Andrew MacDonald

Flyers fail biggest test of season with loss to Blue Jackets

Flyers fail biggest test of season with loss to Blue Jackets


Allowing two goals during a span of 11 seconds in the first period set the tone for the Flyers in a 5-3 loss to the Blue Jackets in the final meeting between the two teams.

Bad defensive coverages and a failure to clear their own zone led to a very poor start.

Claude Giroux scored the Flyers' first goal for the third straight game and has now scored 11 goals in his last 18 games.

The Flyers had to fight back from three different two-goal deficits, but couldn’t manufacture the game-tying goal in the third period.

Shayne Gostisbehere scored his 12th goal just 16 seconds into the second period to reduce the Blue Jackets' lead to 3-2, but Columbus answered just 3:09 later as Cam Atkinson scored his second goal of the game.

Atkinson netted a hat trick after adding an empty-net goal in the final second.

The Flyers and Blue Jackets are now tied with 81 points in the Metropolitan Division as both teams have 11 games remaining. The Flyers hold the tiebreaker with one more regulation/overtime victory.

• It took all of 11 seconds for the Flyers to fall behind 2-0. With the Flyers chasing the puck around their end, they couldn’t clear the zone as Travis Sanheim pushed the puck forward without gaining possession. That allowed the Jackets to maintain possession and Oliver Bjorkstrand from one knee roofed a shot from close range. Those types of mishaps the Flyers must avoid.  

• Columbus came right back and doubled its lead with four of its defenders along the boards. Once the Blue Jackets gained possession, Boone Jenner simply beat Brandon Manning to the front of the net and redirected Jack Johnson’s slap pass in which Petr Mrazek had very little shot at stopping. It’s a lost board battle leading to a breakdown in coverage that we’ve seen from the Flyers on several occasions this season.  

• Giroux had Sergei Bobrovsky beaten on a breakaway attempt but the puck hit the post. However, Giroux received his redemption and fired a one-timer past Bobrovsky. The Flyers' top two lines were very good in the offensive zone in the first period.

• Another tough break for Mrazek as the Blue Jackets took a 3-1 lead after Atkinson batted in Seth Jones’ shot from the point. Another goal where the Flyers were chasing the puck in their end and couldn’t clear the zone.

• Two bad goals to start the second period. Gostisbehere scored on a simple snap shot from the right circle that Bobrovsky couldn’t contain as the puck snuck past him. Mrazek answered with a bad goal of his own as Atkinson beat him blocker side. The way Mrazek played it appeared as if he was never on his angle. 

• Giroux took a puck to the side of his face that forced him to go to the locker room and get treatment. The Flyers' captain returned in the final three minutes of the second period.

• Andrew MacDonald needed every bit of the 72 inches from post to post to beat Bobrovsky as his slap shot clanked off the right post and then the left post to cut the Jackets' lead to 4-3 after 40 minutes of action.

• The Flyers came out for the third period with a desperate mindset, outshooting Columbus, 9-3, in the first 10 minutes, but not much from the high-danger areas.

• John Tortorella completely lost his mind when the officials whistled the Blue Jackets for too many men on the ice. His theatrics make those seats behind the bench worth the price of admission.

• The officials let a lot of stuff go in that first period, including a clear crosscheck into the back of Sean Couturier on the Giroux goal. Not sure how or why that wasn't called. 

Maybe it's the mask? Mrazek brilliant in win

Maybe it's the mask? Mrazek brilliant in win


Following a last-minute heartbreaker in Boston, the Flyers responded as well as you could have asked by beating the Jets, 2-1, Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

Against one of the hotter teams in the NHL, the Flyers (35-23-11) snapped a five-game losing streak to right the ship a bit after a sudden 0-4-1 start to March.

Claude Giroux and Andrew MacDonald both scored even-strength goals, while Petr Mrazek, with a little more rest and wearing his new mask, was sharp in net when the Flyers really needed him.

The Flyers gutted the game out late when Winnipeg pulled the goalie for an extra man.

The Jets (41-18-9) had won nine of their last 11 games. However, the Flyers have not surrendered a win to Winnipeg in Philadelphia since January 2012.

With 13 games to play, the Flyers are in a second-place tie (for now) with the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. They sit four points up on the Blue Jackets and five ahead of the Devils.

Washington plays the Sharks today, Columbus is back in action Monday and New Jersey visits the Predators tonight (see results).

• Giroux opened the game's scoring in the second period with a pretty snipe from the circle, his 24th goal of the season. Giroux, who is four points shy of passing Eric Lindros (659 points) as the franchise's fifth all-time leading scorer, has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in his last 16 games.

• MacDonald handed the Flyers a 2-0 lead in the second period after a delayed video review by the officials showed his shot crossed the goal line.

• Mrazek, who was 0-3-1 with a 4.42 goals-against average in his last four games, was excellent. He made a timely glove stab on Patrik Laine during the first and also quelled a shorthanded opportunity in the second. He finished with 26 saves and had no chance on his only goal allowed.

Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck stopped 33 shots. Steve Mason (lower-body injury) did not suit up in his first game back at the Wells Fargo Center.

