Taylor Leier

Flyers suffer heartbreaking overtime loss to extend skid to 6

Flyers suffer heartbreaking overtime loss to extend skid to 6

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- The book entitled “Finding Different Ways to Lose” is growing thicker by the game.

Josh Bailey scored on his own rebound just 32 seconds into overtime to give the Islanders the extra point and a 4-3 overtime win over the Flyers on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center (see observations). The Flyers appeared to have the play covered until defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere lost track of Bailey, who missed on his first attempt but converted on his second effort to hand the visitors a sixths straight defeat.

“Everyone goes through different struggles,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s a growing rule for everybody. Right now, Ghost is one of the elder statesmen on the back end there and sometimes that has a way of putting extra weight on your shoulders. I just think it’s a stretch that he’s going to get through. He’s doing a lot of really good things. He’s just got to get back to where he was before he was out a few games with that injury.”

In the eight games since returning from an injury where he was slammed hard into the boards in Toronto, Gostisbehere has struggled mightily in the defensive end. However, the Flyers’ problems over the course of their current six-game losing streak extend well beyond just one player. The penalty kill has completely fallen apart as the team has allowed seven power-play goals in the last three games. The units have also killed off just four of the last 11 power-play chances.

It’s a two-fold problem. The Flyers are creating self-inflicting wounds and the penalty kill isn’t outworking the opponents’ power play unit. Of course, it didn’t help when Sam Morin, who making his season debut, gave the Islanders a two-man advantage when he flipped the puck into the stands for a delay of game penalty.

“We’re right there. We kind of put ourselves in another bad position when we took a 5-on-3,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “It’s still biting us in the butt a little bit. I thought we played a really good game. I think we’re right there. We just need to turn that corner.”

“Can’t pinpoint one thing. It’s just got be better,” Wayne Simmonds said. “Yeah, they’re going to score. You take a ton of penalties, teams are good enough in this league. Individual skill in this league is through the roof. Guys are going to make plays, especially when they’re up a man. Best form of penalty kill is not to be in the box at all.”

Hakstol even elected to switch up his shorthanded personnel in an effort to create a different look and hopefully provide some beneficial change. The Flyers even attempted to light a fuse be calling up Morin and Danick Martel from Lehigh Valley. Martel had six attempted shots (three on net) in just 12 minutes of action in his NHL debut.

“You’ve got to be ready every game,” Martel said. “I got my chance today and I had a really good game and I’m proud of it. I think my stick was a bit tight today, so that’s why I missed the net a couple of times.”

The Flyers did finally receive some secondary scoring to complement their top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Coming into this game, that group had accounted for 46 percent of the team’s goal production. Taylor Leier opened the scoring with his first goal of the season and Michael Raffl scored his first point in 43 games with a breakaway goal that gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead.

“It’s a little bit different role playing with T.K. (Travis Konecny) and Fil (Valtteri Filppula) out there,” Raffl said. “You get a little more offensive looks and a little more ice time out there. You’ve got to take advantage of that. I feel pretty good out there. I’m fit. I have nothing bothering me right now, so that helps for sure. I told myself, scoring or not, you’ve got to play confident. You can’t get down on yourself.”

After consecutive shutouts to start the losing streak, the Flyers have scored the first goal in each of their last four games with an inability to play with a lead: 2-0 at Winnipeg, 3-1 vs. Calgary 1-0 vs. Winnipeg and 2-1 at New York Islanders.

Four games, four leads and just two points to show for it. 

“It stinks to work real hard to earn that point, and then we gave it away too easily,” Hakstol said. “That’s the part that hurts a little bit. I’m looking for growth in all the areas. Really, tonight, I was looking for the true test of the character of our team, and our team answered and played a helluva character game.”

Friday, it’s Chapter 2 against this same Islanders team. The Flyers are hoping it doesn’t continue to read like the rest.

Flyers-Islanders observations: Skid extends to 6 with tough OT loss

Flyers-Islanders observations: Skid extends to 6 with tough OT loss

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders extended the Flyers’ season-high losing streak to six games with a 4-3 overtime win Wednesday night at The Barclays Center.

Josh Bailey rammed home his own rebound just 32 seconds into the OT session as the Flyers fell to 1-5 in overtime this season.

The Flyers finally received some secondary scoring as Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl scored their first goals of the season.

