Philadelphia Flyers v Florida Panthers

Reasons for the Flyers recent struggles? Laviolette takes the blame


Times have been tough for Philadelphia lately. The once dominant team at the top of the Eastern Conference standings is now just two points ahead of Pittsburgh for the lead in the Atlantic Division and also just two points ahead of Boston for the top spot in the East overall. A four game losing streak will always help do its part to bring about the worries and fretting from the fans and media alike but coach Peter Laviolette has an idea of what’s wrong.

Laviolette says that the Flyers’ lethargic play of late is his own fault thanks to working the team too hard in practice before playing three games in four days. After yesterday’s 7-0 humbling at the hands of the rival Rangers on NBC’s Game of the Week, it’s hard to argue with Laviolette as Chuck Gormley of The Courier-Post shares from Flyers practice.

“The two games prior to [yesterday] we had energy but we got beat. The bounces that were going our way, aren’t going our way, like the shots that are going in from behind the goal line. Things didn’t click and you could have come out on the other side of those two games. We still could play better, don’t get me wrong. Yesterday they didn’t have the pop we needed. It was like we were moving slow out there.

“If I am being honest, I have to take one hundred percent responsibility for what happened yesterday. We came into the month of March and we wanted to push. We pushed hard for three days and will continue to push hard, but yesterday I think we felt the effects of that. We came in and we didn’t have the jam that we needed to play a team that had plenty of it. I think it’s an isolated [incident]. That type of game is really tough to take, and it’s one of those losses that makes you want to get sick over, but it’s one game. We need to move on. We need to get that energy back up to a really high level and prepare ourselves for the next game and not dwell on that game. There was no pop out there.”

There was no pop, there was no defensive coverage, there was no offense, and there was no goaltending. One thing the Flyers have had a lot of is the flu. Jeff Carter missed their games against Toronto and New York with sickness as have a handful of other players. Illness combined with getting worked hard at practice leads to getting demolished on the road by a team that hasn’t been able to throw the puck in the ocean, never mind in the goal.

The Flyers have played all season long without so much as a minor disturbance along the way. Now that they’re meeting adversity head on it seems to be that the sky is falling for some Flyers faithful. Provided that Laviolette is right and that some rest for his team will get their legs back under them, this will be just a bump in the road when it gets looked back upon later on. What’s changing the landscape for them is the much better play out of Boston, Pittsburgh, and Washington in the East. It’s been almost too easy for the Flyers this year, but if they can avoid cracking under the pursuit of their rivals they’ll be just fine.

Canucks spoil Ducks’ home opener via shootout

Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks have already found a groove just three games into the regular season. The Anaheim Ducks are still looking for a way to get their offense going.

Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows scored in the shootout, and the Canucks spoiled Anaheim’s home opener with a 2-1 victory Monday night.

Miller made 28 saves and Adam Cracknell scored in regulation for Vancouver, which beat the Ducks for just the third time in their last 12 meetings.

Vancouver improved to 2-0 on the road in the young season, with Miller yielding just one goal in each game. That’s encouraging to the veteran, who played in only four games after Feb. 22 last season while dealing with a knee injury.

“I’m just trying to go out there and battle and compete,” said Miller, who stopped a third-period redirection by Carl Hagelin with his mask. “That was my mindset coming off an injury. That’s what it really comes down to, getting back the focus early on. I didn’t play hockey for a while. The technical stuff I worked on this summer and I pay attention to in practice.”

Even with twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin combining for just one shot, the Canucks won the new season’s first meeting between the Pacific Division’s top two teams last year. Anaheim won its third straight division title, while Vancouver finished a surprising second before losing in the opening round of the playoffs.

Sami Vatanen scored and Frederik Andersen stopped 24 shots for the Ducks, who have scored just one goal while going winless in the first two games of a season that begins with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Anaheim was shut out in San Jose on Saturday in its opener before returning to Honda Center for its first real game on home ice since Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, when Chicago advanced to win the Stanley Cup.

Kevin Bieksa played nearly 24 1/2 minutes in his second game with the Ducks. Anaheim acquired the veteran defenseman from Vancouver last summer after he played 10 years with the Canucks, who drafted him in 2001. Bieksa was reunited with Ryan Kesler, the longtime Vancouver forward who moved to Anaheim before last season.

“We fought back a lot better than we did in San Jose,” Bieksa said. “So we need to keep building on this in the rest of this homestand here. If we do that, we’re going to be all right.”

After the Ducks failed to score on a power play during their first official taste of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, Vrbata and Burrows got stuttering, halting shots past Andersen, who stopped Burrows’ shot before watching it trickle under him.

“I’ve done that move a few times against a few goalies, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it against Freddie,” Burrows said. “So I tried it, and I’m lucky it went in tonight. It hit his stick and trickled in.”

Jakob Silfverberg scored in the shootout for the Ducks, who lost their home opener for just the second time in six seasons. Anaheim’s talented offensive players aren’t clicking so far, but nobody is panicking yet.

“I think we’re doing things the right way now,” Vatanen said. “We battled hard. We got some good chances. The season is long, so we’re going the right way.”

Both teams opened at a furious pace, with end-to-end chances throughout. After a scoreless first period, Vatanen got the Ducks’ first goal of the season when his long, low shot went through Mike Santorelli‘s screen.

Cracknell evened it later in the period with a sharp-angled shot that somehow deflected off Andersen’s shoulder or stick and landed behind the goalie. The journeyman got his first regular-season NHL goal since April 4, 2013, and just the seventh of his 85-game NHL career.

“Pretty fortunate goal on their part,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

NOTES: A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center to call for the suspension of Ducks D Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada related to a 2013 grizzly bear hunt. … Cracknell hadn’t scored a goal in his last 49 regular-season games, although he got a postseason goal in 2014 for St. Louis.

Coming Tuesday: Dan Boyle, $4.5M healthy scratch

Brad Marchand, Dan Boyle

Few things say “Oops, bad signing” quite like putting a really expensive player in street clothes (without an injury being involved).

The Philadelphia Flyers set quite the high bar in that regard, but the New York Rangers can’t laugh too much. Not with Dan Boyle expected to be a healthy scratch against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

The word from the Bergen Record is that Dylan McIlrath will draw into the Rangers lineup in Boyle’s space, although Kevin Klein will take over Boyle’s role on the power play.

Let’s face the facts. At 39, Boyle may still boast some zip on offense, but maybe not enough to justify an everyday role.

It’s not the first time the Rangers have decided to make the difficult, awkward season to phase a big name out as he approaches age 40.

Even if it’s just a momentary situation, one cannot help but wonder if Boyle’s career is screeching to halt much like Martin St. Louis’ did in 2014-15 (though the latter’s decline was more sudden).

On the bright side, it sounds like Boyle has a side job lined up with Faith No More.