Flyers

Flyers undone by missed power-play chances

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Flyers undone by missed power-play chances

The Flyers looked good on the power play. Really good.

They had fans in the packed Wells Fargo Center on their feet Wednesday night at times during each of their seven power-play chances. There were pretty plays, lightning-fast shots -- everything you could ask for in a hockey game.

Except for the goals, though. There weren’t enough of those.

The Flyers were a disappointing 1 for 7 on the man advantage in their season opener, a sizable contributing factor to their 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs (see story). They looked strong and the effort was there, but it was all for nothing in the end.

“We’re doing the right things out there,” Claude Giroux said. “I had a couple of good shots, Hartsy (Scott Hartnell) had a one-timer in the slot and I think [Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan] Bernier got a glove on it, and Kimmo [Timonen] had a couple shots.

“The puck was going to the net. We had our chances, but we just couldn’t put it in.”

In total, the Flyers sent 13 shots in on net during the man advantage, but sent plenty more high or wide. Only Brayden Schenn was able to connect, with just seven seconds left on the clock in the first period.

It should have been a momentum changer.

“Definitely [frustrating],” said Vinny Lecavalier, who assisted Schenn’s goal. “I thought we moved the puck around pretty well. Both units had many chances. Grade-A chances, but couldn’t put it away.”

Last season, as you might recall, the Flyers actually excelled on the power play. They were third in the league and unstoppable at times. It was their even-strength play, then, that thwarted their postseason chances (they were actually successful on the kill, as well, ranked fifth in the league).

This year, though, they’re supposed to be even better on special teams. Two of the big offseason additions, Mark Streit and Lecavalier, were hyped not just as overall improvements but as power-play specialists, too.

Instead, the Flyers allowed far too many missed opportunities, which not only hurt them on the scoreboard but emotionally benefited the Maple Leafs.

“I really believe that when you kill a penalty, you get momentum,” Giroux said. “We had our chances. It’s frustrating because power play was clicking, ours and the other one. It’s frustrating, but you’ve got to stay positive. It’s only one game.”

Coach Peter Laviolette, actually, was positive when asked to reflect on his team’s power-play performance.

“I think the power play did a good job,” Laviolette said. “Both the units were able to get in and get the scoring opportunities and the looks they wanted. It would have been nice if one or two more could have fallen, but it didn’t happen.”

Of course, a lot of credit is due to Bernier, the Leafs’ goalie, who completely kept his team in the game, even through a stretch of 12:13 during which the Leafs failed to register a single shot. The Flyers sent 32 total shots in on him Wednesday night.

Had they been facing any other netminder, perhaps, there’d have been a much different outcome.

“He just battled and stopped the puck,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “Any of the loose pucks that were around, he seemed to have the ability to scoop up with his trapper or his blocker. He grabbed pucks and when there were loose pucks around he didn’t get many of the second opportunities.”

The Flyers now have a couple days of practice before they travel to Montreal on Saturday to face the Canadiens. In preseason, they were good at identifying mistakes and working to correct them. It's not that their power-play was a "mistake" per se, but there’s no doubt that after the loss to the Leafs they know what they’ll have to work on.

“Sometimes you get caught in those games where you feel like you are out-chancing them,” Schenn said. “… We did create some chances there, and we just have to find a way to finish -- and finish teams when you are getting those chances."

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

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Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for his 21st career shutout and Zach Werenski and Artemi Panarin scored in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

New York ran into a hot goalie in Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who notched his second shutout of the season in powering Columbus to its third straight victory.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was nearly as good against the increasingly aggressive Blue Jackets, stopping 40 shots on the night. The Rangers (11-8-1) lost their second straight following a six-game win streak.

After a scoreless first period in which both goalies made some slick, sprawling saves, Werenski found the back of the net with his sixth goal of the season 13:34 into the second.

Brandon Dubinsky lost the handle of the puck in the slot, and Werenski picked it up just inside the right circle and beat Lundqvist with a one-timer.

Columbus (12-7-1) was the aggressor in the second frame, outshooting the Rangers 19-9, and kept up the pressure in the third.

Panarin scored his fourth goal of the season on a power play 7:14 into the third period, rocketing a slap shot from the high slot that ricocheted off the bar and in.

The Blue Jackets are 9-1-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer (see full recap).

Red Wings’ 3rd-period goals enough to top Sabres
DETROIT -- Tomas Tatar scored a go-ahead goal midway through third period and the Detroit Red Wings went on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday night.

