games as Travis Sanheim drew back into the lineup.

The Flyers have yet to make a corresponding roster move, but considering Morin nearly made the team out of training camp and hung around for the four-game season-opening West Coast trip, it’s a safe assumption that Morin will find his way back to the NHL.

Morin had a goal and an assist for the Phantoms on Saturday night, an assist Friday night and points in all his three games in Lehigh Valley.

If Morin does come back up, the question is will he play?

The Flyers were reluctant to play three rookie defensemen on their season-opening trip and scratched both Sanheim and Morin for the season opener.

Things have changed now, though. MacDonald is third on the Flyers in ice time, averaging 19:36 while playing with Ivan Provorov, who will now find himself with a new partner.

Dave Hakstol could insert Manning into the lineup, which is a strong possibility. How Hakstol draws up his pairings remains to be seen, though it’s unlikely he’ll break up Shayne Gostisbehere and rookie Robert Hagg. It’s possible Provorov finds himself with Manning or Morin, or perhaps Radko Gudas. We’ll know more after Monday’s practice.

Calling up Morin is not Hextall’s only option. The Flyers also have T.J. Brennan in the AHL, who is a better fit as a seventh defenseman.

Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

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Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

After spending nearly the entire 2016-17 campaign at Lehigh Valley, Flyers center Scott Laughton looks like a whole different player this season. But the demotion and time spent in the minor leagues aren’t the only reasons behind his NHL rebirth.

Laughton also became a far better skater.

Through eight games, Laughton has two goals and one assist with a plus-one rating – hardly the kind of numbers that typically garner a lot of attention. However, the former first-pick is centering a quality fourth line for the Flyers, a grouping that has been strong in its own end while also generating impressive offensive opportunities at the other. Laughton leads the club’s forwards in shorthanded time on ice as well, playing a huge role in a penalty-killing unit that’s managed to ward off all but one of the last 13 power plays it’s faced.

The difference is apparent, and Laughton knows it, too. Some of that comes with age and experience – he’s only 23, with 117 NHL games under his belt. Yet Laughton directs much of the credit for his growth on the ice to his longtime skating coach, Dawn Braid.

“Worked with the same skating coach I have been for the last six, seven years,” Laughton said Friday of his offseason regimen. “She actually just got hired with Arizona. She was a skating coach there.

“I've been working with her. I did a lot of tight edges, a lot of tight work, and I did a lot of crossovers to try and develop speed. I think everything kind of comes together though — your off-ice training combined with that — and just getting stronger as I get older. I'm getting older and coming into my body.”

A former figure skater, Braid was named the Coyotes' skating coach in August of 2016, become the NHL’s first full-time female coach in the process. From the sound of things, the hiring was long overdue.

Braid had built a following around the league, and from players vastly more acclaimed than Laughton.

“She works with (Islanders center and four-time All-Star) John Tavares and helped him,” Laughton said. “She's got (Stars center Jason Spezza). She's got a bunch of guys. A lot of guys go to her. She's like Barb Underhill in Toronto. They were partners.

“I've been skating with her since I was in first year of juniors, so I really like her.”

It sounds like Laughton is getting an education in more than how to be better on his skates. As Braid has worked with more NHL stars and teams, she’s began teaching more than just being quicker and more fluid on the ice.

There are applicable hockey lessons and techniques involved in their training.

“I think she's really incorporated puck work,” Laughton said. “It used to be no pucks. She watches game film and things like that, and sees what's going on in the game and tries to help you that way.”

Whatever Laughton is doing, it appears to be working. A year ago, he couldn’t crack the Flyers’ main roster, managing to appear in just two games. He finished with 19 goals, 20 assists and a plus-17 rating in 60 games for the Phantoms in 16-17, with an additional two goals and one assists in five playoff tilts. Despite finishing with a 39-33-10 record and missing the postseason, the big club never felt as though Laughton was needed.

It’s early into the 17-18 campaign, but it’s already difficult to imagine this Flyers squad without Laughton’s contributions – so give the assist to Baird on this one.