Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 11/14/14 @ MTL; Flyers Lose Sloppy to CBJ: Prospect Updates

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PREVIEW: FLYERS @ CANADIENS

Looking to bounce back after a sloppy home loss on Friday to a struggling and severely depleted Columbus team, the Philadelphia Flyers (7-6-2) are back in action on Saturday night as they head to Quebec to take on the Montreal Canadiens (12-4-1). Game time is 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised locally on CSN Philadelphia and nationally on NHL Network.

This is the second of three meetings between the teams this season and the first of two in Montreal. On October 11, the host Flyers took a 3-0 lead into the third period only to get their doors blown off in a lopsided third period and ultimately lose 4-3 via shootout.

After this game, the Flyers have a three-night schedule break before taking on the New York Rangers in a nationally televised road game on Wednesday. The Habs travel to Detroit on Sunday to take on the Red Wings before returning home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night. Flyers outlook

Whenever a club is coming off a schedule break as long as the one the Flyers just had, it can be a challenge to recover game legs and timing in the first period of the first game back from the break. Philly needed to avoid a slow start against the scuffling Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and, instead, found themselves chasing the game for much of the night.

Flyers Jakub Voracek enters this game with points in 14 of 15 games this season. He has points in nine games in a row and has already recorded eigh multi-point games. Linemate Claude Giroux has a four-game point streak (three, goals, four assists). Brayden Schenn also brings a four-game point streak (one goal, four assists) into this game.

The Flyers power play clicked repeatedly against Columbus, coming within one second of notching three goals in three man advantages. As it was, the club generated power play goals by Giroux and Voracek and an even strength tally by Michael Del Zotto scored exactly as an early third period power play expired.

The penalty killing, on the other hand, sprung a leak. The Flyers were strafed for three power play goals against in four tries; one on a five-on-three and a pair of five-on-fours.

The first time the Flyers played Montreal, Ray Emery played a stellar game in net despite the club’s third period collapse and ultimate shootout loss. It is unknown as of this writing whether Steve Mason or Emery will be in goal on Saturday night.

On the injury front, left winger Michael Raffl (lower body) will be out six weeks after sustaining an injury blocking a shot last Tuesday. Defenseman Luke Schenn (left shoulder) got hurt in the first period of Saturday’s game and is said to be somewhat ahead of the initial two-week estimate for his absence. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald (right knee) could return in late November. Canadiens outlook

The Habs come into this game riding a four-game winning streak. The month of November started out poorly with 6-2 and 5-0 blowout losses to Calgary and Chicago. Montreal then squeaked past woeful Buffalo, 2-1, via shootout. In the last three games, the Habs have gotten back on track.

Over the past week’s homestand, the Canadiens rolled past Minnesota by a 4-1 count, blanked Winnipeg 3-0 and, most recently, rode a second period offensive explosion to a 5-1 shellacking of arch-rival Boston.

Entering this game, Max Pacioretty leads the Canadiens in goals (eight), points (13) and plus-minus rating (+10). The Canadiens come into this game ranked 24th offensively in the NHL, largely due to a struggling power play. However, the Habs feature a balanced attack and have outscored opponents at even strength. Seven Montreal players have eight or more points, and eight players have scored at least three goals.

Carey Price (2.43 GAA, 10-3-1 record, .920 save percentage) is slated to get his 15th start of the season. Over the last three games, Price has turned back 80 of 82 shots for a .976 save percentage. He recorded a 29-save shutout in the win against the Jets.

Montreal enters this game ranked as the top faceoff team in the NHL. The Flyers held their own in that department the first time the teams played this season, winning 26 of 53 draws.

On the Montreal injury front, Michael Bournival is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Recently acquired veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar missed the first six weeks of the season while with Dallas due to an ankle injury but is now playing. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 3.20 (3rd), Canadiens 2.41 (24th)

Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 3.00 (23rd), Canadiens 2.53 (12th)

Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 1.03 (20th), Canadiens 1.10 (15th)

Power play efficiency: Flyers 25.0% (4th), Canadiens 8.5% (28th)

Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 75.5% (25th), Canadiens 85.1% (10th)

Faceoff percentage: Flyers 50.6% (13th), Canadiens 55.1% (1st) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

17 Wayne Simmonds – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek

18 R.J. Umberger – 40 Vincent Lecavalier – 42 Jason Akeson

10 Brayden Schenn – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read

36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 76 Chris VandeVelde

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

15 Michael Del Zotto – 55 Nick Schultz

26 Carlo Colaicovo – 5 Braydon Coburn

35 Steve Mason / 29 Ray Emery

Scratches: Andrew MacDonald (right knee), Luke Schenn (left shoulder), Michael Raffl (lower body), Blair Jones (healthy).

