Flyers-Blackhawks observations: Offense fizzles in road shutout

Flyers-Blackhawks observations: Offense fizzles in road shutout


CHICAGO — The Blackhawks provided the Flyers with every chance in the world to score and score often. However, the end result was a failure to score altogether as the Flyers suffered a 3-0 loss at the United Center. 

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped all 35 shots he faced as the Flyers were shut out for the third time in 13 games this season. 

The Flyers’ record dropped to 6-6-1 as they’ve lost four of their last five games.

• Once again, the Flyers lost another defenseman as Radko Gudas left after the first period and never returned with an upper-body injury. That limited the Flyers to five D-men, three of them rookies.

• With 11:30 remaining in regulation, Jakub Voracek had a nice stretch pass to Claude Giroux, who streaked around Brent Seabrook. But once again, Crawford came up with another big stop. Without question, the Flyers had a handful of grade-A opportunities but were just unable to convert. 

• Voracek had an early opportunity as he took a pass from Giroux and wheeled around Chicago defenseman Jan Rutta, but he couldn’t sneak the puck past Crawford’s outstretched pad.

• The Flyers were playing with fire in the second period and they finally got burned on Chicago’s fourth power play of the game. Richard Panik fired a big slap shot that Brian Elliott stopped. However, Artem Anisimov cut in behind Ivan Provorov to put in the rebound. Several things: Provorov’s reaction kept him from sealing off Anisimov’s path to the crease, and there was no one to clear the rebound. That said, even in the first period, Elliott was not crisp with his rebounds, often lunging to cover pucks in front of him. 

• The Blackhawks’ power-play goal in that second period snapped an 0-for-18 skid.

• Twenty seconds after making it 1-0, Chicago grabbed a 2-0 lead when Jonathan Toews connected on a breakaway. Robert Hagg simply whiffed on trying a shot from the blue line. Toews saw an opening, jumped all over it, and slid a backhand through Elliott’s five-hole. Just an unfortunate play for the rookie Hagg.  

• Aside from a delay of game penalty, there was more to like with Mark Alt’s game. He perfectly played a Chicago 2-on-1 to deny a scoring chance with his stick and knocked the puck to the corner. Later in the second period, he played some airtight defense on Toews as he stuck with him along the boards before he finished a check to send the Blackhawks’ captain to the ice. After 40 minutes, Alt led the Flyers with four hits.

• Travis Sanheim had his best shot so far at scoring his first NHL goal when he was sprung free on a breakaway. Sanheim looked to go top left corner, but Crawford came up with perhaps his best save of the game as he caught the shot with his blocker.

• The Flyers were close to scoring the first goal on several occasions, including when Jori Lehtera flipped a puck that Crawford couldn’t handle. With the puck bouncing around and Crawford clearly out of position, Dale Weise couldn’t get a good whack on it or he likely would have scored his second goal of the season. This was Weise’s first game back after being a healthy scratch the previous three, and he still appears to be fighting rust. 

• A solid job by Flyers as they didn’t allow the Blackhawks to set up their cycle game down low in the first period. Alt turned in a solid opening 20 minutes in his first road NHL game. Watching him closely, he wasn’t rattled playing in a hostile environment. Alt’s only hiccup came early in the period when he lost track of the puck between his skates, which let Lance Bouma to get off a backhand shot. Alt played 4:53 in the opening period.

• It was a roller coaster-type first period for Valtteri Filppula, who had a breakaway wrist shot — the Flyers’ best chance early on — and a wraparound attempt that nearly shot up and over Crawford for a goal. In the same shift, Filppula got his stick around Nick Schmaltz for a hooking penalty. Earlier in the first, Filppula was whistled for high sticking.

• It was good to see Travis Konecny move up to the Flyers’ second line as he appeared to grow frustrated on the third line without Nolan Patrick. Dave Hakstol would like to see more from Konecny and this was a good opportunity as the Jordan Weal-Filppula-Wayne Simmonds combo has not played, nor generated much offense, over its last three games.

• The Blackhawks' best chance at scoring during the first came in the final minute of the period when Cody Franson’s shot trickled past Elliott. Thankfully for the Flyers, there was no one for the ‘Hawks to clean up the rebound. Chicago’s power play has really been a mess this season. The Blackhawks came into this game 2 for 30 on home ice, and on their first power-play chance the Flyers had three easy clears in the first minute.

