Flyers

Despite injuries, Flyers put together 'unbelievable' effort in shutout

Despite injuries, Flyers put together 'unbelievable' effort in shutout

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS — The Flyers showed the St. Louis Blues what a true blue-collar effort really looks like.

Behind Michal Neuvirth’s 33 saves and a defense with four first-year NHL players with 272 games played combined among its unit, the Flyers kept the high-powered Blues out of the net with a 2-0 win on Thursday (see observations). It marked the first time the Blues have been shut out this season.

“Unbelievable. That’s one of the hardest-working teams in the league over there,” Neuvirth said. “They (defensemen) stepped up. They needed to step up and that’s what they did. I was impressed.”

If the Flyers didn’t already have enough going against them with all the injuries piling up, the team was also playing its fifth games in eight days. That stretch included four out of those five on the road with Thursday night’s game being the second half of a back-to-back set.

“The guys just worked hard. That’s just what it comes down to,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “They worked their asses off in the [defensive] zone tonight. The number of blocked shots, starting with Provy (Ivan Provorov), but throughout the group, that’s what it takes on nights like this.”

Defenseman Provorov came into Thursday’s game having logged some monster minutes over the Flyers’ past three games, including a career-high 29:51 the night before in Chicago. Yet Provorov put himself on the line Thursday in St. Louis as he matched a team record with 10 blocked shots (see highlights).

“The other team had a real shooting mentality, especially on the power play, so we tried to get into the shooting lanes and block some shots and help Neuvirth out,” Provorov said. “I think that’s what we did tonight.”

The Blues, on the other hand, had every reason to feel confident and comfortable. St. Louis owned the NHL’s best record at 10-2-1 and were well-rested with three days off between games.

“There were a couple of shifts where I thought we got a little bit slow in defending, but for the most part, whenever they did get it moving, we got it out of our down-low coverage,” Hakstol said. “We did a good job of getting in some lanes and then working and moving to find our next point of pressure.”

“A lot of guys are putting their bodies on the line, sacrificing their body, blocking shots,” Sean Couturier said. “You look at a guy like (Robert) Hagg, he’s not the most flashy guy. He’s pretty solid doing all the little details that make a difference to win a game, even Sanny (Travis Sanheim), he’s getting better every game, and the young guys are just getting better and better.”

The Flyers got the blocks and even a few of the breaks on Thursday night. Following a scoreless first period, the Flyers scored the game’s first goal when Brandon Manning ripped a slap shot that Blues goaltender Jake Allen never saw with Jakub Voracek in his face. 

Initially, the referees waved off the goal on account of goalie interference. However, after Hakstol challenged and the play was reviewed, officials reversed the decision when it was determined that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo pushed Voracek into Allen’s way.

“I felt something, but I was pretty confident I was out of the crease,” Voracek said. “After I saw the replay, I thought it could go either way. You never know lately how the call is going to go. I’m glad they allowed [the goal].”

The Flyers’ reversal of fortunes came exactly a week after a Manning goal was taken off the board in a 5-4 loss in Ottawa, which would have been the difference in earning a point.

“A little bit of good karma I think,” Manning said. “As soon as I saw it I was hoping that Hak would challenge. There wasn’t much there. It all works out in the end. Fortunately for us, it was a big one tonight.”

Fourteen games into the season, the injury-riddled Flyers have already been forced to utilize nine different defensemen, which is one more than what they needed in their first 80 games last season.

“Everybody’s here for a reason. Everybody can play,” Provorov said. “It sucks that Ghost (Shayne Gostisbehere), Mac (Andrew MacDonald) and Gudy (Radko Gudas) got injured, but the guys that came in did a really good job. I think we played a really solid game.”

Notes and tidbits
• In their 50-plus years of existence, the Flyers have never put a team on the ice with such little experience on the back end. The Flyers played four defensemen in the game that had 15 or fewer games of NHL experience prior to the game — Hagg (14), Sanheim (10), Mark Alt (3) and Will O’Neill, who made his NHL debut.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the next closest such game was on Nov. 5, 1981, when the Flyers suited up four defensemen with under 40 games of experience — Fred Arthur (11), Reid Bailey (25), Glen Cochrane (39) and Steve Smith (NHL debut).

• The last NHL team to play with four defensemen each under 15 games of experience was the Colorado Avalanche, who did so while suffering a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Nov. 9, 2010.

• Provorov equaled MacDonald’s record of 10 blocked shots in this game. MacDonald set the record in a game at Tampa on March 11, 2016. The NHL has only started recording blocked shots since 1997. 

Future Flyers Report: Is it time for Samuel Morin, Mike Vecchione call-ups?

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Future Flyers Report: Is it time for Samuel Morin, Mike Vecchione call-ups?

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Samuel Morin, D, 21, 6-7/202, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
After Radko Gudas was slapped with a 10-game suspension Sunday, many pointed to Morin as a call-up option to replace Gudas. Here's why that won't happen.

Morin returned just last week after missing a few weeks with an injury. That's one reason. Another is, Andrew MacDonald is nearing a return from his lower-body injury. He could return as early as Tuesday. Mark Alt has played adequately, and if MacDonald is ready to return, the Flyers would need an extra body, not a regular on the blue line.

The Flyers are not going to have Morin sit in the press box. That much is clear. When MacDonald suffered his injury, the Flyers wanted to call Morin up. They announced it but later found Morin was injured himself. Hence the Alt call-up. Tough luck for Morin.

Many believed Morin showed enough to make the Flyers in the preseason. I was among them. I still would like to see the Flyers have Morin with Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim here. But the Flyers were and are not comfortable with three rookies on defense, and the blue line hasn't been the team's wart.