• Travis Konecny sure is feisty for 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. He was furious after taking a few shots along the boards, then seconds later laid out the 6-5, 206-pound Laine. Overall, Konecny took two of the Flyers' four penalties (see story).

• The Flyers weren't terrible in the discipline department, but they weren't well behaved either, which is key against the Jets. Laine came in leading the NHL with 17 man-advantage goals, while Blake Wheeler had the most power-play assists with 28. The Flyers held Winnipeg's No. 2-ranked power play to 1 for 4. Laine scored on a nasty blast in the third period, cutting the Flyers' lead to 2-1.

• While the penalty kill was successful, the Flyers' power play stayed stuck in the mud. It looked out of sorts and finished 0 for 2, dropping to 2 for its last 26.

• Called up Friday night under emergency conditions (see story), rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim played well in his first game since Jan. 13. Sanheim showed his offensive upside with a nice stretch pass and also broke up a potential rush by the Jets. He was strong.

• Sean Couturier has gone 11 games without a goal. He needs one more tally for 30 on the season.

• Jordan Weal, Taylor Leier and Dale Weise were healthy scratches for a second straight game, while Matt Read played his second in a row.

The Jets were without 51-point center Mark Scheifele (upper-body injury).

• The Flyers on Monday night welcome the Pacific-leading Golden Knights for their first-ever trip to the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBCSP). The Flyers won the first-ever matchup, a 4-1 decision in Vegas on Feb. 11.

Flyers have questions after lousy Florida trip

Flyers have questions after lousy Florida trip

The Flyers are done with the state of Florida, and aside from receiving a reprieve from paying state income tax, there weren't many rays of hope to come out of the Sunshine State over the weekend. The Flyers allowed 10 goals over the weekend set against the Lightning and Panthers and have now surrendered 14 goals over their last three games, all losses. It's clear the Flyers have some warts to fix, and the first chance for fixing? Wednesday when the rival Penguins come to town.

Sanheim time?
Defensively, the Flyers were a mess over the weekend for a myriad of reasons. Against the Lightning, it came down to poor collective execution in the defensive zone exits, which were a problem area going back to last Thursday’s clunker against the Hurricanes. Ivan Provorov’s errant pass led to Dan Girardi’s goal in the second period and Andrew MacDonald’s blatant third-period giveaway led to Victor Hedman’s go-ahead goal.

Against the Panthers, the curse was the Flyers' self-inflicted wounds and failures to contain the Panthers' skilled forwards, coupled with more of those pesky turnovers that resulted in stretch passes and breakaways. With injuries to MacDonald (upper body, day to day, per GM Ron Hextall) and Johnny Oduya (left Sunday's game, no official update yet), the Flyers may be looking to dip into their Lehigh Valley depth to add a defenseman. Travis Sanheim has played exceptionally well with 16 points in 18 games and an eye-popping plus-14 rating since he was sent down. While Sanheim can be more assertive offensively at the AHL level, it’s critical that his defense has improved for him to earn a spot on the Flyers' blue line, but I don’t think there’s much of a downgrade with him over Oduya.

Sure, Oduya has veteran experience, but there’s a reason why the Senators weren’t able to trade him for a low-round draft pick and why roughly two-thirds of the league passed up on the 36-year-old defenseman before the Flyers claimed him off waivers last week. It’s naive to think Oduya could just settle in and fortify the Flyers' defense corps. Oduya needs practice time, but the early results in Florida weren’t favorable.   

Power-play Patrick
One of the biggest decisions looming for head coach Dave Hakstol is the personnel on his top power-play unit as Wayne Simmonds looks set to return from injury this week. Nolan Patrick has excelled since he was inserted onto that unit in Simmonds' place. In fact, the Flyers' rookie center has scored the team’s last three power-play goals. The last Flyer outside of Patrick to score on the power play was Claude Giroux on Feb. 13 in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Devils.

Patrick’s net-front presence is different from what Simmonds brings. Patrick has a knack for finding the open seams down low that require quick, inside looks on plays from the perimeter. He has soft hands and is capable of accurately redirecting and elevating pucks sent in his direction. The "Wayne Train" prefers a more blue-collar approach as a disruptive force, taking away the goaltender’s vision while redirecting shots from the point and hammering away at rebounds.

Both styles have proven to be equally effective on the Flyers' setup. My hunch is that Hakstol reinserts Simmonds on that top unit once he’s healthy. He’s a leader and you can’t discount the 85 power-play goals he’s scored since joining the Flyers in 2011-12 (second to Alex Ovechkin in that span). It’s not as if the power play has been clicking over its past seven games with Simmonds out of the lineup. The group is just 3 for 22, or 14 percent efficiency.

Ghost and the gang
Regardless of the outcome, Shayne Gostisbehere was all smiles after the Panthers game as he met with with the Florida state championship hockey team from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty members were fatally shot on Feb. 14. Gostisbehere attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas for two years.

“It’s the least I could do,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve got to thank the Panthers for setting it up and obviously the Flyers for going with it. It’s just something to take their minds off. They’ve had a rough past couple of weeks here."