End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes.

Dougherty
If Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss in Winnipeg confirmed anything, it's the Flyers cannot break up their top line. They might not be able to score much, but their only scoring is coming from Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

The Couturier line accounts for 48 percent of the Flyers' offense, or 25 goals. Factor the defense and top line together, and that's 59 percent, as the blue line has produced six tallies this season.

Of the 21 goals the Flyers have scored that do not come from the top line or blue line, 12 have come from two players, Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds hasn't scored in 11 games, and Filppula has one goal in his past nine games.

Two lines have stayed intact since Day 1 — the Couturier line and the fourth line of Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl. Head coach Dave Hakstol has been hesitant about breaking up his fourth line, and rightfully so. Laughton, Leier and Raffl have chemistry, and they're almost always cycling in the offensive zone.

Nolan Patrick just returned after missing three weeks because of a "suspected" concussion and played sparingly against the Jets. He should help the Flyers' scoring woes, but he won't solve them. I think it's time to break up the fourth line, and based on the Winnipeg game, it looks like a possibility Hakstol is considering.

Here's why. Raffl played on the second power-play unit against the Jets, which was a first this season. Perhaps Hakstol didn't want to throw Patrick back into the fire and watched the rookie's minutes.

Breaking up lines Nos. 2, 3 and 4 is the best course of action. Travis Konecny is struggling with confidence, Jordan Weal hasn't been great, and those are two players the Flyers need to get going. It's time to end the Dale Weise in the top-nine experiment.

With what the Flyers have, here is what I would do:

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

Hall
There's no need to panic if you're the Flyers.

First, you finally have a no-doubt-about-it top line. Voracek, Couturier and Giroux have blended beautifully and are doing damage, as the Flyers entered Friday one of only three teams in the NHL with a trio of players over 20 points each. Don't break that up just because there's an imbalance below it. 

And second, it's a long season. Ups and downs are common and things can change quickly. Just look at last season. The Flyers ripped off 10 straight wins and scored the NHL's second-most goals through the first two months of 2016-17. As we all know, they didn't make the postseason and finished as a bottom-third goal-scoring club.

The Flyers simply need to continue experimenting with their middle six and see what eventually works best. A little patience was going to be required when you're relying on a 19-year-old rookie in Patrick, a 20-year-old still finding himself at this level in Konecny and a 25-year-old facing his first full NHL season in Weal.

And let's not forget, the defense is exceptionally young with two rookies (Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim), a 20-year-old leader (Ivan Provorov) and a third-year player coming off a sophomore slump (Shayne Gostisbehere).

But back to the forwards. 

If you recall, a stretch from Oct. 10-17 featured Filppula centering Weal and Simmonds on the second line, with Patrick centering Konecny and Weise on the third unit. It resulted in a pretty productive three-game span in which the Flyers picked up two wins and outscored the opposition 18-9.

I really liked the dynamic of that middle six. And the Flyers can now return to it with Patrick suiting up. He will be eased back into heavier minutes, but he can make a difference when healthy and comfortable. Patrick and Konecny can still play plenty of minutes on the third line with less pressure and potentially more favorable matchups.

We've seen Weal and Simmonds work well together, and Filppula adds smarts and steadiness down the middle.

But the important thing to remember is the Flyers are only 19 games into an 82-game grind. Scoring can come and go at times, and there's no reason it can't come down the line.

So, here's what I like best for the Flyers right now:

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

End to End: Which prospect are you most eager to see at Flyers rookie camp?

End to End: Which prospect are you most eager to see at Flyers rookie camp?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Which Flyers prospect are you most eager to see at rookie camp?

Dougherty
With rookie camp beginning Monday, the rookie game Wednesday and training camp Friday, there are a plethora of young players worth watching before the regular season begins. Let's stay away from Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom. Even the defensive prospects, too. We're all going to have our eyes on Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers.

The one prospect I am most looking forward to seeing during rookie and training camp is Russian center Mikhail Vorobyev, who popped at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships. Vorobyev doesn't figure to factor into the forward competition this season, as it will be his first season in North America. Vorobyev will spend his first season in Lehigh Valley.

But there are plenty of reasons to watch Vorobyev. He was an unknown talent in Russia until the world juniors, and the Flyers selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft "probably because he was in Russia — he was hidden a little bit," GM Ron Hextall said in July. This will be our first chance to see Vorobyev in a competitive camp with the Flyers.

