Flyers

Flyers' season ends with Game 7 loss to Rangers

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Flyers' season ends with Game 7 loss to Rangers

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK – Most times, words simply can’t express the emotions players and teams go through after a Game 7 loss.

It’s more gut-wrenching to lose a Game 7 than to get swept in four straight.

Trying to find an answer as to why the Flyers bowed out of the playoffs Wednesday night with a stunning 2-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden (see Instant Replay) isn’t easy because there is no simple answer.

Or maybe there is, Flyers coach Craig Berube offered.

“The first few games we didn’t initiate enough or play with enough aggressiveness as a team,” he said. “We would have had another win there, maybe. Our game, overall, we didn’t play our best hockey in the series.”

They didn’t.

And yet, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason was superb. He could not be faulted after turning aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced. The Rangers should have had four or five goals in the second period when he faced 18 shots.

“He was great -- our goalies did a great job for us and kept us in all the games,” Berube said. “We let them win the second period.”

Mason, incidentally, divulged he had been suffering from a concussion when he missed the first three games of the series.

By all rights, the Flyers, who had such a strong second period in Game 6 -- three goals -- were an utter mess on both sides of the puck in the middle frame. Both of the Rangers' goals came that period. Even worse, they were scored after two horrible Flyers power plays that acted as momentum shifts for New York.

If there are two stats that will haunt the Flyers they are as follows: In the four games the Flyers lost in the series, their power play was 1 for 13. In the three games they won, it was 5 for 8.

The other side of it was the Flyers killed off 21 consecutive Rangers power plays and New York still won the series. Go figure.

“Sometimes it’s clicking and sometimes it doesn’t,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s too bad. We got two opportunities today and if we scored a goal on it, it would be different. But it’s too early to get on it and think about it that way.”

As good as the Flyers' power play was overall in the series -- 6 for 21 -- the two botched ones that period were crucial in defeat.

“Special teams are obviously very important,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “They are very aggressive and they played well on the PK tonight.”

The Rangers had two shorthanded chances on those two Flyers power plays, better than the two shots the Flyers mustered with the man advantage.

Dan Carcillo, serving a penalty for too many men on the ice, got the first goal at 3:06, well after a Flyers power play ended. But he was still on the ice coming out of the box. Braydon Coburn -- minus-6 in the series -- left Carcillo alone.

The second failed power play saw some tic-tac-toe passing by the Rangers after it expired with Benoit Pouliot, who was in the box for goalie interference, getting the eventual game-winner.

Four Rangers scored goals in the series on the same shift leaving the penalty box.

“We moved the puck well, had a couple chances,” Claude Giroux said. “We have to make sure it goes in the net. It’s Game 7. You lose 2-1.

“It doesn’t get closer than that. I think we did a good job staying in the battle. We have a lot of character in this room. For a young team, I think it’s great. This is only going to make it stronger.”

As bad as the second period was, the Flyers got back in the game when rookie Jason Akeson scored off his own blocked shot early in the third on Henrik Lundqvist to make it a nail-biter.

That goal gave the Flyers a shot of adrenalin. The Flyers began a push but the Rangers answered with stronger defense around Lundqvist.

“It was all positive [on the bench],” Akeson said. “Everyone was giving it their all. It’s a tough way to go out, that’s for sure, when you’re expecting to win.”

That was the mindset because the Flyers had come back so many times before -- 11 comeback wins in the third period during the regular season. Not this time.

The game ended on a series of Rangers icings, one debatable with less than three ticks left on the clock that saw a faceoff at center ice instead of in the Rangers' zone.

That didn’t lose the game or the series for the Flyers.

“Everyone feels lousy,” Berube said. “But I’m proud of my players. They went through a lot this year. We were stuck in a hole for a while and they battled out of it.

“Stuck together and went to a Game 7. I’m proud of them. They’re a great bunch of guys and there’s a lot of character in our locker room.”

Indeed, they did, climbing out of a 1-7 grave in October to resurrect their season and playoff chances by the end.

“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Voracek said. “You come so close, do or die and lose that critical Game 7. That’s hockey. We got to make sure and learn from it and use it in the future.”

Ron Hextall talks Claude Giroux's move to LW, Oskar Lindblom's disappointing start

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Ron Hextall talks Claude Giroux's move to LW, Oskar Lindblom's disappointing start

Voorhees, N.J. — With the Flyers off to a hot 4-2 start, there’s a lot to like about the team. There's been the resurgence of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and the immediate impact of rookies like Nolan Patrick and Robert Hagg.

It’s all part of general manager Ron Hextall’s plan, and through six games, it seems to be working.

After Thursday’s morning skate, Hextall spoke at length about the team’s success, the development of the rookies and what to make of Sam Morin and Oskar Lindblom — two young players penciled into the lineup at the start of camp who failed to make the final cut.

Here’s what Hextall had to say about the state of the team:

On the Giroux left-wing experiment
Having an abundance of quality centers forced the Flyers to move one to the wing. And Giroux seemed to be the top option because of his playmaking ability. So far, so good as Giroux is tied for third on the team with nine points (four goals, five assists). 

“It’s pretty obvious that we’d be happy (with Giroux’s success),” Hextall said. …  “When you’re a smart player, you can play all three forward positions. … But G’s a smart player. He has skill, he sees the ice well, he’s gritty, he’s smart with the puck. He’s got all the attributes that he can play all three positions and obviously, that’s a valuable guy because we’re a little loaded up in the middle this year. And then you go ‘OK, who do we want to move? Who can move? Who’s the best fit?’ There’s a lot of things that go into a decision like that and quite frankly, G had never played left wing in all his life and all of a sudden he’s playing left wing and he’s made a real quick transition. So it’s a credit to him first of all for his buy-in. There was no ‘I want to play the middle’ stuff. Second of all, he’s worked at it and set his mind to it so credit to G.”