Brian Elliott stopped 35 shots as his record dropped to at 6-6-3.

Once again, the Flyers were buried by their penalty kill as the Islanders converted 2 of 5 power-play opportunities. The Flyers have allowed seven PP goals in their last three games. 

• The Flyers turned it up in the final period of regulation as they outshot the Isles 14-8 with most of those shots coming in the final eight minutes.

• The Flyers penalty kill was considerably better in the opening minutes of the third period. The unit played more aggressively and did not allow the Isles to set up or have several cracks at Elliott. Ivan Provorov had a big block as the Flyers was forced to kill off back-to-back minors. Samuel Morin took a foolish interference penalty.

• There was some big-time pressure from the John Tavares line midway through the third period, but credit the Flyers’ defense as it kept the Islanders’ captain around the perimeter for most of the game. Tavares was one of two Isles player who didn’t have a shot on net.

• In undoubtedly his best game of the season, Raffl was all over the place with his early breakaways and his strong net presence. He led the Flyers with six shots on goal, three hits and even won 3 of 4 faceoffs.

• Elliott stifled a pair of 2-on-1 opportunities for the Islanders in the second period. He came up with a tremendous save when Tavares set up Josh Bailey with a one-timer that Elliott read perfectly and snatched with the glove. Elliott certainly kept the Flyers in this game with timely saves as he faced 29 shots in the first 40 minutes.

• The Flyers got a much-needed power play goal, set up by Wayne Simmonds with a nice and quick cross-ice pass from down low to Jake Voracek in the right circle. The attention Simmonds commands around the crease made that play possible.

• The Flyers lost a key faceoff in the defensive zone in the second, which allowed a pass from Adam Pelech to Josh Ho-Sang to get his stick up and deflect a puck past Elliott. These are the type of goals the Flyers have desperately needed but have failed to get against opposing goalies.

• There was good speed by the Flyers’ third line between Valtteri Filppula and Travis Konecny. However, Filppula was only able to put a weak backhand attempt on net, an easy save for Thomas Greiss. 

• Jordan Eberle picked Provorov’s pocket in the opening seconds of the second period. Sometimes his teammates assume Provy will just skate the puck out of danger or always come away with it when battling along the boards. Tough first six minutes for Provorov, who also took a cheap hooking penalty.

• After Morin flipped the puck into the stands for a delay of game, the Flyers’ PK let them down once again on a 5-on-3 Islanders’ opportunity as Johnny Boychuk found the space just under the crossbar. It was an open lane that doesn’t exist on a 5-on-4 PP, but give Boychuk credit for working his way into the open lane. That made it seven power-play goals surrendered by the Flyers in their last seven periods of action at that point.

• Raffl converted on his second breakaway as he made a move on Greiss just enough for his shot to hit the post and then kicked over the line off the goalie’s skate. The Flyers capitalized on the Islanders’ defensive breakdowns early with three clear breakaways in the first 23 minutes. 

• Dave Hakstol told me Morin was primarily a left-side defenseman, but in the first period we saw him play the right side in a few instances and look comfortable doing so. Morin had a big hit on Eberle late in the first period to dislodge his stick. The Islanders seemed to sense Morin’s length and were reluctant to challenge him in the offensive zone. Overall, it was a solid first period for Morin. 

• There was a very quick read-and-react play from Danick Martel with his takeaway at the point. He then displayed his breakaway speed as he came in on goaltender Greiss, who got enough of his blocker on the shot. Still, that’s precisely the type of offensive jolt the Flyers need from Martel, who said after the first period of his NHL debut, “There was a lot of emotion for sure. Hockey is a simple game and I wanted to keep it simple, play hard and that’s what I did and I had a couple of good scoring chances.”

• Once again, the Flyers’ top line generated an outstanding scoring chance with Sean Couturier and Voracek working in tandem. Voracek’s shot created a big rebound and Couturier failed to elevate the puck or he may have scored his 13th goal of the season. Credit Greiss for being able to extend the right pad and keeping the puck out of the net.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill failed to get the job done once again in the first period as the Islanders’ quick puck movement really backed the PK down low. Matthew Barzal’s shot from the faceoff dot didn’t allow Elliott enough time to react. 

• Raffl, mired in a 42-game stretch without a point, had his best opportunity of the season with a breakaway chance and tried to slide the puck five-hole. I think if Raffl had some confidence in his game he would have made some sort of move on Greiss.

