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 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.

Flyers-Capitals observations: 3-goal 2nd sparks home-opening rout

Flyers-Capitals observations: 3-goal 2nd sparks home-opening rout

BOX SCORE

The Flyers made clear Saturday it's a new season.

With the Washington Capitals in town for the 2017-18 home opener, the Flyers put an 8-2 whipping on the back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning bunch.

A lively Wells Fargo Center witnessed a relentless brand of offensive hockey that never let up, and it wasn't from the visiting Capitals, who had hung a pair of defeats like this on the Flyers last season.

This time, this season, the Flyers showed they're capable of dishing it out, too.

Sean Couturier (two goals, one assist), Claude Giroux (two goals, two assists), Shayne Gostisbehere (three assists), Scott Laughton (two goals), Jakub Voracek (three assists) and Wayne Simmonds (one goal, one assist) all produced multipoint efforts as the Flyers moved to 3-2-0 to commence a five-game homestand.

Impressively, the last time the Flyers scored eight or more goals in a home opener was 1982, when they tallied nine.

The Capitals, playing the second game of a back-to-back set, dropped to 3-2-1.

This marked the first meeting of a four-game season series between the Metropolitan Division teams.

Now, let's get into some observations:

• Voracek looked filthy with the puck in creating a point-blank chance for Simmonds on a second-period power play as the Flyers snared a 3-1 lead. Give Voracek some space with a head of steam, and he'll make plays.

Voracek has nine assists through five games and was buzzing Saturday. Not long after Simmonds' goal, he made a stunning fake for separation and another good look, this one to Laughton, who missed wide. No problem, though, because the Flyers scored moments later when Giroux deflected home his first of the game off a Couturier pass. The first line of Giroux, Couturier and Voracek was thoroughly dominant, and when it is, the Flyers will be tough outs.

• If Giroux has lost a step at all, his vision, however, hasn't gone anywhere. The Flyers' game-opening goal at 7:18 of the first period all started with Giroux making a magnificent cross-ice pass to a streaking Voracek, who found Couturier opposite in front. Couturier's first shot didn't go but he was able to corral the rebound and put it home. None of it happens without an igniter from Giroux, who is one assist shy of 400 for his career. In the third period, Couturier and Giroux each tacked on their second tallies as the rout went into high gear.

There's no arguing the Flyers' big three came up small against this Capitals team last season. Giroux, Simmonds and Voracek combined for two points in four matchups with Washington. The trio was a different animal Saturday, delivering three goals and six assists for nine points. What an answer in the home opener.

• Weal really got after it late in the second period to help extend the Flyers' lead to 5-2. He maneuvered his way into the offensive zone with the puck and then made a nice hesitation to set up Valtteri Filppula's third goal of the season.

Weal is off to a promising start and that goal was important because it came after the Capitals made it a 4-2 game a little less than seven minutes prior.

• Mr. Laughton, take a bow. The rejuvenated fourth-liner netted a pair of goals. Before Saturday, Laughton hadn't scored an NHL goal since April 10, 2016. And good for him, because he worked hard at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last season and seems to have found himself in 2017-18, adopting his new role.

He made a heady play near the end of the first period by skating hard, attacking the puck carrier and forcing a turnover to score a shorthanded goal, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead. It was eerily similar to a certain goal in the past …

• Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom entered as the NHL's early leaders with 10 points apiece. They combined for just one goal and one assist.

• Brian Elliott was solid in net with 21 saves. Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer was lit up and still made 29 saves. The Flyers were all over him.

• The Flyers held a touching moment of silence for those affected by the deadly shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month. "Vegas Strong" flashed across the ice and chants of "U-S-A" broke out once the moment of silence concluded. Also, all proceeds from the Flyers' 50/50 raffle held throughout the Wells Fargo Center are benefiting victim relief efforts. Beautiful job by the Flyers and fans.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice Monday and then host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (7 p.m./NBCSP) for Game 2 of the five-game homestand.