Bigger goalies like Wild's Devan Dubnyk pose problem for Flyers

Bigger goalies like Wild's Devan Dubnyk pose problem for Flyers

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Four shutouts in their first 17 games.

Or you can break it down in a way that sounds a little more alarming: the Flyers essentially have given themselves no shot at winning 24 percent of their games this season which, in part, explains why they’re in last place in a very tightly-packed Metropolitan Division.

“It’s tough to say,” forward Scott Laughton said Tuesday. “I think we’re aware of it for sure. We’ve been shut out four times now and it’s not fun.”

“Everyone’s got pride in their offensive game, and when you get shut out, it doesn’t feel good,” forward Jordan Weal said. “I think if we can really get to our game and do it for a full 60 minutes tonight, I see something going in.”

The Flyers had a similar stretch of offensive ineptitude last season when they were blanked five times over a 19-game stretch from late December to early February, and they finished the season on the wrong side of eight shutouts, which ranked in the bottom five of the league. 

The logic is rather simple: when you can’t score, you can’t win, and that has been the case against some of the better goaltenders in the league. L.A.’s Jonathan Quick, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, Chicago’s Corey Crawford and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk are big, rangy netminders who cover a lot of area.

“Three of those guys are really big goalies who fight through traffic,” Laughton said. “I thought last game Dubnyk was good but we've got to get more traffic on him, and create better chances for ourselves. If our first line doesn’t score, we’ve got to have other guys who step up.”

Perhaps a little overdue in switching up his second and third lines, head coach Dave Hakstol recognized a needed change after Saturday’s loss to Minnesota in which the Valtteri Filppula and Jori Lehtera lines failed to generate anything off the rush playing with little speed through the neutral zone.

“There’s no need for a desperate mentality or anything like that,” Hakstol said. “A couple of games where we didn’t score, maybe we could have done a little more, gotten to the net a little bit harder, could have found a rebound here or there. In all of those games, we ran into good goaltending performances, but again, you have to find a way to alter that. We can do a little more.”

Whatever the message, the Flyers have been quick to fix their flaws this season. In each of the three games proceeding a shutout, they’ve responded with a win in their next game, outscoring their opponents, 7-3.

“We’ve addressed a few things after the game, and we talked about those things after the games we were shut out and I think we came up with good energy and a mentality,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. 

However, tonight’s game is different. It’s a rare home-and-home against a Western Conference opponent they don’t see too often and once again facing Dubnyk, who will be looking to extend his shutout streak of 138 minutes and 20 seconds following his 1-0 victory Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Wayne Simmonds believes the Flyers can alter their offensive approach by not jamming up the area in front of the crease. 

“We had some chances, we just didn’t bury it,” Simmonds said. “They played pretty much five guys packed right in front of the net. We probably needed to maybe pop a guy out or pop a guy up top or something.”

Patrick still out
Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick skated with teammates for a second straight day, however, he’ll miss his ninth straight game with an upper-body injury that he suffered in a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24. Patrick has now skated in some capacity in five of the last six days, providing the possibility he could return to the lineup against the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night.

General manager Ron Hextall hinted that Andrew MacDonald could return to the team Monday, but the defenseman did not skate then, and although he traveled with the team, MacDonald was not on the ice for Tuesday’s morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. MacDonald will miss his 10th straight game with a lower-body injury and likely won’t return until Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames at the earliest.

Zucker going wild
Minnesota’s Jason Zucker is on a remarkable tear, scoring the Wild’s last six goals over their past three games. No Flyer has done that in their 51-year history and the last Flyer to register six goals over a three-game span was Simmonds when he had multi-goal games in December of 2013.

“You obviously have to be aware,” Hakstol said of Zucker’s presence on the ice. “He’s on a heck of a run. He’s obviously feeling good and he’s a good player and a good offensive player who’s feeling it. So you have to be aware.” 

Flyers-Islanders observations: Losing streak reaches 7 with another OTL

Flyers-Islanders observations: Losing streak reaches 7 with another OTL


The losing streak rolls on.

The Flyers, after the Islanders fought back from a two-goal deficit, lost their seventh straight game Friday with a 5-4 overtime loss to New York at the Wells Fargo Center.

