Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

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Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

From the upbeat music blaring when you first walk in the locker room to the jovial tones the players on the team speak with, it's clear times have changed drastically from a few weeks ago for the Flyers.

Just over two weeks ago, the music would have been shut off and a straight-laced attitude of needing to play better would have been blatantly evident during the 10-game skid.

Wins cure all, don't they?

And the Flyers will be going for their seventh consecutive win when they host the Los Angeles Kings Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Beside the music and the attitude, what has changed over the last few weeks to ignite this stretch of success? The Flyers feel a massive key has been their play in tight games, specifically in the third period. Where they would have crumbled weeks ago, they are excelling now.

"We've come to the conclusion that, obviously, we have to be on the same page to win games," Wayne Simmonds said Monday after morning skate. "We've done the exact same thing every single third period. To win games, you have to be consistent and do the same things every night.

"[Saturday vs. Dallas] in the third period, I think everyone thought we were actually winning the game 2-1 instead of being tied. That sets our expectations high. That's what we expect of ourselves. It was a good feeling and we kind of knew we were going to win that game, whether it was going to take 65 minutes or a shootout. ... We've kept it simple. I think that's the main thing for our team — we've kept it simple and everyone is on the exact same page."

The proof is in the pudding of Simmonds' words.

During the miserable 10-game losing streak, the Flyers were outscored 10-2 in third periods. Five of those games wound up as one-goal defeats decided in either OT or a shootout. Leads were held at one point or another in six of those contests. 

Moral of the story? Points were there for the taking and the Flyers left them dangling on the table for the opponent to grab.

Now, during this six-game win streak, the Flyers are outscoring the opposition 7-1 in third periods.

"We've been going into the third period and we've been on the same page," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We're excited to go out there and win that game. I think we're doing a lot of good things. We were doing a lot of good things when we weren't winning. But now it's more good things, doing the right things. 

"We go into the third period and it's a tight game or we're up a goal, we feel confident. If we play our game, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win. But we have to keep that mindset."

Much like Giroux, head coach Dave Hakstol feels the Flyers were doing good things during the skid, but now they're putting them all together and the wins are the result of just that.

"We obviously went through a stretch where we didn't have good third periods and at times we were our own worst enemy," Hakstol said. "Yet even within those periods we were playing pretty good hockey. But we had a tendency to try a little hard or look for a play that wasn't there that comes back to haunt you pretty quickly. 

"I think that's probably the biggest thing that has been different for us here over the last short stretch — just staying with the game."

Facing a defensively sound and structured Kings team that has a plus-22 goal differential and features a world-class goalie in Jonathan Quick, it likely means the Flyers are in for another close game Monday night.

And unlike two weeks ago, that's a welcomed situation. Because it's never too close for comfort now.

Twisted history
The Flyers on Monday can tie a weird, crazy, bizarre and whatever else you want to call it NHL record. They can tie the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs for the longest winning streak immediately after losing 10 games in a row. Those Leafs lost 11 in a row before storming back to win seven straight. Those Leafs also went on to win the Stanley Cup. 

Hey, who knows anything anymore, right?

More honors for Elliott
Flyers netminder Brian Elliott was honored by the NHL for the second straight week. This time, he was named the league's second star of the week after posting a 3-0-0 record, 1.31 goals-against average and .943 save percentage as the Flyers extended their win streak. His best performance last week came Saturday against the Stars when he stopped 27 shots in the 2-1 OT victory. Elliott, who will start Monday vs. the Kings and sports a 12-6-6 record, 2.61 goals-against average and .915 save percentage this season, was the third star the previous week.

No lineup changes are expected for the Flyers Monday. Injured goalie Michal Neuvirth, whose missed almost the last two weeks with a lower-body injury, took part in morning skate again, but still isn't ready to go. Alex Lyon will again back up Elliott.

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

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas-Travis Sanheim

Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Sean Couturier played through torn MCL in Flyers' final 2 games

USA Today Images

Sean Couturier played through torn MCL in Flyers' final 2 games

Sean Couturier's "lower-body" injury was a lot more serious than originally believed.