So Morin will have to stay patient for his opportunity. It will come. Unfortunately, Morin's best route to the NHL this season is a long-term injury to a defenseman already here.

As for what Morin did last week. Morin returned Wednesday and had a rough showing in the Phantoms' 6-2 loss to Belleville. But it wasn't a strong game for any Phantom. On Friday night, Morin had an assist and a fight in Lehigh Valley's 5-2 win over Laval.

Mike Vecchione, C, 24, 5-10/194, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
As the Flyers’ scoring woes outside of their top line continue, the noise for shaking up the roster will continue to get louder and louder, and rightfully so. Many are calling for Danick Martel, who is scoring at a ridiculous clip with the Phantoms. But the more realistic call-up is Vecchione, who had yet another big week as he's banging on the NHL's doorstep.

Vecchione had a pair of two-goal games, including a three-point night, in two games. He accounted for both goals Wednesday in the Phantoms’ 6-2 loss to Belleville and then three points in Friday’s 5-2 win over Laval. After collecting five points in two games last week, Vecchione now leads AHL rookies with 18 points. He ranks second on the Phantoms in goals (6), assists (12), points (18) and points-per-game (1.06).

Now comes the question: Could we see Vecchione in a Flyers uniform soon? It’s a fair question to ask, especially considering the Flyers’ scoring imbalance. I’d like to see Vecchione come up because I think he would be an instant upgrade over Dale Weise, a Ron Hextall signing and a player the Flyers continue to put in a top-nine role.

Vecchione is producing at the AHL level, and he appears physically ready for the NHL too. At some point, the Flyers have to try something. It's still early in the season, but there are enough warning signs that this scoring imbalance could be a problem all year long. Vecchione is an in-house option that could provide an offensive spark to this team.

I doubt we'll see Vecchione get a call-up anytime soon, though. The Flyers are committed to Weise. They have Jori Lehtera and Matt Read in the press box. It doesn't seem like they're open to bringing Vecchione, or anyone else, up yet. That could change soon.

It should.

Connor Bunnaman, C, 19, 6-1/207, Kitchener (OHL)
Bunnaman’s four-game goal streak ended last Tuesday, but it was still a productive week for the Rangers’ captain. Bunnaman recorded three goals and three assists in a four-game week. He had a tally in Kitchener’s 7-5 win Friday over Guelph, scored the game-winner and added an assist in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Barrie and then a goal and an assist Sunday in a 4-1 win over Peterborough.

Bunnaman, in his fourth OHL season, leads the Rangers with 14 goals and ranks second with 20 points. During his current 10-game point binge, Bunnaman has nine goals and 12 points, failing to register a point in just one game.

Anthony Salinitri, C, 19, 5-11/170, Sarnia (OHL)
Salinitri continued to ride an offensive wave last week for the Sting, collecting his first hat trick of the season while his point streak reached four games before ending Sunday.

On Friday night, Salinitri led Sarnia to a 6-3 win over Windsor with his first hat trick of the season and his third of his OHL career. He scored the game’s first goal, broke a 2-2 tie and then scored the game-winner. All three of his goals had an impact. Salinitri had an assist Thursday in Sarnia’s 5-3 loss to Flint. During his four-game point streak, Salinitri had six goals and eight points. He has 23 points in 23 games this season.

Quick Hits
Cooper Marody had two more multi-point games for Michigan. Marody now has eight straight multi-point games, compiling 19 points over that span.

• A big week for Carter Hart, who recorded his 21st career WHL shutout last Wednesday, tying him with Leland Irving for Everett’s franchise record.

Hart’s shutout last week was also his second straight. He then turned in a 31-save performance in a win over Seattle. Then on Sunday, Hart stopped 48 shots in a 2-1 loss to Regina.

Wade Allison had an assist Friday and a two-goals Saturday as No. 15 Western Michigan swept UNO. He has 12 goals and 29 points so far in his sophomore season.

Philippe Myers returned last week after missing four games with a groin injury. Myers had an assist Saturday in the Phantoms’ 5-2 win over Laval.

• Hamilton’s Matthew Strome is heating up. Strome had three goals, including a two-goal game, and four points in three games. He currently has a seven-game point streak, recording six goals and 13 points during that span. 

Wyatt Kalynuk had a four-assist weekend, including a three-assist game for No. 6 Wisconsin, who beat No. 17 Michigan, 7-3, Friday and tied Michigan, 4-4, Saturday.

• Clarkson defenseman Terrance Amorosa had an assist Friday and a goal Saturday. Amorosa has four goals and 13 points 14 games into his senior season.

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slash to Mathieu Perreault

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slash to Mathieu Perreault

Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas was suspended 10 games Sunday night by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his slashing penalty to the back of the neck of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault.​

The incident occurred 9:50 in the first period of the Winnipeg game that saw Gudas receive a five-minute major and a 10-game misconduct as a result of the play.

Gudas has already served one game of that suspension, as he sat out Saturday’s home game against the Calgary Flames awaiting Sunday morning’s phone hearing.

Gudas will forfeit just over $408,000 as a result of his actions. The Flyers defenseman won’t be eligible to return to the lineup until Dec. 12 when the Flyers host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This marks the longest suspension of Gudas’ career. He was slapped with a six-game suspension for his blow to Bruins forward Austin Czarnik in a 2016 preseason game. His first suspension in a Flyers sweater came back on Dec. 2, 2015, when he received three games for an illegal check to the head of Senators center Mika Zibanejad.

The suspension may ultimately help Gudas, who has appeared to be favoring his shoulder in recent games, limiting his ability to deliver his typical bone-jarring hits.