Nick Leddy scored the game-winner with 2:16 remaining in overtime.

Once again, the Flyers' top line did most of the heavy lifting as Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek each had multi-point games.

Giroux reached 600 career points, tying him with Rod Brind’Amour for eighth on the Flyers' all-time list.

It was the 11th straight season that the Flyers have played their Black Friday game on home ice.

• Once again, the Flyers coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period. Andrew Ladd somehow had a wide-open look right in front of Brian Elliott, as no one picked up Jordan Eberle behind the net. Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim had net-front presence, but they couldn’t get a stick on Ladd or deflect the centering pass.

• Somehow Voracek got nailed in the third period for hooking Islanders captain John Tavares, who attempted to pull Voracek down on the same play. It elicited a strong reaction from the crowd. It appeared as if both players were fighting for the loose puck, but Tavares was the guilty party.

• After jumping out of the box after serving a matching minor, Travis Konecny caught a high-arcing pass and skated in on a backhanded breakaway, where he could have drawn a penalty shot as he was hooked from behind. Konecny nearly beat Thomas Greiss with a backhand and even had a rebound attempt.

• An unfortunate sequence for the Flyers, as Robert Hagg completely whiffed on a puck that was bouncing around on the ice. Eberle corralled it just to the right of Elliott, got his blade completely under the puck and elevated it just under the crossbar to cut the Flyers' lead to 4-3 in the third.

• Brandon Manning, in the third period, completely lost track of Jason Chimera, who flew down the left side of the ice on a pass from Casey Cizikas. The Islanders' fourth line was a real problem for the Flyers.

• A big blast from Giroux tied the game at 1-1, but it was a nice job by Hagg to step up on the play, which didn't allow the Islanders to break out of the zone. Somehow, the puck squirted right to Giroux, who blasted a one-time shot from the high slot that Greiss had no shot at. Last season, Giroux didn't score his 10th goal until Dec. 21.

• A bad goal given up by the Flyers saw the Islanders' fourth line tie the game at two. The play started when Scott Laughton left a backhanded pass a little short, allowing the Islanders to drive the play deep into the Flyers' end. Eventually, it was Cal Clutterbuck who redirected a shot from the point that Elliott had little shot of stopping.

• Danick Martel had a terrific one-handed pass to Laughton in the second period for a scoring chance down low. I wasn’t sure about Martel trying to squeeze through a pair of Islanders defenders, but somehow with his lightning-quick acceleration, he managed to knife his way through and make a play out of it.

• The Flyers broke a 2-2 tie on a delayed penalty call after Samuel Morin provided a big hit along the boards that allowed the puck to squirt free through the neutral zone. I liked the patience Giroux showed, as he waited for Shayne Gostisbehere to fill the slot and score from the high danger area. 

• The Flyers added another goal just 19 seconds later when Voracek caught Greiss by surprise with a hard-charging forecheck. Voracek had the presence of mind to quickly pass the puck in front to Couturier, who had nothing but a wide-open net after Greiss came out to play the puck.

• The Flyers scored all four goals in a span of 8:41, marking the second time this season they’ve scored four goals in a single period.

• A deflating ending to the opening period, as the Islanders scored with Mathew Barzal, the electrifying first-round pick of 2015, batting the puck out of the air that actually deflected off his pants, off the back of Elliott’s pads and into the net. Barzal was left alone with a breakdown in coverage between Gostisbehere and Morin, who were both caught on the left side of the ice. Valtteri Filppula nearly kept it out of the net.

• A solid opening penalty kill for the Flyers, who kept the Islanders around the perimeter for a good chunk of the two minutes. The Flyers came into this game having allowed seven power-play goals in their last three contests. Interestingly, Taylor Leier, who was part of the No. 1 PK unit with Laughton, wasn’t out there as Dave Hakstol has elected to switch up the personnel.

• A rough shift for Ivan Provorov midway through the first period, as he committed a bad turnover right on the stick to Scott Mayfield and was outworked by Brock Nelson, who worked the puck away from Provorov as the Islanders' third line gave the Flyers' top line some issues.

