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Flyers 5, Canes 3

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Wayne Simmonds notched his first career hat trick and added an assist Saturday as the Philadelphia Flyers rolled past the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 at PNC Arena.

Simmonds scored twice in the second period as the Flyers moved ahead 3-2. Early in the third, his shortside shot squeezed under Justin Peters' pad for the third one, bringing a few caps and hats onto the ice.

"The guys went out and played hard," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We threw a lot of pucks at the net."

The Flyers were eliminated from the playoff mix on Friday but Laviolette said the Flyers (20-22-3) played through the disappointment.

"We have to finish the season. We need to play every game and make it count, make it matter."

Eric Staal pulled the Canes within 4-3 with his 18th of the season, off the rebound of a Jiri Tlusty shot. A few minutes later, the Canes' Tuomo Ruutu got off a shot that hit the post.

Simmonds then blocked a shot by Marc-Andre Bergeron, the puck bouncing out to Matt Read for a breakaway. Read's goal pushed the Flyers' lead to 5-3.

"I think it was the first game in a long time that I was disappointed with the effort and commitment from our guys," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "We've been praising them for a while and they've been going hard and playing hard and not getting the results. But tonight I was disappointed some of the guys did not compete at the level we want them to. They outworked us tonight."

The Flyers had 19 shots in the first period and outshot the Canes 38-29. The Flyers attempted 68 shots in all -- 20 were blocked and 10 missed the net.

Justin Faulk had a second-period goal and Jeff Skinner scored in the first period for the Canes (17-24-3), now 2-15-2 in their last 19 games.

Faulk's goal, at 7:19 of the second, tied the score 2-2 and came with the Canes' fourth line on the ice and forechecking aggressively. Kevin Westgarth, who leaped to keep the puck in the zone, picked up an assist on Faulk's goal for his first point of the season.

Simmonds gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead 1:54 into the second, catching the Canes in a poor line change. Bergeron was unable to check Simmonds as Read picked up the assist.

Faulk scored on a shot from the point, with Nicolas Blanchard screening goalie Steve Mason, for his fifth goal of the season.

"He's really getting better and better since that (knee) injury," Muller said. "Each game he's getting stronger and stronger and getting more comfortable and doing a lot of good things out there. He is finishing out the season on a good, strong note."

But Simmonds soon jumped off the bench on a Flyers line change, skated in unchecked and ripped a shot from the right circle at 8:33.

Skinner, after missing the Winnipeg game Thursday, scored his 13th of the season at 13:18 of the first. The Flyers' Danny Briere attempted a pass off the boards under pressure from defenseman Tim Gleason. Skinner was in the left circle and gave the puck a golf-club whack to beat Mason.

Skinner has scored three goals in his last four games, but was held out of the Winnipeg game Thursday after taking a big hit from Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen on Tuesday in Ottawa. Skinner returned to Raleigh on Wednesday for further medical evaluation but it was determined he did not suffer a concussion.

The Flyers controlled the first 10 minutes of the game, peppering Canes goalie Justin Peters with shots.

Jakub Voracek nearly scored 14 seconds into the game, skating in for a shot but having the puck stop inches short of the goal line. Voracek then scored seven minutes into the game, taking a stretch pass from Claude Giroux for a breakaway.

Peters made a nice stop on a Flyers power play a few minutes later, then got his left pad on a shot by Scott Hartnell with 2:22 left in the period as the Flyers outshot the Canes 18-8 in the period.

Peters made his seventh straight start in net for the Canes.

Both teams are in the final throes of their season, no longer in the playoff conversation.

The Flyers had dropped five the past seven games before Saturday. The Canes are 1-1-1 in the past three games after ending a seven-game losing streak last week with a 4-2 win over Boston.

Canes defenseman Justin Faulk played his 100th career game.

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Some players might have upside

Some players have upside relative to what we saw this season: Bellemore, Blanchard, Jordan, McBain, Murphy, Nash, Sanguinetti, and Skinner.

Other players are as good as they'll ever be and perhaps have peaked already: Bergeron, Bowman, Brent, Corvo, Dwyer, Gleason, Gragnani, Harrison, LaRose, Nodl, Sutter, Wallace, and Westgarth.

