Lindros, Flyers alumni tie Kennedy, Penguins in energetic game

Lindros, Flyers alumni tie Kennedy, Penguins in energetic game

Five decades of Flyers hockey hit the ice on Saturday night at a packed Wells Fargo Center to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins alumni. And while age may have stolen some of their physical ability, it didn’t take either team’s competitiveness.

“It’s always like that, it’s always like that against Pittsburgh,” said Simon Gagne, who played over a decade with the Flyers before retiring after the 2014-15 season. “Even if it’s not a real game, it’s nothing different.” 

Although the eventual 3-3 tie was about celebrating the 50th anniversary of joining the NHL for both the Flyers and Penguins, the conclusion felt similar to more recent rivalry games. 

As the older alumni like Brian Propp and Mark Howe logged equal ice time late in the third period, the Penguins more recently retired NHL players -- Colby Armstrong, Ryan Malone and Tyler Kennedy, began to double shift. 

“Well you got to shorten the bench there a little bit and add a little speed,” joked Penguins coach Eddie Johnston, who originally had Bryan Trottier with Kennedy. “When we did that we had a couple of guys score big goals for us.”
With four minutes remaining and trailing, 3-2, Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy, who played 50 games with the New Jersey Devils last season, zipped into the zone and down the right side before ripping a full-throttle, short-side wrister that snapped past Brian Boucher to tie the game at three. 

“You could see Kennedy turning on the jets there,” said Flyers forward Eric Lindros. “It was fun to watch.”

Kennedy clearly wasn’t holding back.

“I saw an opening and just tried to shoot as hard as I can,” he said.

"It's always nice to get a win in their building."

Meanwhile, Boucher was lamenting the goal.

“He played the whole third period,” he laughed. “[Kennedy] looked great, what can I say. It was a great shot, it was a bad goal but a great shot, if that makes any sense.”

Despite a late flurry from the Legion of Doom line that had fans standing and Lindros frustrated, the game ended in a justified tie. The Flyers received goals from Dave Brown, Danny Briere and Eric Desjardins, while Malone scored the opening two goals for the Pens.

“You figured it would work its way to a tempo that was competitive and it did in the last five minutes,” Boucher said. “It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it would have been nice to win but ultimately it was a good night.”

Still got it
While it may have been odd to see Kennedy go full speed in an alumni game, the Flyers most recent NHL line of Gagne, Danny Briere and Todd Fedoruk weren’t holding back much either.

“We were trying,” Gagne said. “Especially in front of our fans.” 

Less than two minutes into the second period, Gagne found Briere at the right circle. The diminutive forward retired following the 2014-15 but you wouldn’t know it as he cut to the net and beat J.S. Aubin with a top-shelf backhander to make it 2-0. 

"Living the dream for one more day," Briere said. "That’s what it was. The morning skate, hanging out with the guys, hearing stories, playing in front of almost twenty thousand people. The whole thing was just amazing from beginning to the end.”

When asked if his smart back-check game has caused him to re-think retirement, Gagne laughed and dedicated credit to his linemates. 

“Maybe, maybe,” he joked. “It’s been two years. I had a blast, it was fun. I had a chance to play with Danny and Fridge -- two young retired guys, so that helped.” 

Reuniting the Legion
The main attraction on Saturday was the Legion of Doom. The 90’s trio quickly recaptured the magic, and like old times, dazzled in the offensive zone and cycled the puck with ease. 

Renberg was stuffed on a breakaway late in the first period and LeClair had the game-winner on his stick late in the third, but was turned away by an impressive Jocelyn Thibault. The line went scoreless.

“We had a number of chances,” Lindros said. “Today it didn’t go for us but we had a lot of fun doing our best. We wanted to do it for the sellout group.” 

Still, the chemistry was there.

“He’s a turner, he’s a spinner and he can come off the boards,” Lindros said of Renberg. “I was trying to find these guys in good positions because I know Johnny is always going to the net.” 

Despite failing to get on the score sheet, Lindros cherished the opportunity. 

“We all seemed to go our own way in life and we all come from different parts of the world,” he said. “Reny’s in Sweden, Johnny is down here and I’m in Toronto. I’m pretty happy to come out here and play hockey. It’s the best.”

Clarke, Barber retiring… again
After decades of participation, Bobby Clarke is ready to hang up his alumni skates.

“I think I have been here for 50 years,” said Clarke, who centered the legendary “LCB” line which features Reggie Leach and Bill Barber. “There are new alumni coming every seven or eight years. If you were bad today, the next celebration would be worse. I don’t think there’s any use in pushing it. I was really, really appreciative to be back with the fans, it was just incredible.”

Barber supports his linemate's decision.

“We’re the older group, we’re all in our mid 60’s plus, so it’s hard on us," he said. "But I wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have played with one leg to be honest with you. To have the opportunity to be out there for our fans, we have the greatest fans in the world. It was a real pleasure to play here in Philly in front of a crowd like that.”

If it was Clarke's last, he went out on a high note. The captain, who was selected first star of the game, appreciated the large crowd.

“I think it’s the only city in the league that would do that, on the hockey scene at least,” he said. “They pay to come out. I mean, there are still some good players to watch like Lindros, LeClair and Briere. Those guys are still pretty good players, but there are a lot of us that aren’t. It was really fun though, it really was.”

