Flyers Backcheck: Rangers Laughing in MSG

The Flyers have the Rangers laughing at them. Fans at MSG are chanting, “You-can’t-beat-us!” And the Flyers, as they’ve done now in eight of their last nine games, lose another game. New York’s 5-2 win on Saturday afternoon completed the home-and-home sweep, despite the Flyers finally breaking through on the scoresheet.

Philadelphia’s regular season winless streak at MSG extends now to 10. That’s nearly four years for those who prefer to leave no stone unturned. And all of a sudden, the Flyers are in the league’s basement – with no key for an escape.

November Nosedive

Turkey month started out promising for the Flyers. Craig Berube’s flock shrugged off a 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers by responding with three straight wins. From there, it’s been a steep fall. Saturday’s loss at MSG lamented the downturn, dropping the Flyers’ record for the month of November to 4-8-1, 1-7-1 since the 3-1-0 start.

Madison Square Garden is where general manager Ron Hextall screamed at the team after its 2-0 loss on Nov. 19. Since then, coach Craig Berube has criticized players in the media, and the players have held a team meeting to try to snap out of their lethargy.

Nothing has worked. — Sam Carchidi, Philly.com

The latest attempt to save the sinking ship saw Berube scratching Andrew MacDonald and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in favor of Luke Schenn and Chris VandeVelde. And the tweaking didn’t end there.

Vinny Lecavalier, who spent the afternoon with Zac Rinaldo and VandeVelde, was reserved to a season-low 5:56 of ice time. But even with Scott Laughton’s deployment increasing, it was the same old, same old against the Rangers at MSG.

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For the 17th time in 23 games, the Flyers were back to playing catchup, allowing the game’s first goal. On the road, Philadelphia has yet to capture the first mark of the game, coughing up opening scores in all 11 away games.

Saturday’s day game against the Rangers was no different. With just under three minutes into the game, Derick Brassard scored his seventh goal of the season. And after goals from Nicklas Grossmann, Jakub Voracek, Jesper Fast, another by Brassard, J.T. Miller, and an empty net goal goal from Lee Stempniak, the Flyers dropped to 3-12-2 in games they’ve failed to score first.

“It’s mental,” said Berube. “Every guy has to man up and do their job.

“My job is to get these guys going in the right direction.”

Philly did, however, record their first goals of the season against the Rangers. Grossmann’s snipe past Henrik Lundqvist temporarily tied the game before Jakub Voracek ripped his team-leading ninth goal on the campaign for a brief 2-1 lead. Voracek’s goal dented the twine on their lone power play of the day, snapping an 0-for-10 drought on the power play against New York.

Moral victories, although a step in the right direction, do not make up for the needed points in the division standings. And with a west coast trip kicking off on Tuesday, the Flyers will take the NHL’s worst road record of 2-8-1 to San Jose.

“When you aren’t winning games, it’s hard not to get frustrated,” said Voracek. “It’s hard to be confident [when you’re losing]. You grip the stick too tight . . . and that’s why you turn pucks over and are scared to make a play some times.”

With the potential for change increasing with each let down, Berube’s job could be in jeopardy. But even though it appears as though Berube has lost his team, his players went to bat for him after Saturday’s loss.

“It’s on us,” Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said after the game. “This has nothing to do with the coach, nothing to do with systems.”

The Perfect Opponent

If you’re an NHL rookie just breaking into the NHL, or just a slumping skater looking to kickstart your scoring, a date with the Flyers should be circled on your calendar. The orange and black are now a trivia answer for three youngsters through 23 games.

In just his 22nd NHL game, Jesper Fast’s second period goal on Saturday was the first of his career. And for the Rangers, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Fast’s wrist shot not only tied the game after the Flyers possessed their first lead of the season against the Rangers, it injected his team with life and momentum.

“As soon as Jesper scored, that gave us a big lift,” said Brassard. “For a while, there wasn’t much happening, but once we got the momentum on our side, we were able to keep it for the rest of the game.”

One period later, J.T. Miller exposed Flyers goalie Ray Emery for his first of the year. Miller’s wraparound goal extended New York’s lead to two, which eliminated any hope Philadelphia had in mounting a late-game comeback.

It is not every day that one of the Rangers comes down with the mumps, and the rest of the team has to get shots to prevent it from happening to them. But there’s a first time for everything. For instance, on Saturday afternoon, there was Jesper Fast’s first NHL goal, and J.T. Miller’s first goal of the season (each player assisted on the other’s score). Those helped fuel a 5-2 win over the Flyers, which, of course is nothing new. — Mark Herrmann, Newsday

Miller, dressing in his fourth game of the season, found his way into the lineup due to the passing of Chris Kreider’s grandfather. And with Tanner Glass missing time due to a case of the mumps, the duo of Miller and Fast combined forces on Saturday at the expense of the Flyers.

The pair of forwards in their early 20’s weren’t the first skaters who picked up first goals of the season/career against Philly. The NHL’s overall number one pick, Aaron Ekblad, will remember the Flyers as the team he victimized for his first career NHL goal.

 

Much like Fast’s score on Saturday, Ekblad’s tally was a backbreaker. Florida’s young defenseman put the Cats on top by 2 in the 3rd period on Nov. 1st. Ekblad’s blast from the point would serve to be the game-winner as the Panthers would go onto win 2-1.

Fast, Miller, and Ekblad are now three of ten players to score their first goal of the current season against the Flyers in the month of November. With 71 goals against on the season (fifth most in the league) and a minus-13 goal differential, those facts shouldn’t leave anyone perplexed.

Tidbits from the Big Apple

Watch Your Stick!

After beginning the season as the league’s least penalized team, the Flyers continued their undisciplined relapse with three penalties on Saturday afternoon. All three infractions, however, were due to hi-sticking. Claude Giroux’s first period penalty would serve to be the costliest, resulting in a four minute double minor, and a 1-0 Rangers lead.

Jake Voracek Watch

After being subdued on Friday for just the third time all season, Jake Voracek returned to the scorers’ table with his 11th multi-point game in 23 games. Voracek’s second period power play goal was his ninth goal on the year, breaking away from Wayne Simmonds for the team-lead in lamps lit.

With Pittsburgh and Dallas in action later in the evening, Voracek sits one point shy of Sidney Crosby’s league-leading 33 points, and one ahead of Tyler Seguin’s 31 units of scoring.

Emery at MSG

Unlike the team he plays for, Ray Emery entered Saturday’s matchup with some fond memories at MSG. Philly’s backup netminder not only walked out of the building victorious after Game 2 of last year’s quarterfinal, he also carried a regular season record of 7-2-0 at MSG.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, Emery’s last regular season win in the Big Apple was recorded on Mar. 13th, 2007…. as a member of the Ottawa Senators.

King Henrik’s Oppression

Henrik Lundqvist, on the other hand, improved his record against the Flyers in the regular season to 28-13-3. It was Lundqvist’s ninth straight home win against the Flyers, bettering his record in that department to 16-7-2. King Henrik has now given up two goals or fewer in 16 straight home starts against Philly.

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Pass the scotch. With 59 games left on the schedule, it might be time to stock up.