• In defense of a hit on linemate Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton dropped the gloves with defenseman Connor Murphy, who the Blackhawks acquired from Arizona as part of the Niklas Kjalmarsson trade. Murphy is the son of Flyers assistant Gord Murphy. He didn’t exactly make dad proud as Laughton took him to the ice right away. 

• Voracek nearly banked a shot off of Crawford, who came out of his net to play the puck but showed little urgency in getting back to his crease. The goal-hungry Sean Couturier, who leads the team with nine goals, jumped on the opportunity and tried to bang home a loose puck. Couturier has a tenaciousness about him right now that comes with confidence.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Mark Alt

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forward Matt Read (healthy), and defensemen Will O’Neill (healthy) and Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body).

Best of NHL: Johnny Gaudreau extends point streak to 10 games

USA Today Images

Best of NHL: Johnny Gaudreau extends point streak to 10 games

WASHINGTON -- Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist to extend his career-best point streak to 10 games and the Calgary Flames beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Monday night.

Gaudreau scored and assisted on Sean Monahan's goal, one of two on the power play for Calgary, which has won four of its past five. Mikael Backlund and captain Mark Giordano also scored for the Flames, who got 29 saves from Mike Smith.

Gaudreau, nicknamed "Johnny Hockey," has eight goals and 11 assists during his point streak. Led by the Carneys Point, New Jersey, native, the Flames are 7-3-0 in that time.

Lars Eller scored the only goal for the Capitals, who took five minor penalties and lost for the third time in four games. Braden Holtby allowed four goals on 39 shots.

The Flames came in feeling good after a comeback victory in Philadelphia and a 1950s-themed train ride to Washington. But the Capitals took a 1-0 lead just 62 seconds in when Jakub Vrana found Eller for his fourth goal of the season.

Calgary controlled much of the play from that point on, tying it on Gaudreau's goal 4:49 in and taking a lead on Monahan's power-play goal 5:22 into the second. Monahan had a goal and an assist after a power-play hat trick Saturday against the Flyers.

Washington's parade to the penalty box gave the Flames momentum and then their third goal at 4:38 of the second when Backlund buried a loose puck. Giordano's goal to make it 4-1 was effectively a third power-play goal as it came 1 second after ex-Flames forward Alex Chiasson's penalty expired (see full recap).

Blue Jackets edge Sabres for 4th straight win
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sergei Bobrovsky made three of his 30 saves on a power play in the final two minutes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Monday night for their fourth straight victory.

Rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Boone Jenner scored for the Blue Jackets. Markus Nutivaara had two assists.

Buffalo dropped its sixth straight game. Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart scored for the Sabres, and Robin Lehner stopped 25 shots.

Bobrovsky made his biggest save when he slid across the crease to kick away a Ryan O'Reilly one-timer with 1:49 remaining. Bobrovsky got a piece of Kyle Okposo's shot off the rebound and the puck trickled across the goal line while Okposo fell into the net. Officials determined on replay that the goal did not count.

The Blue Jackets scored first for the fifth straight game when Dubois collected a loose puck in the slot and lifted a wrist shot over Lehner four minutes into the second period. Oliver Bjorkstrand set up Dubois' third goal of the season with a pass from behind the net.

Panarin scored his fifth on a high wrist shot from the right circle 5:47 into the third. Jenner added his third goal of the year on a play in front of the net midway through the period (see full recap).

Raanta, Coyotes end Maple Leafs' win streak
TORONTO -- Antti Raanta made 26 saves and the Arizona Coyotes ended the Toronto Maple Leafs' winning streak at six games with a 4-1 victory Monday night.

Brendan Perlini, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi and Tobias Rieder scored for the Coyotes (5-15-3), who have won three in a row for the first time this season.

Arizona rookie Clayton Keller had two assists to give him 20 points in 23 games.

James van Riemsdyk scored for the Maple Leafs (14-8-0).

Frederik Andersen had his shutout streak snapped at 1:41:28 when the Coyotes scored in the first period. Andersen, who made 28 saves, had blanked the opponent in back-to-back games.