On Sean Couturier’s offensive potential
Couturier has long been maligned for his offensive abilities, but the scoring has always been there somewhere. He was the eighth-overall pick in 2011 and scored 96 points in each of his final two seasons in junior. Now that he is finally playing on with talent, like Giroux and Voracek — what an upgrade over Dale Weise and Matt Read — Couturier is starting to reach his potential with four goals and three assists this season.

“You never know until you try it, whether it’s going to work, but just the vision and the thought of it, you say ‘Hey, you’ve got a real stabile guy in the middle with two guys on the wings that love to make plays,” Hextall said of the top line. “It’s not like Coots is a poor offensive player. He’s a good offensive player. He’s been in different roles over the years and some of his role hasn’t changed. He’s going to matchup against top players, which he’s very good at. Now he’s got two dynamic players on his wings and again, he’s a stabilizer in the middle. So far, so good.”

On line balance
Perhaps the biggest upgrade over last year’s club is the depth. The Flyers can now roll four potent, speedy lines to compete with almost any team. Give credit to Hextall for addressing the team’s biggest need by getting rid of guys like Read and Chris Vandevelde and allowing the young guns to come up.

“It helps a lot,” Hextall said of the balanced lines. “There were points last year where — in terms of matchups — we had to be very fine in terms of who you’re going to matchup against another team’s top line or even their second line. Now, I think we all feel comfortable whoever’s out there is not going to get buried by whatever line and that’s a good feeling for obviously the coaches and us, but the players as well. We can put anybody out there on the road and we don’t chose the matchups and feel some comfort.”

On Nolan Patrick
One of the reasons Giroux had to make the move to wing was the Flyers’ drafting of Nolan Patrick No. 2 overall. Playing on the third line with Dale Weise and Travis Konecny, Patrick has shown his two-way prowess and oh yeah, he can make plays like this.

“I think he’s been good. I think he’s been real solid, all three zones. I think some people, you expect too much —  second overall and all this hype and everything else,” Hextall said. “This is the NHL. And it’s a huge step so I think he’s done a good job for us. He plays a very poised game, he’s not an erratic player, very methodical in his thinking and predictable in a good way. He makes the right reads, the right plays, he’s typically in the right part of the ice. It comes down to maturity, but it also comes down to hockey sense.”

On Travis Sanheim’s benching
Sick of seeing Sanheim in the press box? You’ll get your chance to see him vs. the Predators Thursday, as he rejoins the lineup after watching the past two games. Sanheim has played in three of the Flyers’ six games, but don’t worry, he’s going to play this year, but how short is his leash? Are Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol on the same page with benching young players?

“I think it’s not going to continue, he’s not going to sit on the bench and continue here for long-term, things are going to change so that’s something that I said at the start of the year,” Hextall said. “I don’t believe in young players sitting, nor having a really small role. … But Travis has played well for us and we’ll see where it goes and we’ll evaluate on a day-to-day basis.

Last season, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and rookie winger Travis Konecny each served multiple stints in the press box for poor defensive play. Hextall didn’t seem to mind.

“People made a big deal when a couple young players last year were sat out and those young players have shown an awful lot of growth this year. With the little things that they help along the way, to realize that you know what, ‘I don’t have a secure spot in the lineup, necessarily for 82 games. I gotta be on the edge, I gotta work out, I gotta play well every night.’ There’s little messages that come out of things like that, which is why a young player — I’m not opposed to a young player sitting, especially for development reasons. Sometimes it just needs to happen an that’s not the case with Travis, but along the way, it is so a young player sits out the odd game. There’s things they learn, they realize that, ‘You know what, I can’t be complacent, I can’t do this, I can’t do that.’ You learn lessons in life and again, I don’t want you  players sitting out a lot and certainly not for the wrong reasons. I mean, if they’re making that many mistakes they’re not going to be here.”

Is Lindblom sulking in the minors?
Lindblom, a fifth-round pick in 2014, had such an impressive 206-17 playing in Sweden’s top league that many penciled him in as a lock to make the team this year. But after an uninspiring training camp, Lindblom was sent to the Phantoms, where he is off to a slow start this season. Hextall doesn’t seem worried, though. 

“Big Sam (Morin) was real good, Philippe (Myers) was real good, Oskar did some good things, probably not quite at the level that we want him to get to or that he’s hoping to get to, but he was fine. Those kids are doing well.

“Training camp, it was pretty obvious that, not early but as we got along, that he wasn’t quite ready for this level. That’s OK. He didn’t fail. Oskar is going to be a good player. We like Oskar as much as we did a month ago, two months ago, three months ago. Yeah, he comes in, you say, “OK, well he’s gonna be one of the guys we look at here’ and he’s just not ready for it. And that’s OK. It’s not a setback. It’s nothing. It’s like, ‘OK, Oskar, go down, play hard’ — and he’s playing hard. … Is he to the level that he can play? No, he’s not but that’s going to come. He’s a young kid, he’s a young player, he’s adjusting to life, the pressure. Everybody’s talking about him, he comes here, there’s all this hype on him. It’s unfair, quite frankly what the expectations that some of these kids come in with.”

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

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Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues' first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak

Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves (see full recap).

Maple Leafs ride big 1st period to win
TORONTO -- Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves in his season debut and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 14 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.

Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0. The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists.

Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period (see full recap).