CALGARY, Alberta — There’s been so much bad karma lately, that it’s come time to break up the one positive on this Flyers team.
Head coach Dave Hakstol has elected to split up his trio of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, a line that has generated 43 percent of the team's offensive production at even strength, including an NHL-leading 25 goals between them.
“It’s the right time to do it,” Hakstol said. “Over the past two, three games and coming down with our last game at home, we just felt it was a good time to make a change.”
“When a team’s not doing well, you obviously want to switch things up,” Giroux said. “Hopefully we’ll get some new chemistry and that’s what we’re trying to find right now.”
The Flyers enter Monday night's game against the Calgary Flames on another dreadful scoreless drought, this time stretching over 119:12. Every line has failed to generate a sustained offensive attack, much stemming from a miserable performance against the San Jose Sharks last Tuesday.
While Voracek has been sloppy throughout this recent losing stretch, Hakstol believes Wayne Simmonds deserves a crack at playing on a line that brings more skill and is capable of generating more chances.
“We’ve seen Simmer’s game be on track here in the last few games, and I think it’s a good time for him to have that opportunity, as well,” Hakstol said. “Just a little bit of a change and look for the three guys who have been on that line.”
After scoring the game-winning goal in four of the Flyers' first five wins, Simmonds' production has dipped dramatically with just one goal over his last 18 games.
“I think it balances out a little bit more,” Simmonds said. “Jake’s a guy who can carry his own line. He’s a guy if he’s on the ice, he’s usually got the puck. I’m just going to try and play my game and hopefully it complements [Giroux and Couturier].”
But the lack of secondary scoring has been a primary issue for the Flyers as they’ve generated just two or fewer goals in eight of their last 14 games, including four shutouts. Voracek will try to spread the wealth playing alongside Michael Raffl and Valtteri Filppula, the latter of whom has just one even-strength goal in his last 15 games.
“Well, you have to change something,” Voracek said. “Ten games? Four games is a long one (losing streak). Ten is too long. Obviously try to shake things up. Hopefully we’ll get some goals out of those lines and help us win a game. That’s what we’re focusing on right now and let’s hope it works.”
The Flyers enter their three-game Western Canada stretch staring at potentially breaking the club’s all-time winless streak of 12 games that saw the Flyers go 0-8-4 (four ties) from Feb. 24 to March 16, 1999.
“I think mentally it’s really tough,” Giroux said. “You question the way you’re playing. You question if you’re a good team, but at the end of the day, we do believe we can fight for a playoff spot. We've just got to prove it on the ice.”
Jagr keeps on rolling
If he stays healthy for the remainder of this season, Calgary's Jaromir Jagr will become the NHL’s all-time leader in games played, surpassing Gordie Howe’s 37-year record of 1,767. Of course, Jagr would be closing in on 2,000 games played had he not elected to play in the KHL. Jagr turns 46 in February and is not looking at playing past this season.
“I don’t have any plans. I just want to be healthy," Jagr said. "It’s fun, but health is the most important. How is it right now? It’s not perfect, but I just go day by day. I just want to wake up in the morning.”
Flyers fans fondly remember Jagr and the excitement he brought to the Flyers' top line playing with Giroux and Scott Hartnell during Jagr's return to the NHL in 2011-12, which happens to be the last time the Flyers advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
“Look at how many guys are left there,” Jagr said. “That team was one of the most talented teams I was on. Talented and mean. You could play on the first line or the fourth line and it didn’t matter. You could create plays. Coots was on the fourth line back then. G, Danny Briere, JVR (James Van Riemsdyk), (Brayden) Schenn. Just the centermen only, it was fun to play.”
Expected lineup vs. Flames
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Brandon Manning