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).

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

John Boruk/NBCSP

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Aaron also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an Orange and Black diehard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based Original Six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Philadelphia Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably six-to-nine years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies - Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia it’s first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time this weekend, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” said 54-year-old Tom Banks. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

USA Today Images

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).