CANADIENS

27 Alex Galchenyuk – 14 Tomas Plekanec – 11 Brendan Gallagher

67 Max Pacioretty – 51 David Desharnais – 15 P.A. Parenteau

26 Jiri Sekac – 81 Lars Eller – 8 Brandon Prust

23 Drayson Bowman – 20 Manny Malhotra – 22 Dale Weise

79 Andrei Markov – 76 P.K. Subban

74 Alexei Emelin – 55 Sergei Gonchar

43 Mike Weaver – 77 Tom Gilbert

31 Carey Price

[35 Dustin Tokarski]

********* FLYERS LOSE SLOPPY GAME TO COLUMBUS, 4-3

If ever there was a matchup that had “trap game” written all over it before the opening faceoff, it was Friday night’s meeting between the Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers obligingly stepped right into the trap.

The Flyers were coming off a five-night schedule break, riding a three-game winning streak and had a trip to Montreal looming on Saturday. The Blue Jackets brought in a nine-game losing streak (0-8-1), were missing nearly half of their roster due to injury, brought a struggling offensive and a team defense that was hemorrhaging goals against into this game.

To their credit, Columbus played an urgent, hard-working and tenacious game. However, the bigger issue on this night was a lack of attention to detail by the Flyers: bad turnovers and failed clears, poor positioning, lazy penalties, soft play along the walls by a significant number of players, plus average goaltending from Mason. The Flyers penalty killing work was abysmal, with insufficient puck pressure, a lack of blocked shots when needed, failed clears and no one clearing the porch.

The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead on a James Wisniewski power play goal at 8:23 of the first period. This was a double deflection goal off Matt Read and Braydon Coburn. Ryan Johansen recorded the first of his four assists on the night. Tim Erixon drew the secondary assist. The goal came on Columbus’ first shot on goal of the game.

Claude Giroux knotted the score at 12:58 of the first period, drilling a one-timer that deflected off the leg of Columbus defenseman Dalton Prout and through the pads of goaltender Curtis McElhinney (24 saves). Mark Streit and Jakub Voracek received the assists.

Columbus’ Nick Foligno restored the lead at 17:10 of the opening stanza on the team’s second power play tally of the game. One again the Flyers made it too easy for the Blue Jackets to move the puck around the offensive zone. It is also worth noting, however, that ex-Flyer Scott Hartnell got away with a rather blatant hook on Philadelphia defenseman Nick Grossmann as Grossmann tried to scramble back to cover an open Foligno near the right post. The puck actually hit Grossmann’s stick as it went across. Erixon and Johansen received the assists.

The Flyers’ got their own second power play tally of the game at 3:21 of the middle period to re-tie the game at 2-2. Voracek hustled to a loose puck in front, continued to move left and fired the puck into the net. Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds drew the assists.

Columbus went ahead to stay at 9:47 of the middle frame. Mason and several Flyers, including a sprawling Wayne Simmonds, committed themselves too early. A patient Foligno waited it out, moved to his right to find a shooting lane and snapped the puck home. Johansen and Jack Johnson received the assists.

The Blue Jackets opened up a two-goal lead with a five-on-three power play goal at 13:37 of the second period. A failed clearing opportunity for Philadelphia’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare proved fatal seconds later. Mason’s stick played the rebound of a tough initial stop right over to a pinching Wisniewski, who fired home his second goal of the game. Foligno and Johansen earned the helpers.

Three of the Flyers’ four penalties in this game were careless tripping infractions. The other was a needless Michael Del Zotto inteference penalty in the first period on a hit several feet away from the puck. Columbus’ Corey Tropp returned the favor with an undisciplined tripping penalty behind the Flyers net in the final minute of the second period.

Giroux came within a whisker of his second goal of the game in the final three seconds of the middle period. Receiving a perfect cross-ice pass from Voracek, Giroux had McIlhinney down and out. However, Wisniewski stood in the crease in the goaltender’s place and blocked the shot attempt.

As the carryover time on the Tropp penalty hit the expiration point (actually, there was still one second on the scoreboard penalty clock but the time of the goal was later changed to one second later), Del Zotto hammered home a blast from near the top of the left circle on a feed from Giroux. Goaltender Mason earned his second assist of the season for passing the puck up to Giroux. After the scoring change, the official time of the goal was 1:10 of the third period.