Toronto star Auston Matthews, playing in his 100th career game, appeared to tie it 2-all with 3:50 to play but the goal was overturned after a replay review because of goalie interference by Zach Hyman (see full recap).

Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

USA Today Images

Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Wayne Simmonds would make a pretty good salesman.

He speaks with conviction and knows how to convey a point.

On Monday, he was selling the 2017-18 Flyers.

None of it was fluff. In fact, the sales pitch was completely valid.

Many clamored for the Flyers to become younger, and they did. Nolan Patrick, 19, is just getting healthy again after missing nine straight games. The fourth line features two 23-year-olds (Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier) that developed last season in the AHL. And half of the current defense is made up of rookies.

That's not to mention Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are only 20 years old, while Jordan Weal is in his first full NHL season.

After losing four straight games, the Flyers are 8-8-4 and still only five points out of first place despite sitting in last in the Metropolitan Division.

Things could be worse. Really, they're not all that bad.

"The season's not even close to being over," Simmonds said after practice at Flyers Skate Zone. "That's the way I'm thinking about it, guys. There's no need to be worried, we're a .500 hockey team right now, we've played 20 games, we have 62 games left, we've got a really young team and we're growing every single day. Yeah, we're going to have our struggles, but we're also going to have points in the season where we make huge strides. We've got to stick with it and we've got to keep going and going."

The Flyers were 9-8-3 after 20 games last season. Two games later, they were starting a 10-game winning streak. The run didn't accomplish much by season's end, but it's an example of how quickly trends can turn in the NHL.

Simmonds is experiencing his own negative trend of 12 straight games without a goal after scoring six in eight games to start the season.

"Sometimes you score 10 goals, then you don't score again for 20 games or something like that," Simmonds said. "Like I said, it's a long year, you keep going, you keep grinding, you guys want to jump to conclusions, that's your job. You guys have got to make decisions on a game-to-game basis, but for us, we just have to make sure we're coming to the rink and doing our job every single day and continuing to try and get better."

Throughout much of his drought, Simmonds has not looked himself, likely banged up from the style in which he plays and excels.

With time and patience, Simmonds is building himself up again physically.

"You think you can do some things and sometimes your body just tells you no," Simmonds said.

"I've been feeling better the last little bit. I feel like I've started to play better, things aren't coming offensively for me. I think as an individual, I've just got to keep working hard. The only way to break yourself out of a bad streak is to continue to work hard and hopefully things eventually go your way."

When does he know his game is coming to him?

"When I'm aggressive," Simmonds said. "When I'm battling in the corners, I'm hitting — I think earlier this year, I wasn't fully engaging in battles and stuff like that, and that's not me, that's not my game. I think the last little bit here, I've felt a lot better, I've been doing a lot more battling, a lot more hitting, a lot more physical things. It's nice and we've got to continue that. As a team, we've got to continue to do the same thing, to get to the front of the net and continue to put pucks in."

Aside from the first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, scoring struggles have permeated the middle six and secondary options. Konecny and Weal, two players the Flyers expected jumps from in production, have combined for four goals and nine assists. Konecny is without a goal over his previous 10 games, while Weal has scored one in his last 12.

"It's been a lot of hard work and not much to show for it," Weal said. "No matter what line we've been on, it seems like we've been getting three or four chances every game to put something in and nothing right now seems to be going in. It's one of those things that happens during a season.

"When it breaks open, hopefully it'll break wide open.

"When we have all four lines scoring, we're a really dangerous team."

Both Konecny and Weal are frequently the last two players off the practice ice.

Monday was no different.

"I just need to make sure I'm battling and creating more offense," Konecny said. "I feel like the opportunities are there, I'm not worried about that."

Nor is Simmonds worried about the Flyers with 62 games to go, the next coming Tuesday night at home against the Canucks.

Similar to building up strength and good health, patience is important to a season, especially with the makeup of this Flyers team.

Simmonds believes you'll buy in … just give it some time.

"You can look at the standings, you can do whatever you want, but we've played 20 games," Simmonds said. "There's still a long time to go in the season. We've got work to do.

"I'm definitely feeling better. It's up to me to get going."

When he does, the Flyers hope the rest follow.