• The Flyers scored the first goal for the fourth straight game as Travis Sanheim unleashed a rocket that created a big rebound and Leier did exactly what the players and Coach Hakstol have been preaching: crash the net and work for those dirty goals. The shot inadvertently deflected off Leier’s skate for a 1-0 lead. I feel that Sanheim has been more active in the offensive zone over the past six to seven games.

• It hasn’t been talked about much, but Sanheim has a heavy shot. If taken from the top of the circles, it can create some second-chance opportunities. 

• Elliott has been solid with rebound control recently, but in the first period he gave some long ones that allowed the Islanders some second-chance opportunities.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Danick Martel-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jordan Weal

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim
Samuel Morin-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise and Radko Gudas.

Michael Raffl rejuvenated playing with Flyers' dynamic fourth line

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Michael Raffl rejuvenated playing with Flyers' dynamic fourth line

VOORHEES, N.J. — Don't think for one minute Michael Raffl isn't having fun.

The fifth-year Flyers forward is without a single point through 15 games and sees the shortest ice time on the team at 10:14 a night, a career low.

For a guy that scored 21 goals in 2014-15 and was at times featured in a top-line role alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, remaining his jovial self would seem like a challenge.

Raffl, though, has no reason to slouch. The good-humored Austrian is simply having a different type of fun. He's now on the highly praised, new-look fourth line with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier. At 28 years old, Raffl is an elder statesman of sorts among Laughton and Leier, both 23 years old.

"My back gets sore from carrying those two guys," Raffl said Tuesday as Laughton laughed sitting right next to his locker at Flyers Skate Zone. "It's been good with those four days off now."

Raffl and Laughton are tight off the ice, which makes for good chemistry on it.

"For sure, he's still a rookie," Raffl said. "I put him in his place. He's been a good helper."

What does Laughton like about playing with Raffl?

"Nothing," he said, still laughing with his locker buddy.

Yeah, Raffl is doing just fine — the new job hasn't squelched his enjoyment.

"I'm just joking, this is all fun," Raffl said. "It's been good. Stats haven't been there, but the team has been going very well. This is pretty much the best I've felt ever since I've been here, team-wise. There are not too many games this year where we absolutely had no chance in a game. I felt like we were there every single time and could have won every single game, so that has been fun."

Furthermore, Raffl finally has consistency in his role, even if the major stats portray it as a lesser one. Throughout his time with the Flyers, Raffl has bounced around from line to line and position to position.

This season, he's appeared in every game thus far and hasn't moved.

"I take pride in it," Raffl said. "I don't think I've ever played more than 50 games on a line, so it's been a good run so far."

Raffl, Laughton and Leier have become a fixture on the beloved fourth unit.

"I haven't played with anyone else yet, so I'm happy with it," Leier said. "The two linemates I have right now, they're both great players. Raf's got [284] games, and he's been with G and Voracek at times, so he's been through it, he knows what he's doing obviously. He's been a 20-goal scorer, and then Scotty, too, he's got over 100 games, and it's good to have a guy like that on your line."

And while Raffl doesn't get to boast goals and assists, he's done a lot in the smaller areas. The winger has been a plus player, his 21 hits are second among all Flyers forwards, and he's committed just two giveaways and one penalty.

"That's what your job is on the fourth line," Raffl said. "It's still nice to score goals and get points, don't get me wrong, but yeah, it is what it is.

"You've got to adjust your game if you play a role like that.

"Leiersy and Laughts, they're extremely simple to play with, there's no magic to it. You go out there and work hard, be hard on pucks. If you turn it over or lose it, those guys are so fast, they can backcheck and get the puck back. All three of us have been doing that, so it gives you confidence in the offensive zone to try different stuff. Honestly, it's been a lot of fun so far."

Much to the delight of head coach Dave Hakstol.

"He just fits the mold of that line," Hakstol said of Raffl. "All of those guys have worked well together. The other two guys kill penalties together, so that kind of inherently builds a little bit more chemistry. Right from Day 1 of camp, Raf and Laughts have shown that they've had pretty good chemistry together. They've spent a lot of time together and very little time apart since Day 1 of camp."

Meanwhile, Raffl will eventually score a goal again.

It'll just add to his new fun.

"I actually forgot how to celebrate," Raffl said.