Detroit's Luke Glendening broke a scoreless tie late in the second period. Ryan O'Reilly pulled Buffalo into a 1-all tie 5:50 into the third.

Dylan Larkin scored late in the game and Jimmy Howard had 19 saves for the Red Wings. They have won consecutive games at home for the first time this season.

Buffalo's Robin Lehner stopped the first 20 shots he faced and finished with 30 saves.

The Sabres have lost four straight, one away from their longest losing streak of the season, but were thankful they didn't lose more than a game in Detroit.

Jack Eichel went to the dressing room late in the second period after coming off the ice slowly, keeping weight off his right skate following a collision with Glendening, and making a brief stop on the bench. Buffalo's standout center was cleared to return at the start of the third period.

After a scoreless first period with a combined 14 shots, Detroit outshot Buffalo 13-4 in the second and took control without that translating to a big lead (see full recap).

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes.

Dougherty
If Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss in Winnipeg confirmed anything, it's the Flyers cannot break up their top line. They might not be able to score much, but their only scoring is coming from Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

The Couturier line accounts for 48 percent of the Flyers' offense, or 25 goals. Factor the defense and top line together, and that's 59 percent, as the blue line has produced six tallies this season.

Of the 21 goals the Flyers have scored that do not come from the top line or blue line, 12 have come from two players, Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds hasn't scored in 11 games, and Filppula has one goal in his past nine games.

Two lines have stayed intact since Day 1 — the Couturier line and the fourth line of Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl. Head coach Dave Hakstol has been hesitant about breaking up his fourth line, and rightfully so. Laughton, Leier and Raffl have chemistry, and they're almost always cycling in the offensive zone.

Nolan Patrick just returned after missing three weeks because of a "suspected" concussion and played sparingly against the Jets. He should help the Flyers' scoring woes, but he won't solve them. I think it's time to break up the fourth line, and based on the Winnipeg game, it looks like a possibility Hakstol is considering.

Here's why. Raffl played on the second power-play unit against the Jets, which was a first this season. Perhaps Hakstol didn't want to throw Patrick back into the fire and watched the rookie's minutes.

Breaking up lines Nos. 2, 3 and 4 is the best course of action. Travis Konecny is struggling with confidence, Jordan Weal hasn't been great, and those are two players the Flyers need to get going. It's time to end the Dale Weise in the top-nine experiment.

With what the Flyers have, here is what I would do:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Michael Raffl
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

Hall
There's no need to panic if you're the Flyers.

First, you finally have a no-doubt-about-it top line. Voracek, Couturier and Giroux have blended beautifully and are doing damage, as the Flyers entered Friday one of only three teams in the NHL with a trio of players over 20 points each. Don't break that up just because there's an imbalance below it. 

And second, it's a long season. Ups and downs are common and things can change quickly. Just look at last season. The Flyers ripped off 10 straight wins and scored the NHL's second-most goals through the first two months of 2016-17. As we all know, they didn't make the postseason and finished as a bottom-third goal-scoring club.

The Flyers simply need to continue experimenting with their middle six and see what eventually works best. A little patience was going to be required when you're relying on a 19-year-old rookie in Patrick, a 20-year-old still finding himself at this level in Konecny and a 25-year-old facing his first full NHL season in Weal.

And let's not forget, the defense is exceptionally young with two rookies (Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim), a 20-year-old leader (Ivan Provorov) and a third-year player coming off a sophomore slump (Shayne Gostisbehere).

But back to the forwards. 

If you recall, a stretch from Oct. 10-17 featured Filppula centering Weal and Simmonds on the second line, with Patrick centering Konecny and Weise on the third unit. It resulted in a pretty productive three-game span in which the Flyers picked up two wins and outscored the opposition 18-9.

I really liked the dynamic of that middle six. And the Flyers can now return to it with Patrick suiting up. He will be eased back into heavier minutes, but he can make a difference when healthy and comfortable. Patrick and Konecny can still play plenty of minutes on the third line with less pressure and potentially more favorable matchups.

We've seen Weal and Simmonds work well together, and Filppula adds smarts and steadiness down the middle.

But the important thing to remember is the Flyers are only 19 games into an 82-game grind. Scoring can come and go at times, and there's no reason it can't come down the line.

So, here's what I like best for the Flyers right now:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl