Flyers

Flyers midseason report card grades

Flyers midseason report card grades

As the Flyers (19-15-8) officially hit the midway point of the season this weekend in the midst of their five-day bye period, let’s issue midseason grades to each player on the team with at least 10 games played. And we'll grade the coach, too.

Forwards
Sean Couturier — A+
Not one person on the planet would have guessed Couturier could jump up to the top line and put up these numbers (career highs already with 23 goals and 42 points) while still maintaining his defensive responsibilities. He's the Flyers' best all-around player and my first-half MVP. Couturier’s presence and the manner in which he drives the net opens up the ice for his linemates.

Unique stat — Couturier is the first Flyer to reach the 20-goal mark in the first half of the season since Danny Briere in 2010-11.   

Claude Giroux — A
Quite the impressive turnaround for Giroux, who has overcome injuries and setbacks and has regained his speed and mobility, allowing him to be much more effective in open ice. The vision and playmaking ability has been remarkable, especially over the past 20 games. Only a handful of defensive lapses prevent Giroux from earning an A+ here. 

Unique stat — One of just eight players in franchise history to record 500 or more points before the age of 30.

Jakub Voracek — A-
Voracek is playing at the level when he earned NHL first-team honors in 2014-15. He leads the NHL in assists and he drives play no matter which line he’s on while making those around him better. However, Voracek has taken some foolish penalties, committed some untimely turnovers and, when feeling overconfident, he tries to do too much with the puck. With Voracek, you have to take the good with the bad.

Unique stat — Leads all NHL right wingers with 187 assists since 2014-15.

Scott Laughton — B+
Laughton has refined his role as a defensive-minded, checking-line center with the capabilities of chipping in offensively on occasion. He has the moments here and there when he loses coverage, but has remained committed to playing responsibly in his own end. Has played a big role on the PK unit. 

Unique stat — Laughton has the same number of even-strength goals as Voracek and Valtteri Filppula.

Michael Raffl — B
He's finally playing healthy after an injury-filled 2016-17. Raffl is terrific along the boards, strong on pucks and has been deceptively quick with his speed. He's flexible no matter who he plays with. Raffl had a slow start to the season offensively, but he has come on over his last 20 games. 

Unique stat — Raffl scored the Flyers' game-winning goal in three straight games in Western Canada in December.    

Wayne Simmonds — B-
The season started sky high for the "Wayne Train," scoring a hat trick in the season opener. And while he’s been the steady down-low power forward on the team’s power play, Simmonds has struggled at even strength. Only Travis Sanheim has a worse plus-minus. There’s a belief that he's fighting through injuries as his speed and stride appear to be just a step slower this season.

Unique stat — Second in the NHL with 82 power-play goals since 2011-12. 

Valtteri Filppula — B-
Mostly relied upon as a defensive center, Filppula is rarely caught out of position in his own end of the ice. However, he doesn’t generate much offensively and doesn’t spend much time with the puck on his stick, nor does he win his share of puck battles. Filppula has adjusted to having a number of different linemates. Though he appears to have lost a step in the first half of the season.  

Unique stat — Filppula has won over 50 percent of his faceoffs in 10 of his 11 NHL seasons.

Travis Konecny — C+    
He's played with a certain recklessness early on in the season and struggled trying to do too much offensively with linemates who don’t quite have his skill set. However, Konecny’s found structure playing alongside Couturier and Giroux on the top line in recent weeks. If he can keep his game simple and bring that aggressiveness coupled with his speed, he could have a breakout second half.

Unique stat — Konecny scored his first career game-winning goal Jan. 4 against the Islanders.

Taylor Leier — C+
He had a strong start to the season, earning a spot straight out of training camp. He's brought speed, energy and tenacity early on, but his play has fallen off over the past 15-20 games. He needs to show more of that consistently. Leier was taken off the top PK unit, paired with Laughton. He's been a healthy scratch 11 times this season and a minus-7 over his last five games.

Unique stat — Has been credited with just one giveaway in 47 career games.

Nolan Patrick — C
Patrick struggled as the Flyers' second-line center earlier in the season. He's looked very tentative at times in the offensive zone and doesn’t always utilize his speed to his advantage. However, he’s remained committed at the defensive end and has gradually shown more confidence in making plays offensively. I'd like to see him shoot more on the second PP unit.

Unique stat — Patrick leads Flyers in penalties drawn per 60 minutes at 1.35.

Jordan Weal — C
Like Konecny's, Weal’s game is starting to come around. However, aside from a strong opening 10 games to his season, Weal has struggled to find any offensive consistency, which the Flyers were expecting when they re-signed him in the offseason. He's very active in the offensive zone, but has a tendency to press when things don’t go well. He's been a healthy scratch six times this season.

Unique stat — Weal leads the Flyers with two shootout goals, converting on both attempts this season. 

Dale Weise — C- 
The Flyers were hoping Weise could carry his strong finish in 2016-17 into the start of the season, but that just hasn’t been the case. He plays with speed, but struggles mightily with a stick in his hands. He can’t seem to find consistency with linemates. Weise has been a healthy scratch eight times this season.

Unique stat — Has the second-best giveaway/takeaway ratio (plus-6) on the team.

Jori Lehtera — D 
Coming out of training camp, Lehtera didn’t exactly have a fit or a position. More suited to center, he’s had to adjust playing the wing. Two of his better games have come against his former team, the Blues. A plodder who struggles to keep up against quicker teams, and, as a result, he rarely has the puck on his stick for an extended amount of time, and has just 13 shots in 24 games.

Unique stat — Averaging one penalty for every 112 minutes at even strength, best ratio on the team. 
    
Defense
Ivan Provorov — A-
No sophomore slump here. Provorov has been exactly what the Flyers envisioned — a shutdown defenseman. He may have the occasional clunker of a game, but that’s expected when you have to contend with the opposition’s top lines and pairings every game. He's shown more jump in the offensive zone recently paired with Shayne Gostisbehere. 

Unique stat — Leads the NHL in ice time at 24:48 for players under the age of 26.

Shayne Gostisbehere — B+
Gostisbehere’s play has paralleled that of the team’s success and failures. "Ghost" started the season strong, playing better defensively in his own end, only to tail off during the 10-game winless streak. Recently, he’s played more of a solid two-way game paired with Provorov. Currently third among NHL defensemen in scoring with 32 points.

Unique stat — Gostisbehere is on pace to become the Flyers' first 60-point defenseman since Gary Galley in 1993-94.

Andrew MacDonald — B
The Flyers missed MacDonald's steadying presence after he took a puck to the leg back in October and subsequently missed the next 15 games. He does the little things that don’t show up on a scoresheet, but doesn’t do one thing exceptionally well. He's shown versatility playing with Provorov or Robert Hagg, but he's not the best skater and occasionally struggles to stay on his feet.

Unique stat — The Flyers are 16-8-3 with MacDonald in the lineup.

Robert Hagg — B
Hagg has been the pleasant surprise of the rookies coming out of training camp. He doesn’t try to do too much or overextend himself in the defensive end of the ice. A physical presence who uses his size to his advantage. Needs to be better with his first pass out of the zone. May not have the best advanced metrics, but he’s second to Couturier with a plus-12 rating.

Unique stat — Could be the first rookie since Cal Clutterbuck in 2008-09 to lead the NHL in hits. Currently second behind Anaheim’s Chris Wagner. 

Brandon Manning — B-
Manning has been opportunistic on the offensive end, scoring a career-high four goals in 27 games. He knows his role and his limitations and doesn’t try to do too much. Defensively, he’s worked well partnered with Radko Gudas, but at times, his physical, aggressive side catches him out of position. Manning has played well in the five games back recently from a hand injury.

Unique stat — Manning earned his first career power-play point in 169 career games with an assist Jan. 4 against the Islanders.

Radko Gudas — C+
Gudas’ first half was highlighted by a 10-game suspension he received as a result of a vicious crosscheck to the neck of Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault in November. Like MacDonald, Gudas has been a steady presence as part of the Flyers' third pairing. However, Gudas hasn’t been the physical force like we’ve seen in past seasons and can be caught chasing the puck in his own end.

Unique stat — Gudas is averaging over two shots a game for the first time in his career, but has yet to score a goal this season.

Travis Sanheim — C
As comfortable as Sanheim looks in the offensive end of the ice, he struggles just as much in the defensive zone, losing coverage and playing his way out of position. From that aspect, he’s still adjusting to the speed at which decisions have to be made at the NHL level. I'd like to see Sanheim use more of his skating ability to make plays from zone to zone. He's been a healthy scratch the past five games and has a team-worst minus-9 rating. 

Unique stat  Sanheim has been a plus player just once in his last 16 games played.  

Goaltending
Brian Elliott — B+
Elliott has seized the No. 1  goaltending job from Neuvirth with his consistent play and Neuvirth's inability to remain healthy. He's given the Flyers a chance in almost every game he's played. He plays deep in his net and doesn’t challenge shooters too much. Positionally, Elliott is almost always square to the puck and shows good rebound control. If he sees it, typically he stops it. He came through in a big way during a string of 16 consecutive starts. Numbers don’t reflect his solid season. 

Unique stat  On pace for 66 starts, which would shatter his previous high of 48 set back in 2009-10 with the Ottawa Senators.

Michal Neuvirth — B
He started the season with three exceptional starts. Neuvirth is a hard-working athletic goaltender, but not quite as positionally-sound as Elliott. He can be leaky, especially on sealing the near post, and occasionally struggles with sharp-angle shots. He's shown yet again to be injury-prone as he recently missed nine games with a lower-body injury.

Unique stat  Leads the NHL with a .950 save percentage at even strength for goalies with 10 or more games played.

Coaching
Dave Hakstol — B-
The season could have gone off the rails, but Hakstol didn’t panic, especially during the 10-game winless streak as the team continued to play hard throughout and he maintained the belief the team wasn’t playing that poorly. He could have been quicker in making adjustments, whether that was breaking up the top line or employing more of a defensive 1-2-2 system while limiting the minutes of his young players. I'd like to see more emotion at times, but he still has his team positioned for a playoff run. 

Unique stat  Hakstol’s next victory will be his 100th career NHL win.

Brayden Schenn nets 20th goal as Blues cruise

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USA Today Images

Brayden Schenn nets 20th goal as Blues cruise

ST. LOUIS -- Carter Hutton made 25 saves for his 10th career shutout and the St. Louis Blues got goals from Vladimir Sobotka and Vladimir Tarasenko in a 3-0 victory over the struggling Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

Brayden Schenn, who also had an assist, added an empty-net goal at 17:34 of the third period. It was his 20th goal of the season.

The game was a bounce-back effort for Hutton, pulled after giving up three goals on 12 shots in Saturday's 5-2 loss to Arizona.

Hutton, normally the Blues' backup, started for the fourth consecutive game and eighth in the last 10. He earned his second shutout this season (see full recap).

Lightning top Preds before visiting Flyers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Down a goal late in the third period in the second game of a back-to-back, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to captain Steven Stamkos and he got the tying score. Yanni Gourde then came through in overtime.

Gourde scored 1:45 into the extra period to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.

Chris Kunitz had a goal and two assists, and Vladislav Namestnikov also scored as the Lightning won their second straight. Louis Domingue stopped 30 shots.

"It was all about our compete," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "It was about nothing else but our compete. They are a hell of a team over there. They just keep coming at you,” (see full recap).

Dea scores 1st NHL goal, Pens beat Hurricanes
PITTSBURGH -- Not much more than a month ago, Dominik Simon, Jean-Sebastien Dea and Casey DeSmith were playing minor league hockey in Wilkes-Barre for the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, when that unlikely trio carried Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions to an important win.

Simon and Dea scored 76 seconds apart in the second period, and DeSmith made 34 saves for the Penguins in a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

"They've been huge," Jake Geunztel said of his rookie teammates. "They're playing really well, and they have that excitement to be here. We have all been there -- and to see that, it's cool to be around, for sure,” (see full recap).

Eichel's 4 points lead Sabres to win over Oilers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Jack Eichel had a goal and three assists, Ryan O'Reilly scored twice and the Buffalo Sabres earned an easy 5-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.

Sam Reinhart had a goal and two assists and Zemgus Girgensons also scored for the last-place Sabres (13-26-9), who won their second game in a row for just the second time this season. The other time was in late October.

Robin Lehner made 33 saves for his second shutout of the season.

Cam Talbot started in net and stopped 18 of 22 shots in 31:32 of work before Al Montoya turned aside 11 of 12 in relief for the Oilers (21-24-3), who had a three-game winning streak snapped (see full recap).

Even a controversial OT winner can't slow down Konecny

Even a controversial OT winner can't slow down Konecny

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — Twenty-seven is Travis Konecny’s lucky number these days.

That’s because, for the second game in a row, Konecny scored a goal 27 seconds into overtime to give the Flyers a win.

The Red Wings were Konecny’s victims Tuesday night, as his overtime marker gave the Flyers a 3-2 win at Little Caesars Arena for their eighth win in nine games (see observations). On Sunday, Konecny scored 27 seconds into the extra period to beat the Capitals, 2-1.

“I don't know, but it is certainly going well. I think it is just a matter of not thinking and having fun out there,” Konecny said. “I always know Coots (Sean Couturier) is going to get me the puck in a good spot, and I've had a couple go in.”

Konecny, who has nine goals and 21 points in 48 games for the season, has four goals and six points in his past six games.

Konecny became the second Flyer to score back-to-back overtime winners — Sami Kapanen did it on Dec. 28, 2005, at Atlanta, and then Dec. 29, 2005, at Carolina.

Tuesday night’s OT winner was reviewed because it was possibly offside. With the play on the right-wing boards, the puck came out of the Detroit zone, with Konecny still in. But Couturier poked it right back into the zone and it was ruled that Konecny got his skate on the blue line — putting himself back onside — before he touched the puck.

From there, he skated into the right-wing circle and beat Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek with a shot on the short side (see highlights).

“I was pretty sure it was a good goal,” Konecny said. “When I saw the replay, my skates hit the blue line before the puck hit my stick. I didn't think they had enough to overturn it.”

Jakub Voracek had a goal and an assist, defenseman Andrew MacDonald scored and Couturier had two assists. Goaltender Brian Elliott had to make only 19 saves, but a few were outstanding.

“When you look at the shot clock, it didn't look like I had much to do, but it felt like a lot of work,” Elliott said. “They had a lot of great chances where they missed the net.”

Two of those chances were by Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi in the third period with a chance to break the tie.

Seconds after Frans Nielsen tied it 2-2 for the Red Wings with 9:16 remaining in regulation, Bertuzzi had the puck in the lower right circle facing an open net. But MacDonald got his stick on Bertuzzi’s shot and deflected it over the net.

And with 1:11 left in regulation, Bertuzzi, off a rebound, appeared to have an easy tap-in from two or three feet but shot the puck wide and went barreling into the net, knocking it off its moorings for a stoppage in play.

The Flyers scored twice in the second period to take a 2-1 lead.

Voracek’s power-play goal with 37 seconds left in the middle period gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead. It was his ninth goal and came just 12 seconds after Dylan Larkin took a tripping penalty.

MacDonald tied it 1-1 for the Flyers 1:10 into the second.

The Flyers outshot the Red Wings, 18-7, in the second period after a slow start in the first.

“We had a really sluggish start, but we were really good in the second period. It was night and day,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “They really pushed us back at the end, especially with their speed, but we found a way to get two points.”

Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson gave Detroit a 1-0 lead with 9:18 left in the first when his shot from the left point deflected in off the leg of Brandon Manning.

The Flyers outshot the Red Wings — who beat New Jersey, 3-0, Monday night — 5-4.