Flyers Flunk Early Season Test Against the CapitalsBREAKING NEWS, Flyers, News, NHL Friday, October 21st, 2011
The Washington Capitals were undefeated heading into the Wells Fargo Center and nothing has changed since they left. The Flyers returned Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk to the Adirondack Phantoms on Wednesday in order to recall Brayden Schenn for his first game as Flyer, but the jumbling of lines did not seem to result in the chemistry that the organization has been claiming “it’s all about” this season as the team fell 5-2 to the Caps.
The Claude Giroux-James Van Riemsdyk-Jaromir Jagr line started the game with good pressure in the offensive zone, but any rhythm they hoped to build was quickly dashed by a hooking penalty on Danny Briere. A second penalty was called on Andreas Lilja 44 seconds later and it became clear that this was going to be “one of those periods.”
Giroux drew blood first with an early 4-on-4 goal on a breakaway against goaltender Tomas Vokoun. It was one of the few bright spots, as the ill-timed penalties and poor passing eventually caught up with the team late in the period.
“In the first period, I didn’t mind the way we were playing at all,” said coach Peter Laviolette after the game, “… Until we made a mistake and had a little bit of a letdown.”
That “letdown” was Scott Hartnell, who fired a blind pass in the defensive zone directly to Capitals forward Mathieu Perreault. Perreault shot the puck through traffic and hit twine to tie the game.
One minute and eight seconds later, a juicy rebound in the crease from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov bounced to Alex Ovechkin and he easily grabbed the lead.
Hartnell, who skated on the third line with Schenn and Jakub Voracek, has been under a lot of fire of late due more to the size of his contract than his playing. His turnover was god-awful, but truthfully the whole team was making blind passes throughout the period. Hartnell just happened to be the unlucky player who got caught.
The score remained the same through the second period, but the Flyers at least began to apply and sustain more pressure than what the scoreboard showed. Their lack of success had more to do with not generating enough net presence than overall performance. “I think we can still do a better job of getting to the net,” remarked Laviolette. “There [were] lots of shots, but we need to get in there and muck it up a little more.”
Any hope that the team had to pull out a win in the third period was snuffed quickly, as the Capitals potted three goals in the first five minutes (and in a span of 2:25). Sean Couturier scored his second NHL goal with 14.5 seconds left in the game, but the outcome was already clear by that point.
Despite the final score, Bryzgalov played a decent game. Several goals came as a result of odd deflections, a few of which bounced off Flyers’ skates. Bryzgalov was guilty of giving up the rebound on Ovechkin’s first goal, but Andrej Meszaros did a terrible job at clearing him out of the crease.
Laviolette described the penalties as “coming in waves,” and it sounded like he wasn’t talking about just tonight. It’s been a glaring problem since opening night and the leaders of the team, Danny Briere and Chris Pronger, have done poor jobs of leading by example. Brooks Laich must have wondered what his nose had done to warrant the level of abuse it took from high sticks.
As for positives to take from the game, the “new” fourth line of Sean Couturier, Andreas Nodl and Max Talbot played much better than the second and third lines. Although I’d hate to see Couturier burn a year off his entry level contract playing with limited ice time, his line consistently sustained offensive pressure, drew penalties, and killed penalties. Couturier’s goal was scored with this line, which was the only group of Flyers to finish with a positive +/- rating.
It’s anybody’s guess how the lines will look on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, but the first and fourth lines should remain unscathed.
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