I don't buy the highly optimistic assessment of Dalpe, and I don't expect that Terry, Welsh, and Boychuk will ever contribute.

Ellis and Peters are ok for an occasional start, but no more.

Predicating a defense on the assumption that Pitkanen will play 20+ minutes a game for 70+ games a season has turned out to be an error.

Lots for JR to attend to!!

Dalpe and Work Habits

Dalpe is the first person on the ice and the last person to leave. It's something all the coaches have remarked upon, including Ron Francis. Dalpe's work ethic on and off the ice is great. He's also got a great attitude.

Dalpe and Rask

"As for your continual harping about Dalpe, if he were all that, then he'd be with this team and a consistent contributor. There has to be a reason or reasons why he's in Charlotte and not here. Only the coaching staff and front office can say why."

That statement would be true for the entire discussions non-professionals such as myself have when analyzing the work of professionals like Rutherford, Francis, Muller, and others. As much as I admire Rutherford, Francis, and Muller, I disagreed with them on some decisions. Re-signing Corvo was one. Playing LaRose or Dwyer on the second line rather than keeping Dalpe there was another. Sticking with too many small, non-physical forwards on the third line and the fourth line was another. I thought the Hurricanes organization was too slow to change the team identity to one in which forwards played the body and defensemen cleared the crease.

Dalpe and Rask

Absolutely on Chad and Dwyer, especially Chad. Neither is a second line player and were over slotted at that position. Much of that stems from Tuomo being out for the majority of the season. The re-signing of Joe was a gamble that didn't pay off. Maybe it was an furtive attempt to but time for Sanguinetti and, to a lesser degree, Bellemore. There has to be something that makes the front office/coaching staff wonder about Dalpe. I know that one of the main reasons why Chris Terry spent so much time in the minors was his poor practice habits. Maturity if you will. Maybe it's the same with Dalpe and we'll never be privy to the reasons. Bowman made strides this season and part of it was his willingness to be physical out there. Don't remember seeing that as much with Dalpe.
Just remember that the cap comes down quite a bit and, depending on what teams do in regards to the buyout, there will be some decent players available in the off season.

By the way...

remember all those who said that we should trade Cam after he got off to a shaky start and Ellis was playing well? Awfully silent lately on their part.

To Fix the Problem, One has to Accept There is a Problem

The Hurricanes are where they are for reasons that were predictable at the start of the season. Injuries did not cause the problem as much as that the injuries to Ruutu, Ward, Skinner, Pitkanen, and Faulk, exposed for all to see the flaws that existed with the composition of the team.

Not to be missed in the analysis of the Hurricanes failure this season are the accomplishments. Rutherford added long term key players in Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. It's an enormous step forward for the franchise. The top six forwards Eric Staal, Semin, Tlusty, Skinner, Jordan Staal, and Ruutu, can compete against any top six in the NHL. On the near horizon are Dalpe and Rask. The Hurricanes should be able to get a franchise player in this draft; and unless the Hurricanes pick #1 due to winning the lottery, the player is likely to be a high-end forward such as Drouin, MacKinnon, Barkov or Nichushkin.

What went wrong was what was going to go wrong if Ruutu got hurt. The Hurricanes had no redundancy. Nobody else plays Ruutu's style combining physicality, skill, and competitive spirit. It was clear looking pre-season at how the Hurricanes could potentially fail that without Ruutu, the team was lacking in a skilled power forward.

What went wrong going into the season was that the Hurricanes lacked a big, physical, angry shutdown defenseman. Once Allen departed, the Hurricanes were soley dependent on Tim Gleason being healthy and being able to provide the physicality against top lines. Harrison is not that guy. Corvo is not that guy. McBain is not that guy. So as one did an assessment of what happens when Gleason gets banged up, the answer was, the team flops. Signing Corvo as Allen's replacement accomplished nothing on the physicality scale. Additionally, the defense was built around the idea that Faulk and Pitkanen could take up together around 46 to 50 minutes of ice team, with each logging nearly 23 to 25 minutes a game. The problem was if either were hurt, the Hurricanes defense became Swiss cheese.