• Martel is a little bundle of energy and never appears to stop scrapping for pucks. That second line with Martel, Nolan Patrick and Simmonds played a strong opening period, which included Martel’s pass to Patrick that led to a Patrick penalty shot. However, the 5-foot-9 Martel got crushed by John Tavares along the boards. He needs to develop a little more grease in his game to avoid some of those big hits.

• Patrick elected to go backhand on Greiss on his penalty shot, but the Flyers' rookie didn’t commit until too late and Greiss wasn’t forced to move too far laterally. Patrick’s shot was about a foot wide of the left post.

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

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jori Lehtera, Radko Gudas, Dale Weise

Danick Martel's debut highlights Travis Konecny's regression

AP Images

Danick Martel's debut highlights Travis Konecny's regression

Danick Martel made his Flyers debut Wednesday night at left wing on the second line … without one NHL game to his credit or even a single practice with his linemates.

Perhaps it can all be viewed as a refreshing change for a team that needed a shock to the system, and certainly a different look for an offense that has routinely struggled to score goals.

But more than anything, it revealed a much more glaring problem for the Flyers: Has Travis Konecny regressed to the point that general manager Ron Hextall needs to consider other options?

Martel has now slipped into the role once occupied by Konecny, whose performance so far this season has been nothing short of sporadic.

The second-year winger had a string of games playing on the left side of Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds, but the line never really generated any sustained success, and head coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t seem to know what to do with Konecny at this stage of his career. 

Left wing, right wing, second line, third line. One quarter into this season and already Konecny has been a linemate with eight different teammates, and his ice time has fluctuated anywhere between nine and 18 minutes per game.

This can’t be what the front office envisioned for Konecny when he made the Flyers' roster straight out of training camp in 2016. He may have played like an All-Star during the preseason, but exhibition hockey games typically lack a full complement of NHL players, many of which take the necessary measures to ensure they don’t overextend themselves and suffer an injury before the regular season begins. 

At this stage of their careers, the 22-year-old Martel and the 20-year-old Konecny appear to be almost side by side in their development. As Martel has exploded in his third season with the Phantoms, Konecny has struggled in Year 2 with the Flyers, and a lack of confidence has seemingly followed.   

He has just two goals on 84 attempted shots, many of which have left a black smudge on the glass behind the net, and he’s one of the few Flyers forwards with less than 50 percent of his shots on goal. Konecny, more than anything, needs to experience success along with a committed focus on his defensive responsibilities.

One Western Conference scout who attended Tuesday’s Flyers game against the Canucks believes Konecny could benefit greatly given time with the Phantoms. 

“He went straight from juniors to the NHL,” the scout, who chose to remain anonymous, said. “He hasn’t really learned to play a responsible two-way game at the pro level. I don’t think it would hurt him to refine his game and gain some confidence in the American League.”

Martel had no choice. He went undrafted after three seasons in the QMJHL. Nothing has been given and everything has been earned. Martel told Joe Santoliquito of the Philly Voice last week there’s a certain dose of determination that comes with being 5-foot-9, 162 pounds. 

"I love proving people wrong. It’s why I went undrafted,” Martel said. “It’s why I have a f--- you attitude! That started when I was younger. Not a lot of people trusted in the way I play and my size. I’m going to score anyway. That’s the way I think. It’s the way I play. I’m not small. I play big. You want to make a mistake. Judge me by my size.

“I love pissing off the bigger players because they automatically assume that they’re better than me. It’s why I will never stop working. I need to work on the defensive zone if I’m going to play in the NHL.”

Martel has a hunger and determination that Konecny needs to rediscover. There’s no reason he should have minor-league immunity. Scott Laughton needed a full year with the Phantoms to become the player the organization envisioned, and it appears to have paid off. 

As Hextall stated when he sent highly-touted Oskar Lindblom to Lehigh Valley prior to the season opener in San Jose, “American League time hasn’t hurt one player in the history of professional hockey. It’s not a death sentence.” 

Let’s remind ourselves that even Claude Giroux had a 38-game stint with the Phantoms. 

Right now, it can only help the career of Konecny in the same way it has worked out for Martel.