Philadelphia Flyers

In a flash, Scott Laughton shows Flyers what he 'lost' 2 years ago

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In a flash, Scott Laughton shows Flyers what he 'lost' 2 years ago

It was Scott Laughton's first regular-season game at the Wells Fargo Center in 324 days.
 
And it took just one play to show he's a changed player.
 
Showing passion and effort in a not-so-glamorous role, Laughton made a pair of intelligent reads to score a tide-turning shorthanded goal, possibly the most influential marker Saturday in an 8-2 blowout of the Washington Capitals.
 
Playing on a late first-period penalty kill, Laughton aggressively jumped a pass near the blue line. Then, as goalie Philipp Grubauer abandoned his crease to poke the deflected puck away, Laughton played it perfectly, intercepting the attempt before flushing it in the open net for a 2-1 lead.

"That's the biggest point in the hockey game right there," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "Late in the period, for us to be able to score a shorthanded goal and turn that momentum back in our favor, I thought that was the key point of the hockey game. He made a good read and then made a heck of a play to get in and finish it."
 
The play was big for the game, but even more so for Laughton's declaration of being a different guy. During the offseason and into training camp, so much talk had been made of the 23-year-old forward's revamped game and focus.
 
This was the action.
 
"Be a good defensive player," Laughton said of his new approach, which started last season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. "I think I lost it a little bit there two years ago. Be good on the PK, taking big D-zone draws, things like that. Just tried to focus on that and continue to take it over to this year."
 
Laughton was a first-round pick of the Flyers at 20th overall in 2012. He scored in waves at the junior level, highlighted by a 40-goal, 47-assist 2013-14 season with the OHL's Oshawa Generals. After 71 games in 2015-16 with the Flyers, his first full NHL season, Laughton expressed his goals for what was next.
 
"I want to be a top-six forward in the NHL," Laughton said in April 2016. "And I am going to do everything I can this summer to try and do that.

"I know a lot of people put a third-line ceiling on me and things like that. But I played top six in junior and did all that. So that's what I am going to be looking to try to do. I am going to try to score some more goals and things like that. But that's my goal."
 
And there was nothing wrong with that. But right now, Laughton is on the fourth line and has never been in a better state with the Flyers. Following just two games with the Flyers last season and 60 with the Phantoms, Laughton had a realization.
 
He knew what general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers truly wanted from him.
 
"I think last year really helped my game plan in all situations, really contributing down in the minors," Laughton said. "I think that was best for me and Hexy kind of told me that, played in all situations. I think it's helped my game, but at the same time, I've got to continue to go. It's only five games into the year and I've got to maintain it and be consistent."
 
In Saturday's home opener, Laughton added an even-strength tally in the third period, giving him the first two-goal game of his NHL career.
 
"He looks like he's a lot more confident, I think he knows his role and what’s expected of him," Wayne Simmonds said. "He's got a ton of offensive time at the same time, so you put him in a position to succeed and he's going to succeed, and I think that's what he's doing."
 
Through five games, Laughton leads all Flyers forwards in shorthanded ice time (11:25) and shorthanded faceoffs won (eight). Not only has he found his niche, but he also hasn't forgotten the offense. Laughton sees a way to still provide an offensive spark on the fourth line with Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl.
 
"They both make plays, they're both quick — that's what we try and do," Laughton said. "We've been playing pretty good minutes, been good on the PK. Just trying to play that role and use our skill when we can and spend a lot of time in the offensive zone — I think that's a big thing."
 
The big thing for Laughton was working his way back here.
 
"Laughts has been dialed in from Day 1 of camp," Hakstol said. "His focus, energy and effort level hasn't changed once. I think he's found some chemistry and cohesion with his two linemates. That line, we trust that group for different roles. … I think they've been a catalyst for our team. Laughts is the guy that's playing up the middle there, so he's the backbone of that line.
 
"He hit some bumps in the road last year, handled them extremely well. You know what, he's the one that deserves full credit for putting himself back in this position."

Flyers Weekly Observations: Highs of crushing Washington, lows of falling apart in Nashville

Flyers Weekly Observations: Highs of crushing Washington, lows of falling apart in Nashville

Another week of Flyers hockey is in the books on this infantile season.

So that means it’s your favorite time of the week: It’s time for Flyers Weekly Observations!

Please, hold your applause.

