Flyers-Bruins observations: Flyers drop 10th straight in ugly fashion

Flyers-Bruins observations: Flyers drop 10th straight in ugly fashion


The Flyers' winless streak reached 10 games Saturday after the Boston Bruins shutout the Flyers 3-0 at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 10-game winless stretch matches the team’s 10-game streak in 2008.

Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak took over with a pair of second-period goals.

Claude Giroux had his five-game point streak snapped when his 12th goal of the season was taken off the board in the second after on-ice officials determined there was goaltender interference on Wayne Simmonds after he made slight contact to the helmet of Tuukka Rask. 

The Flyers were shutout for the sixth time this season, but the first against an Eastern Conference team.

Brian Elliott stopped 24 of 27 shots. 

Immediately after the game, the Flyers leave for Calgary where they’ll begin a three-game Western Canadian road trip with games against the Flames, Oilers and Canucks.
Here are observations from today’s loss.

• Ryan Spooner got the Bruins going with his first-period goal. The play all started with Nolan Patrick’s sloppy backhand pass along the boards that Noel Acciari intercepted and then fed a breaking Spooner who raced down the right side and beat Elliott easily through the five hole. Andrew MacDonald simply didn’t have the foot speed to catch up to Spooner. 

• Unlike the Sharks game Tuesday, the Flyers brought some early emotion. Simmonds dropped the gloves and got in some quality shots with the left on Boston’s Kevan Miller. Later in the first period, Ivan Provorov leveled Marchand with what appeared to be a clean open-ice hit, but Provorov was called for an illegal check to the head with the 5-foot-9 Marchand skating with his head down. In any other era, that play never gets called.

• The Flyers got an early power play when Sean Couturier drew a holding penalty against Pastrnak. However, give the Bruins' top two lines the early edge over the Flyers first and second lines. Boston had a 13-6 edge in even-strength shots.

• Elliott made his best pad save of the season on David Backes’ redirected shot. Elliott extended the left pad just enough that the puck shot off the left post and was swatted out of the crease, otherwise, the Bruins would have had a 2-0 first-period lead.

• The Bruins grabbed a 2-0 lead when Patrick lost a defensive zone faceoff. A rather odd play where the puck went off Patrick’s skate, Marchand alertly stepped in and beat Robert Hagg to the puck and then quickly fed it to Pastrnak for the quick shot that caught Elliott leaning to his left. 

• After their first period fight, Simmonds outdueled Miller once again and drew a holding penalty, and much like the first period, the Flyers completely squandered the opportunity. In their first two power play opportunities, the five-man unit was kept around the perimeter, sat back and didn’t really attack the Bruins’ penalty kill.  

• Marchand gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead after the Flyers lost a pivotal board battle, where they had four orange sweaters to the Bruins three. Pastrnak came away with the puck and fed it to the point where Charlie McAvoy took a slap shot that Marchand intercepted in front of the crease, and then backhanded a shot into an open net. Two hustle plays for Marchand gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead.

• The Flyers' third line provided the team’s two best even strength chances in the second period, both provided by Travis Konecny. One was a drop pass to Brandon Manning, who fired a shot right into the chest of Rask. Konecny provided the other when he had a wide-open look off the right wing, but his shot directly rebounded off Rask’s left pad. 

• Shayne Gostisbehere took a frustration penalty when he took his stick and crosschecked Marchand, who was merely looking to dump the puck and get off the ice for a change. It also erased the final minute of the Flyers' power play. Not a smart penalty from Gostisbehere, but he got one back when he drew a tripping call from Boston defenseman Charlie McCoy.

• Giroux sniped a power play goal top shelf, a perfectly placed shot, in the second period but it was taken off the board as Simmonds barely clipped Rask with his elbow. The officials determined he made some sort of contact, but overall it shouldn’t have disallowed the goal as Simmonds was skating away from the crease. It seems as if all these goaltender interference calls have gone against the Flyers this season.   

