Flyers-Blues observations: Finally on the right side of a review

Flyers-Blues observations: Finally on the right side of a review


ST. LOUIS — The Flyers put together one of the most impressive shutouts in franchise history on Thursday with a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

Despite playing with a makeshift unit that had just 272 games played combined amongst the team’s six defensemen, the Flyers walked away with the win. Goalie Michal Neuvirth stopped all 33 shots he faced for his 11th career shutout.

Brandon Manning scored the game’s first goal 38 seconds into the second period. It was initially waved off for goalie interference but overturned after a review. 

Claude Giroux added an empty-netter in the final minute.

• Not only was Ivan Provorov all over the place Thursday night, but he was in every shooting lane as well. Facing the NHL’s No. 1-ranked team in blocked shots, Provorov turned in a performance even the Blues could admire with 10 blocked shots of his own, which tied a team record.

• Neuvirth went down awkwardly after he collided with Mark Alt’s stick in the third period. Neuvirth stayed down for several seconds. After officials blew the whistle to stop play, Neuvirth recovered and remained in the game.

• It appeared as if the Flyers lost another key player to injury as Brayden Schenn took a late run at Sean Couturier and caught him with a forearm in the head area. Couturier went down hard and stayed down in obvious pain before he was helped off. Schenn was given two minutes for interference.

Couturier missed the final eight-plus minutes of that second period. He returned to begin the third period and showed no ill effects from the shot he took from Schenn.

• I’m not sure if there are too many teams that move their defense around as much as the St. Louis Blues do. Offensively, they’re never stagnant and as long as their forwards rotate and cover defensively, it makes for a difficult matchup. 

• After Couturier exited, Jori Lehtera, who played his best game as a Flyer, filled in on that top line, as did Scott Laughton.

• Neuvirth brought his A game to the Gateway City with his biggest save on former teammate Schenn. Neuvirth flashed the glove on a perfectly executed breakout play that started behind the Blues’ own net. Neuvirth also displayed excellent rebound control as he steered shots toward the boards and in areas where St. Louis couldn’t generate a second-chance opportunity.

• I’m surprised the officials overturned their own call on the ice as they awarded Manning with the goal even after they whistled Jakub Voracek for goaltender interference. Credit the officials for recognizing that Alex Pietrangelo made the contact with a nudge, but it still didn’t appear as if Voracek made contact with Blues goalie Jake Allen. 

• One replay gave the appearance that Manning’s point blast was redirected, but it was hard to see who got a stick on the puck.

• Early in the second period, the Blues’ No. 1 power-play unit stayed out on the ice for the entire two minutes. While the Blues were able to keep it in the zone for much of that time, credit the Flyers’ penalty killers, as most of the Blues’ shots came from the perimeter and not much in the high-danger areas.

• The Flyers were under barrage for the first seven-plus minutes of the game as the Blues outshot them 10-1 to begin. Dale Weise committed a pointless slashing penalty away from the puck that gave St. Louis its first power play. The Blues’ best opportunity came when sniper Vladimir Tarasenko had a wide-open net from the right circle, but it appeared he tried to guide the puck and missed the net entirely.

• Making his NHL debut at the age of 29, Will O’Neill appeared to be very mindful of not getting caught out of position or overcommitting. O’Neill worked with a number of partners but played just 2:54, and actually had a shot on net.

• Allen misplayed a puck behind his net, which rolled outside the trapezoid area and allowed Couturier to gather it before the goalie could return to his net. However, Couturier was not able to take advantage as none of his linemates were unable to fill the passing lane with a wide-open net.

• As part of their defensive structure, the Blues’ forwards are very committed to their backchecking duties, which was evident in the opening 20 minutes. The biggest hit came when Vladimir Sobotka leveled Couturier behind the net. Whether it’s accurate or not, and it usually favors the home team, the Blues outhit the Flyers 13-3 in the opening period.

• St. Louis dominated the first half of the period, but the Flyers bounced back in the latter half. The Flyers did a considerably better job of maintaining puck possession and not allowing the Blues to cycle the puck quite as much.

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
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim
Will O’Neill-Mark Alt

Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forward Matt Read (healthy), and defensemen Radko Gudas (upper body) 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.