What went wrong was that the bottom six forwards were not equipped to compete against other teams' big, physical, reasonably skilled bottom six forwards. LaRose, Dwyer, and Brent don't come close to 200 lbs. If they are put on the same line, it's certain to result in opposing teams physically dominating them. As we saw last night against the Flyers, there is no way to put LaRose and Dwyer on the same third line against other teams' third lines. It was inevitable that the bottom six could not match up physically as constructed.

What went wrong was the Hurricanes had no goalie who could run a string of games if Cam Ward were to be injured. Peters was not in previous seasons and is not now, and unless he has some kind of revelation will not be, an NHL level back up. He has moments that can stretch into periods, and on rare occasions a complete game, of being an NHL goalie. He then regresses and his play ranges from AHL to ECHL level on a consistent basis. One twenty minute stretch of playing to an NHL goalie does not make a goalie an NHL goalie. It's the Michael Leighton syndrome. Some players lack the mental ability to keep their mind and performance at the NHL level although athletically they have many of the skills needed to be an NHL goalie. Ellis is basically a Band-aid solution. He can fill in for a game or so every 7 to 9 or so games. He's not able to carry a consecutive streak of games if Ward were to be injured. When Ellis is on his game he's quite good. When he losses confidence, he's a guaranteed loss in goal.

The solutions are easy to see, if painful. McBain, Corvo, Bergeron, LaRose, and Brent must be unloaded. The Hurricanes need to draft wisely and choose from among Jones, MacKinnon, Drouin, and Barkov. If Nichushkin has buyout clause for his KHL contract and if he wants to play in the NHL, he's should be given consideration.

The Hurricanes have to use their young talent better. Dalpe and Rask are at present the team's two best high-end young forwards. Welsh is a big, fast, high hockey IG player. Assuming the Hurricanes draft MacKinnon, Drouin, or Barkov, these players need to be added as soon as they are ready for the NHL. Dalpe, I think, is ready. Welsh is getting very close to being NHL ready. Brett Sutter is NHL ready as a fourth line grinder. Nash made significant strides forward this season, but must add weight and strength over the long off-season. Bowman played solid defensively, but has to be able to find his scoring touch.

Defensively, adding a true shutdown defenseman is job #1 for Jim Rutherford. Faulk, Pitkanen (if he can return from the heel surgery) and Gleason (if he can get back to playing like he did two years ago) form a good nucleus for a defense. Harrison, Sanguinetti, and Bellemore are fine in the role of 5-7 defensemen. Ryan Murphy has the potential to be a young star in the NHL. it is going to take two more higher end defensemen for the Hurricanes to succeed.

This season is a building block toward the future. It is a season to use as a teaching moment. Lesson #1 is that things will go wrong; and in a full body contact sport injuries will happen. Unless there is an objective, rational plan on how to maintain a winning team even when key players are hurt, failed seasons will happen. Over-slotting players because they are great in the locker room but mediocre on the ice is guaranteed to cause enormous disappointments.

to fix the problem, one has to accept there is a problem

While you make some very valid points, I disagree with some.
To blame Peters and Ellis for much of the problem is wrong. How soon we forget how Ellis won some games for this team earlier in the season. He stole some of them as well.
The TEAM defense was an abomination all season long. They seemed to regress, at times, back to when they had these problems under Maurice. Bad turnovers, all over the ice only exacerbated the problem. McBain has struggled all season as has Harrison. Joe has been, well, Joe. Sanguinetti played well for a while and it appears that things have caught up with him.
As for your continual harping about Dalpe, if he were all that, then he'd be with this team and a consistent contributor. There has to be a reason or reasons why he's in Charlotte and not here. Only the coaching staff and front office can say why. Rask has played well but, again, it's the junior level and not the NHL level. He does have size as does most of the league. Playing against 17-18 and even 19 year olds is a completely different animal that playing against guys who are bigger, faster, and stronger. It' like guys who light up in AAA baseball, he go against Major League pitchers. A totally different game. Same applies to high school football players who are studs in hight school, then go against equal or better talent in college, then same from college to the NFL.
Chad does need to go, and even his most ardent supporters can agree on that. My guess is maybe a change of scenery will help McBain.
The biggest question mark is Joni and when and if he'll ever return. Love him or hate him, he can be a difference aker (good and bad) when he's playing.

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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