Lines, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valterri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Jori Lehtera-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Brandon Manning

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Radko Gudas, Taylor Leier and Mark Alt.

Like it or not, boring is working for Flyers

USA Today Images

Like it or not, boring is working for Flyers

We are deep into the season of giving and the Flyers just keep giving fans exactly what they want: wins.

OK, sorry for that seasonal yet corny intro, but the fact remains the Flyers are on a tear right now, and it continued this past week with three more sound wins to push their winning streak past a handful to six games.

This week got off to the right skate with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory Tuesday over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. The good vibes kept coming Thursday with a grind-it-out 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. And the week ended on the highest of notes Saturday night with a 2-1 OT win at home over the Dallas Stars.

Well, well, well … they’re back, aren’t they?

And before the Flyers push for seven straight Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings, let’s look back at the successful week that was, shall we?

• The Flyers' three wins this week were good, solid wins over the Leafs, Sabres, and Stars. When you’re still trying to claw out of the hole a 10-game losing streak put you in, all wins are good, solid wins right now. But these three Flyers wins this past week weren’t of the most exciting variety. Let’s be blunt, all three wins were mostly boring.

Tuesday’s triumph over the Leafs was sleepy until Travis Konecny’s tying seeing-eye shot in the third and then Claude Giroux’s fantastic through-the-legs pass that led to Sean Couturier’s wicked wrister of a winner. Thursday’s win over Buffalo was a snoozer for the better part of 50 minutes. And Saturday’s victory over Dallas, while chippy, didn’t have much action to it outside of Shayne Gostisbehere’s heroics.

But the Flyers aren’t caring about being exciting and neither should you right now because it’s working for them. Jake Voracek’s quote after the Buffalo game says it all.

“I thought this was a boring game,” Voracek said. “Honestly, I don’t think we played good today, but we got the win, which is really important. You’re not going to play great every night. We played well when we needed to, but we can play a lot better, which is positive.”

Yes, they can play better. But two points are two points right now, no matter how boring. Simply put, boring is working.

• So why the sudden turnaround for the Flyers? There’s a multitude of reasons — timely scoring, better defensive efforts and Brian Elliott playing like a rock in net, just to name a few.

But one major reason: discipline. In the three games this past week, the Flyers took three penalties total, on in each game. Dating back to Dec. 4 when this six-game win streak began in Calgary, the Flyers have faced just nine power plays against. Compare that to the 22 power plays the Flyers have had in the same span.

That’s a gigantic boost for a team that, as of Sunday morning, is still 29th in the league with a 76.7 percent success rate on the PK.

How do you cure something that ails you? Don’t put yourself in the situation.

• When Gostisbehere is at his very best, he can just dominate a game with his elusiveness, booming shot and dynamic offensive ability. And that’s just what we saw Saturday night against the Stars as Gostisbehere was a dangerous entity all over the ice and controlled the game when the puck was on his stick.

He brought the Wells Fargo Center to life with his second-period power-play goal that saw him dive a lift a rebound past Dallas goalie Ben Bishop. And then he unglued the place with his game-winner in OT on the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“Ghost” is such a key piece for the Flyers as so much of the offense tends to be filtered through him when he’s on the ice, and especially so on the power play. We saw what happened when he wasn’t playing up to his abilities during the 10-game skid. But the Gostisbehere we saw against the Stars is just what the doctor ordered for the Flyers. And it shows just why.

• Good for Travis Sanheim getting the monkey off his back and potting the first goal of his NHL career during Thursday’s victory over Buffalo.     

During the first period, Sanheim took a feed from Dale Weise and deposited home a one-timer from the circle to knot the game at 1-1. Sure, he got a little help from Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner, who lounged wildly at the shot. But still, Sanheim made no mistake as he went top shelf with it. And he got the puck and the Ric Flair robe after the game to boot.

It’s just a slight taste of what the 21-year-old offensive-minded blueliner can do. In three junior seasons with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Sanheim scored 35 goals. He potted 10 in 76 games with the Phantoms last season.