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

The Flyers lost all three games this week and ended a five-game homestand a mediocre 2-2-1. Some observations:

• James van Riemsdyk put up a goal and two assists in Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning. In his second game back from injury, the Flyers scored three power-play goals, matching their total from Oct. 13 to Nov. 16, which spanned 43 opportunities.

Think he's a difference-maker?

However, what is truly worrisome is that a glaring concern entering the 2018-19 season was on full display Saturday. We knew the Flyers could score. This team has talent, the power play won't be this bad, pucks will be put in the net.

But can the Flyers stop teams?

With the situation in net and the ongoing penalty-kill woes, the Flyers can score all they want — it might not make a difference.

- Hall

• I didn't think Calvin Pickard played bad Saturday against the Lightning. I believe he was the victim of circumstance.

The Lightning's second goal was leaky but the rest? Ivan Provorov played soft and was outmuscled by Brayden Point, who is two inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter, on the third goal. Wayne Simmonds lost his man on the overtime winner. The other two were PPGs.

Still, Pickard finished with a .769 save percentage. His last start wasn't much better — .778 save percentage. He has a .852 save percentage in eight games. Pickard wasn't bad against Tampa, but the bottom line is, you need your goalie to makes saves and Pickard hasn't shown he's capable of doing it on a consistent basis.

With Brian Elliott out at least two weeks, the Flyers gave Pickard first swing Saturday. It's time to end this experiment. Alex Lyon deserves an opportunity.

- Dougherty

• The Flyers outshot their opponent in each of the three losses during the week.

Overall, they outshot the opposition 105-83 but were outscored 11-6.

For some context, this past week the Maple Leafs registered 104 shots and allowed 107 in three games but went 3-0-0 and outscored the competition 12-6.

It makes you wonder — are the Flyers getting the quality shots you need on a consistent basis to win games?

"We did give up some shots, but they weren’t scoring chances," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the Flyers outshot Tampa 45-26, "so you can shoot a lot of pucks and it’s going to look good on the stat line, but if they’re not quality chances, it’s two-fold."

The Flyers have eight losses when they outshoot an opponent, which is tied for most in the NHL.
- Hall

• Through 20 games, the Flyers are 9-9-2. This was expected to be a season this team takes a step forward and a quarter of the way in, the Flyers are again average at best with huge, gaping deficiencies. Team defense remains a problem, the goaltending situation has been a total miscalculation by general manager Ron Hextall and the penalty kill has been a disaster.

The Flyers ended this week tying a season high three-game losing streak and while they did so by showing fight — something they didn't do three weeks ago — there needs to be accountability. There's a reason opposing players no longer fear Wells Fargo Center. The fans have been patient than ever but patience grows tired and it's reaching its tipping point.

Just look at the penalty kill — which allowed four power-play goals last week. It's been brutal for the past four seasons and it's been worse than ever. Yet, there's been no change in structure or coach, no accountability. Why?

- Dougherty

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This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

Three weeks ago, this would not have happened. In fact, we have hard evidence to back this up. The Flyers were gut-punched by the Islanders on Oct. 27 at the Wells Fargo Center and laid down. The end result was a barbarous 6-1 defeat that created social media angst among fans.

On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers’ will was tested again. But this time, the outcome showed us just how far they’ve come since that depressing October Saturday three weeks ago. If there’s such a thing as a character loss, the Flyers’ 6-5 overtime defeat to the Lightning is the face of it (see observations).

This had the making of a story we’ve written before, one in which the Flyers face adversity on home ice and crumble. The Flyers were behind 5-1 in the third period after Tampa capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play for two goals in 51 seconds. Three weeks ago, that’s game, set, match.

Instead, the Flyers rung off four goals in 6:04 to force OT. It’s the ninth time in league history that a team erased a four-goal deficit in a game’s final 10 minutes.

“We showed some good character,” James van Riemsdyk said. “Any time you can get a point when you’re down four goals in the third period, I’d say that’s a pretty good thing. … 

“You want to have good responses. We had some pretty good process-related stuff as far as carrying the play, but we’re paid here and we’re here to get results, so it’s not good enough.”

van Riemsdyk, in his second game back from a knee injury, was a major part of the Flyers’ comeback. He snapped the team’s 0-for-15 power-play drought in the second period with his first goal of the season and had assists on the goal that began the comeback and completed it.

There is a lot to unpack after Saturday. The loss capped off a five-game homestand that began promising but ended leaving much more to be desired — 2-2-1. The Flyers have now lost three straight, tying their season-high losing streak that came after the Islanders loss on Oct. 27. The penalty kill had another merciless effort, allowing three more power-play goals. The Flyers have now allowed an NHL-worst 22 power-play goals and the PK ranks 30th at 68.6 percent.

Claude Giroux became just the fourth player in franchise history to reach 700 points with a two-assist game, which put his total up to 701 (see story). He also moved into a tie with Brian Propp for second all-time in team history with 480 helpers. The Flyers dominated just about every play-driving metric and outshot the Lightning, 45-26. Their power play awoke with three goals.

“It’s hard. We want to take a lot of positives out of that,” said Travis Konecny, who had his fourth career two-goal game. “It shows what we have in the locker room. It’s just tough to look at it that way. (Head coach Dave Hakstol) comes in between the second and third and says we’re actually playing a good game, it’s just we got to get our bounces and stick together.”

Stuck together they did, and if we want to take anything away from Saturday’s OTL, it’s that. That didn’t happen three weeks ago.

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