We’ll take a look back at the week that was with the Flyers, including Tuesday's absolutely stunning 6-5 loss to the Predators in Nashville and Saturday evening’s 8-2 shellacking of the Washington Capitals in the home opener in South Philly.

It’s not hard to figure out where we’re going to start this week. So let’s not wait any longer and hop right into the main course.

• Let’s just get right to the last several minutes Tuesday night in Nashville, where the Flyers saw a lead disintegrate into a frustrating, head-scratching 6-5 loss to the Preds. Firstly, Dale Weise and Andrew MacDonald, two veterans, can’t be taking penalties, ticky-tack or not in the eyes of some, like they did late while trying to nurse a lead on the road. In such hostile territory like Bridgestone Arena and on a banner night for the home team, no less, that’s a recipe for disaster. But Dave Hakstol, knowing the risks, cannot issue that coach’s challenge on the tying goal unless he knows for sure the Preds were clearly offside.

Look, I get what he was trying to do. He was taking a chance at dramatically shifting the momentum back in his team’s direction. But that wasn’t the time for chances. Any sort of uncertainty, and he needs to hold back there. Instead, he put his team in a deeper hole in a now even more hostile environment and you could just feel the nightmarish ending being written before it actually happened with the next 5-on-3.

I’m not a big fan of the offside challenge in general. It’s just such a convoluted rule and process that needs smoothing out. A guy is either onside or offside. Why the league insists on creating so much grey area in something that should be way more cut-and-dry is beyond me. And this new rule that penalizes an unsuccessful challenge defeats the purpose of having a challenge anyway. But it also means, more than ever, that there is a time and place to challenge. With uncertainty surrounding whether the Preds were actually offside, let’s just say holding onto a precious point while your team still has a penalty to kill and creating a second 5-on-3 for your team to kill on the road in the final minute of tie game isn’t the time or place for Hakstol to take that challenge.

• With as heartbreaking as the result in Nashville was, quite the impressive rebound performance Saturday night against the Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center. Sure, it was the home opener and there were all types of juice in the orange-clad atmosphere, and the Caps were playing their third game in four nights, missing star defenseman Matt Niskanen and started backup goalie Philipp Grubauer. But that was just utter domination of the Caps in all phases.

The Flyers outshot the Caps by a 37-23 margin, converted on the power play and added a shorthanded tally. The Flyers had five players with multiple points, led by Claude Giroux with four. Alexander Ovechkin had six shots on goal but was minus-4 on the evening. Basically, the Caps barely ever had a chance. The Flyers jumped on them early and often and squeezed the game away. That’s how you respond from a loss as jarring as the one in Nashville.

• Prized 21-year-old rookie Travis Sanheim was a healthy scratch Saturday and watched in a suit from the press box as Brandon Manning dressed instead. Sure, Ovechkin and the Caps are a tough matchup, but they’re a tough matchup for anyone on any team around the league. What exactly does Sanheim get out of watching that game from above? Is it more than the in-person experience he would get going up against a star-studded team? Nope.

If a 21-year-old rookie with the skill of Sanheim struggles and takes his lumps, so be it. He’ll gain that valuable experience that comes with it. And when he comes back and plays well afterward, whenever that may be, he’ll have all the confidence in the world. Confidence isn’t gained watching from the press box.

• How about the first line of the Flyers? Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek combined for 10 points against the Caps. Giroux and Couturier each had two goals apiece and Voracek was all over the ice all night long as he had both the puck and the Capitals on a string. The trio had three more points a few days earlier in Nashville, giving them 13 in their last two games. That’s impressive, and we’re just five games into the season.

The chemistry is obviously there, but they are still jelling together as a trio as the early season progresses on. Couturier has been on a tear dating back to last season. In his last 24 contests overall, he’s got 23 points (eight goals and 15 assists).

• I’m a big believer that every good team has a fourth line that not only can annoy with grit and hard work but can also be a threat to contribute offensively on any given shift. The Flyers hadn’t had that in recent years, needless to say. The script has been flipped this season with the Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Taylor Leier line. They can punish and smother teams on the defensive end and they can be a threat when they scoot up the other end of the ice.

Look no further than what Laughton did against the Caps on Saturday. His shorty was all effort and then his third-period tally was a laser beam of a beauty. These guys are more than effective together, but each also has the ability to move up and down the lineup if necessary. The Flyers may be on to something here with this triumvirate.