Vorobyev showcased a skill set that I don't think many of us knew he had over here during the world juniors, and the Russian factor was a part of it. In the KHL, he had a solid role as a 19-year-old with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, but it wasn't a role in which he was able to flash what he can do offensively. Once with his peers at the world juniors, he displayed playmaking and vision that created some buzz among Flyers fans.

What he will pan out as an NHL prospect still remains an uncertainty, but I believe he has the potential to blossom as a middle-six pivot. He's a player that I am going to keep my eye on this season at Lehigh Valley, and I think during camp, he'll be a prospect to watch — largely because we still haven't seen much of him.

Hall
Every which way, Sanheim looked like an NHL defenseman at July's development camp.

He has filled out physically, standing at 6-foot-4, 199 pounds. His offensive game is impressive, without a doubt his biggest strength. And his skating has improved to the point in which it looks fluid and natural.

Oh, and his confidence is not lacking — exactly what you want to see from the 21-year-old.

"I feel like I'm ready, I'm going to compete for a spot," Sanheim said in July. "Until somebody tells me differently, that's my goal. I'm coming to make the Flyers."

So I'm curious to watch Sanheim compete at camp and see how NHL-ready he looks with the Flyers' brass closely evaluating. With a little bit of time last season, the 2014 first-round pick grasped the learning curve at the AHL.

"He did a really good job last year from start to finish — got a lot better," Hextall said this summer. "The adjustment on the first month, month and a half, where he was going too much up ice, a little bit irresponsible and all of a sudden, a month, month and a half in, figured that part out. That was a huge step for him. He got better, he got better throughout the year and he needs to continue on that."

Morin and Hagg are the likely candidates to fill the Flyers' two open spots on the blue line, but Sanheim is out to prove he's just as much the part.

Chris Long supports Malcolm Jenkins during national anthem protest

Chris Long supports Malcolm Jenkins during national anthem protest

Updated: Friday, 1:41 a.m.

Chris Long supported his teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, Thursday night by wrapping his left arm around Jenkins, who continued to raise his right fist in protest of racial injustice during the national anthem prior to the Eagles' preseason game against the Bills at Lincoln Financial Field.

Long's intention Thursday night was not immediately known. While he's been outspoken on Charlottesville, Virginia, he did not specify how he would conduct himself during the anthem.

Following the Eagles' 20-16 win, he explained his action.

"I've heard a lot of people say, 'Why do athletes get involved in the national anthem protests?' I've said before that I'll never kneel for an anthem because the flag means something different for everybody in this country, but I support my peers," Long said (see story). "If you don't see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don't think you'll ever see it.

"Malcolm is a leader and I'm here to show support as a white athlete."

Long and Jenkins both publicly criticized President Donald Trump's response to the racial tensions that resulted in the tragic violence and the death of Heather Heyer last weekend in Charlottesville, Long's hometown.

Last Sunday, Long touched on his comments by speaking to reporters, reiterating his disappointment in President Trump's response to the violence in Charlottesville, where white nationalists held a "Unite the Right" rally in protest of the removal of a statue honoring Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

"Some people are tired of hearing me tweet because they want me to stick to football but I like to use social media like I was a regular guy because I think I am," Long said Sunday. "I don't tell people to stick to their job when they want to talk politics. And this isn't political. That's the thing. Everybody is trying to turn this political. This isn't a political issue. This is right or wrong. I believe you're on one side or the other. For me, being from Charlottesville, no one wants to see you sit idly by and watch that stuff happen and not say anything. And I wish there was more categorical denial from some very important people in this country who have had the opportunity to strike it down but didn't."

Last season, Jenkins began raising his fist during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. Dating back to last season, Jenkins has openly supported quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who pioneered the protests by kneeling during the anthem before 49ers games.

Kaepernick, who has said he would stand during the anthem this season, remains a free agent, and Jenkins has been vocal on why he believes that's the case.

"This is just some other teams being, quite honestly, cowards, to say that they're afraid of backlash to sign someone to make their team better when fans' input has never been in the equation when it comes to signing people in the past," the Eagles' safety said earlier this month to DelawareOnline.com's Martin Frank.

"It's certain owners' way of making an example out of [Kaepernick] to discourage anybody else from doing what he did."

Prior to the Eagles' preseason opener against the Packers, Jenkins said he was uncertain if he would continue his anthem protests.

"It was a very effective demonstration in that regard, when it comes to starting conversation," Jenkins said. "It did exactly what it was supposed to do. But looking where we are compared to last year, I don't think we're any better. I think possibly worse. I think there's still a lot of work to be done. There's been a lot of work done by a lot of guys. It's one of those things that regardless of a demonstration or not, that work is going to continue."