After the Flyers were eliminated by the Penguins in Game 6 Sunday (see observations), Couturier revealed he had been playing on a torn MCL in his right knee. It will not require surgery, he said.

Couturier missed just one game with the injury. When asked if he'd come back as fast if it were the regular season, the centerman said, "probably not."

"It's usually something like four weeks," he said. "Depends on the situation during the season, [but] probably take more time off."

The Flyers' top center suffered the injury in a collision with teammate Radko Gudas during practice April 17. He missed Game 4 and then returned for Game 5 in Pittsburgh, where he scored the game-winning goal to help the Flyers force Game 6.

On Sunday afternoon, Couturier recorded his second career playoff hat trick — both coming against the Penguins — and had five total points in the Flyers' 8-5 loss.

"That was incredible," Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "If you guys only knew what kind of shape those guys were in. I respect the hell out of those guys."

It turns out, we found out exactly what kind of shape Couturier was in, and it certainly was far more serious than we thought.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Eric Mullin contributed to this story.

Penguins storm back to bounce Flyers from playoffs

Penguins storm back to bounce Flyers from playoffs


The Penguins closed out the Flyers in six games after winning, 8-5, Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Penguins forward Jake Guentzel recorded a natural hat trick in the third period and finished with four goals.  

Sean Couturier recorded his second career playoff hat trick with the other coming against Pittsburgh in Game 2 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After the game, Couturier revealed that he was playing on a torn right MCL. 

Pittsburgh’s quick-strike attack included two first-period goals in 47 seconds and two third-period goals in 10 seconds.

The Flyers' power play was 0 for 13 in the three playoff games on home ice.

Penguins leading scorer Evgeni Malkin was scratched with a leg injury he suffered in the Flyers' Game 5 win in Pittsburgh.

• Like Game 3, the Flyers came out playing desperation hockey and brought the attack to Pittsburgh. They were quicker, stronger on pucks and more importantly with strong puck support. As a result, the Flyers outshot Pittsburgh, 7-1, in the opening five minutes of the game but they couldn’t take a lead into the first intermission and were instead tied at 2-2.

• Scott Laughton gave the Flyers a 4-2 lead with a little under eight minutes to play in the second period and the momentum was short-lived as Radko Gudas played one of his worst periods of the season. His failure to clear the puck in his own end led to Patric Hornqvist scoring an easy tap-in goal. In the final minute of the second period, Gudas simply couldn’t handle Pittsburgh's tenacious forecheck, which led to Guentzel’s goal and a 4-4 score after two periods. Gudas was solid in Game 5, so it’s somewhat surprising there was no carryover into this game. 

• As courageous as Ivan Provorov was to suit up and gut out an ailing shoulder, the Flyers' lockdown defenseman was clearly suffering and his play dipped in the third period. He had a string of turnovers — the first led to Guentzel’s go-ahead goal. After logging 30 minutes in Game 5, Provorov was limited in his ice time that Dave Hakstol was clearly monitoring. In retrospect, Hakstol should have considered dressing seven defensemen, especially given how little he used Dale Weise and how much Provorov was hurting.  

• The newly-assembled line of Laughton-Couturier-Wayne Simmonds created havoc throughout the game, as Couturier and Laughton were on the ice for the first four Flyers goals. All three players contributed on a tenacious forecheck against Sidney Crosby and the top line that led to Andrew MacDonald’s slap-shot goal to tie the game at 2-2. Simmonds was ferocious with a physical element to his game while also leading the Flyers with four shots on goal through the first two periods. 

• A consistent theme throughout this game was the Penguins' aggressive forecheck and constant hounding of the Flyers' defense that gave the Flyers fits. Even playing without Malkin, Pittsburgh’s goals came at even strength with the Pens' forwards turning defense into offense. It’s hard to understand why the Flyers had such trouble handling the Penguins' attack considering all the smart decisions they made in Game 5.