He can score, and as he gets more and more comfortable at the NHL level, don’t be surprised to see him light the lamp more often.

• Here’s your obvious observation of the week: What a difference two weeks makes.

When the Flyers were shut out by the Bruins 15 days ago, morale was as low as it had been in a long time. Nothing was going right. No breaks went their way. No bounces even came close. The list of misfortunes could go on and on and on. On the morning of Dec. 3, the Flyers had just 22 points, fifth-fewest in the league. They were nine points behind the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Here we are two weeks and change (and six wins in a row) later and the Flyers have 35 points and are just four points behind the New York Islanders for the final wild-card spot in the East.

Hope you guys like roller coasters.

Coming up this week: Monday vs. Los Angeles (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Wednesday vs. Detroit (8 p.m. on NBCSN), Friday at. Buffalo (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday at Columbus (7 p.m. on NBCSP).

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak


The Flyers developed a Muhammad Ali-type mentality Saturday night.

It was hockey’s version of the rope-a-dope, where the Flyers took the Dallas Stars' best punches early on before going the distance, eventually wearing down an opponent that was playing their third game in four nights.

The end result was a 2-1 Flyers victory, extending their season-high winning streak to six games (see observations).

In fact, the Stars attempted to set the tone on the opening shift when Stars captain Jamie Benn tried to rattle the cage of Claude Giroux. They tangled on their way back to the bench with Benn extending his glove underneath Giroux’s chin.

“We knew they were going to have a good push at the start of the game,” Brian Elliott, who has started all six games of the winning streak, said. "We knew they wouldn't be able to keep it up playing a back-to-back. I thought our guys did a really good job of sticking to that game plan and staying patiently persistent."

The Flyers also knew the Stars would come out of the gates flying after a disappointing 5-2 loss at New Jersey the night before.

“We’ve been on the other side of it,” Giroux said. “Playing a back-to-back, it’s not easy, especially when you’re traveling and we really wanted to take advantage of that. Other teams took advantage of us before.”

The Flyers started to turn up the heat in the opening minutes of the second period when they controlled play with extended shifts in the Stars' end of the ice, coupled with a pair of breakaway opportunities from Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek.

“That (second) period was the one for me where we pushed the game in our direction,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It was during the second period we were able to use everybody. Everybody was going and that allowed us to raise the pace of play a little bit.”

The Flyers were also propelled by their power play that finished the game 2 for 6 and a whopping 12 shots on net. After scoring on a rebound that deflected off the backboards, Shayne Gostisbehere landed the knockout blow with 1:10 remaining in overtime when "Ghost" blasted an overtime slapper during the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“A lot of that power play was going rover," Gostisbehere, who scored his fifth career overtime winner, said, "but you could tell we were feeding off each other, finding lanes and we were just relentless and a goal at the end just showed we weren't giving up there."

Stars coach and former Flyers bench boss Ken Hitchcock was attempting, for the second time, to become the third coach in NHL history to win 800 career games. Much of the reason he didn’t achieve the milestone was the careless penalties of forward Alexander Radulov, which led to both of the Flyers' power-play goals.

“It’s not team discipline, it’s individual,” Hitchcock said. “It’s disappointing to fight like we fought and battle. Come off, playing hard like this off a back-to-back, it’s really disappointing to take those two penalties at the end of the game.”

The Flyers also snapped a seven-game losing streak in contests that extended after regulation. The Flyers had dropped five of those in overtime and another two in the shootout.

“I thought we had a really positive attitude,” Elliott said. “I think everyone thought we would go out there for overtime and win. I didn’t think anybody had any doubts or anything. That’s all you can ask for going into those situations.” 

“I liked the way we approached overtime,” Hakstol said. “I didn’t think we pressed or pushed anything. We weren’t taking any long shifts, no high risk plays. I thought guys just went out and did their job and did it the right way.”

Right now, it’s a Flyers team that may not be floating like a butterfly, but they can certainly sting like a bee.