The Flyers got outshot 14-10 in the third period and 38-27 for the game. They did have a few chances to tie the game, including a golden opportunity for Simmonds and one late opportunity for Brayden Schenn that got blocked by Johansen.

POST-GAME NOTES AND QUOTES:

* During the first TV timeout of the game, there was a nice video tribute to Scott Hartnell on the Arenavision screen. Hartnell received a huge ovation from the crowd and his former Flyers teammates tapped their sticks on the ice in acknowledgement.

* Former Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger skated the first shift of the game on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Thereafter, he was moved back to Vincent Lecavalier’s line, with Wayne Simmonds on the left wing of the top unit. Umberger finished the game with zero shots and two credited hits in 12:39 of ice time.

* Flyers head coach Craig Berube on whether his team was outskated: “We couldn’t keep up, that’s what it looked like to me. Their speed really got to us… couldn’t break the puck out properly. There were times when we had good shifts, offensively were getting some good time and didn’t shoot the puck enough. We looked like we were just a step behind.”

* Berube on the play of the line of Umberger, Lecavalier and Jason Akeson: “They need to work harder and compete harder. They need to win battles, that’s the bottom line. You can’t go out there and play in this league if you don’t want to compete and you don’t want to skate. As a line they need to do that.”

* Wayne Simmonds on whether the game was a recipe for a letdown: “Obviously it was tonight. I know that a lot didn’t go the way we planned. That’s for sure. You know we have to put it behind us. The good thing about hockey is we’re going to have another game soon and our soon is tomorrow. So we have to let that one go and focus on tomorrow night.”

* Steve Mason on the lackluster game play: “It seemed like a sloppy game from the start. Pucks were being deflected all over the place, pucks were bouncing it and it was just a very unorganized game from the start it seemed like it cost us.”

* Mark Streit on how the team played at five-on-five in this game compared to the rest of the homestand: ““Just a little bit slow, sluggish and not sharp. I thought they were a little quicker out there and first on pucks and we looked a little slow. It can’t happen any night, it doesn’t matter who you play. If you’re going to lose a game like that it’s unacceptable. We have to bounce back tomorrow.”

* Claude Giroux on the same issue: “I think we can do better with five on five. After a few games this season we started playing five on five better, created more offense with getting pucks to the net. We had a couple of more chances tonight but it has to be better.”

************ PHANTOMS AND PROSPECT UPDATES

* The Lehigh Valley Phantoms dropped a 3-1 road decision to the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night. An early third period power play goal by Brandon Manning tied the score at 1-1 and evened out a first period power play tally by the Penguins’ Scott Wilson. The tie was fairly short-lived, however, as Bryan Rust reclaimed the lead for WB/S with an even strength marker at 8:06 of the third period. The Pens tacked on a late empty netter for the final margin of victory. Rob Zepp made 20 saves in a losing cause, while Robert Hägg recorded five of the Phantoms’ 22 shots on goal.

* QMJHL: 2013 Flyers first-round pick Samuel Morin (broken jaw) will not be able to return to action soon enough to play in the Subway Super Series, which will feature a game in Rimouski, Que., next week. Morin is now aiming for a return next weekend.

* SHL: 2014 Flyers fifth-round pick Oskar Lindblom returned to action this week after missing six weeks with a lower body injury. In his first game back in the lineup for Brynäs IF, Lindblom scored a second period deflection goal in a losing cause. He has two goals in six games this season.

* WHL: 2014 first-round pick Travis Sanheim recorded an assist and was a plus-one in the Calgary Hitmen’s 7-6 overtime loss to the Kootenay Ice on Friday night. Flyers 2014 sixth-round pick Radel Fazleev scored a goal for the Hitmen.

*NCAA: 2014 Flyers third round pick Mark Friedman did not record a point and was an even plus-minus as Bowling Green fell to 7-3-1 on the season with a 3-2 loss to Ohio State on Friday night.

* NCAA: 2012 Flyers fifth-round pick Reece Willcox did not record a point and was an even plus-minus as Cornell won for the first time this season (1-3-1), downing Clarkson 2-1 in overtime.

* NCAA: 2010 Flyers fifth-round pick Michael Parks scored a goal in a losing cause as North Dakota fell to 7-2-1 on the season with a 3-2 loss to Miami on Friday night.

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