• Good for Nolan Patrick getting that first goal of his career under his belt, albeit during Tuesday's loss in Nashville. It was a great play by Weise to drive the net hard and create the ruckus in front that ended with Patrick burying the puck into the twine.

Here’s what I really liked about that goal from the 19-year-old’s perspective: He lifted the puck and left no doubt about it. Many his age would hastily try and shuffle the puck along the ice, where there was no open real estate. It may seem like such a simple concept, but that was some savvy and poise in the heat of the moment by the teenager. And that was also the first of many times he’ll light the lamp in his promising career.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Florida (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Thursday vs. Nashville (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. Edmonton (1 p.m. on NBCSP).

Flyers eat up Capitals with 1982-like goal frenzy in home-opening treat

Flyers eat up Capitals with 1982-like goal frenzy in home-opening treat

BOX SCORE

Home openers tend to feel like a party.
 
The Flyers made sure this one was, without any chance of it dying early.
 
They binge-scored Saturday night at the expense of their Metropolitan Division neighbors, suffocating the Washington Capitals with an outpouring of goals — an 8-2 onslaught in the Flyers' first Wells Fargo Center rendition of 2017-18 (see observations).
 
"It just kept coming down our throat," Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said.
 
Plenty of Flyers celebrated. Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Scott Laughton all scored two goals, while Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula added one apiece. Giroux finished with four points and Couturier three. Shayne Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek each had three assists. And 10 different Flyers recorded at least a point.
 
Now that's some offense.
 
"We played a good game," Giroux said. "I don't remember the last time that we won, 8-2, or something like that, so it's good to have a game like that.
 
"Those games are a little bit more fun."
 
The Flyers never had such fun last season when they consistently struggled to score goals, especially from mid-December to the finish line. They missed the playoffs after scoring the NHL's third-fewest markers since Dec. 15 with 110 in the final 50 games (2.20 per game). As a result, some doubts swirled in the offseason regarding the Flyers' core.
 
But Saturday represented a different team. Faster skating, greater possession and more weapons. The Flyers are younger and deeper and looked it.
 
"I think we've added a lot of depth and speed," Simmonds said. "I think those guys probably had a little more depth and speed than we do, so now it's evened up, it's who's going to play harder, who's going to want it that much more, so I think we're in a really good position."
 
This was the first time the Flyers scored eight or more goals in a game since Nov. 5, 2011, and the first time they did so in a home opener since Oct. 7, 1982.
 
The Flyers also saw Giroux, Voracek and Simmonds get the better of their Washington counterparts, something you couldn't say last season or the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals' big names of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom had given them trouble in the recent past.
 
So much so that Giroux, Voracek and Simmonds combined for just two points in four games against Washington last season. On Saturday, they went off for nine points (three goals, six assists).
 
"Play with structure and play with detail," Trotz said. "If you play the right way, then your structure and your detail are going to be your security blanket. We didn’t have enough of that and we weren't smart. Absolutely stupid with the puck. We deserved every ounce of that. Giroux's line just ate up Kuznetsov's line today. It wasn't good."
 
While many of the household names did damage Saturday, the Flyers are pleased with the blend of youth and veterans. The new fourth line of Taylor Leier, Laughton and Michael Raffl has made up one of the team's best units. Jordan Weal and Filppula are playing their first full seasons with the Flyers. Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny pose threats in the bottom six, while the defense is young and sharp, as expected.
 
"Our veterans are playing hard, playing well and the young guys are fitting in and doing their part," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's a combination — we've played five games and the one common thread is we worked hard in all of those games and we've had everybody as a part of it, everybody has been chipping in. We haven’t gotten the results, obviously in all five games (3-2-0), but we’ve played hard as a team and that’s a good place to start."
 
The Flyers know this is just a start. Turning it into a season is the challenge. In 2016-17, the Flyers produced goals at a top-two clip through the first two months before tailing off.
 
"Tonight went well," Giroux said, "but we need to build on this.
 
"I really think we're just in better shape. The camp we had, guys came to camp in great shape. We don't really get tired. I think we've got four lines that play great. We don't have one line playing 22 minutes or something like that, so when you have four lines going, you can keep your energy up a little bit better.
 
"We've got to stay energized, keep working hard in practice and get ready for the next game. Tonight, the fans … I haven't heard the crowd loud like that in a while, so it was great to hear."
 
Eight goals and a party will do that.