More Sports:

November 03, 2016

Despite late heroics, Flyers know they need better starts

Flyers NHL
102816_Mason-Flyers_AP Tom Mihalek/AP

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason, left, gets back on his skates as the Arizona Coyotes celebrate Jamie McGinn's first-period goal.

Don’t let anyone tell you that Brayden Schenn doesn’t have an elite skill at the NHL level, and no, it’s not his goal-scoring. When the Flyers need someone to legally crash into the opposing goaltender as they frantically scramble for a tying goal late in the game, it’s Schenn who does the dirty work that allows Mark Streit to put the puck in the net:

Just like last week against Buffalo, the officials made a call to Toronto on Wednesday night and looked the play over for a potential goaltender interference. And just like last week, the result of the review was that Schenn had been pushed into the opposing netminder. Good goal.

“It was kind of a scramble out front in there,” Schenn said. “I really couldn’t do anything but fall on top of Mrazek, it’s nice to see they counted that one.”

And just like last time, the Orange and Black were able to overcome a major deficit and grab two points after regulation. Claude Giroux found Jake Voracek with a saucer pass in overtime that Voracek one-timed past Petr Mrazek, but afterward, the captain was focused on the two-goal deficit that the Flyers had originally found themselves in.

“It’s nice to come back and win this game, but we have to stop doing this because it is getting old,” Giroux said.

Giroux’s sentiments were echoed around the locker room: It’s great to be resilient when things aren’t initially going your way, but at the same time, you can’t consistently fall behind like the Flyers seem to do every time they step out onto the ice.

“I do not want to take any credit from Detroit because they play very good hockey but if you are going to play Pittsburgh or LA those kinds of teams, Chicago, they are not going to let you back in the games,” Voracek said. “It takes so much energy out of you that you are eventually going to lose that game.”

You can make the case that the Flyers, whose possession numbers are generally pretty good, have been at least a tad snake-bitten early in the season. Whenever something goes wrong, it tends to snowball. Take Wednesday night, when an unlucky bounce on Dylan Larkin’s shot was followed by a poor goal allowed by Michal Neuvirth even before PA announcer Lou Nolan had finished reading the details of the previous goal. Just like that, the Flyers were down 2-0.

Overall, the Flyers have been outscored 13-4 in first periods. While Dave Hakstol believes his team has been starting better as of late (Carolina and Pittsburgh were admittedly solid starts), they have been outscored 13-4 in first periods this season.

On the other hand, Hakstol was not happy about the Flyers’ start against Detroit.

“We didn’t have a sense of urgency to start the game,” Hakstol said. “We actually ironed it out for about five minutes from about the 14-minute mark to when we gave up the first goal, but we’re not happy with our start tonight.”

The Flyers, whose record now sits at 5-5-1, are a tough team to figure out at this point of the season. Michael Del Zotto’s upcoming return to the lineup should help stabilize a blue line that has made far too many “defensive blunders,” in the words of the general manager. That the Flyers were able to stay afloat despite poor starts to the year by Neuvirth and Mason also could provide reason for hope if even one of the two netminders gets back on track.

“I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet,” Mark Streit said when asked about the slow starts. “We’ve got to find a way to be sharper in the first period. I thought today was sloppy and slow.”

So has the Flyers’ start to the season overall, and yet they’re not in a terrible spot. For a team that hasn’t started that well, Schenn’s masterful ability to get pushed into goalies has proved to be extremely important.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann