Flyers turning their backs on Broad Street Bully mentality

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Flyers turning their backs on Broad Street Bully mentality

VOORHEES, N.J. — If you're a believer in conspiracy theory, then you can finally feel somewhat reassured that the NHL and its crew of officials are no longer out to get the Flyers

At least not this season.

Since the start of December, the guys in orange and black have been on the nice list of those wearing black and white. The Flyers have gone eight straight games without allowing their opponent more than two power-play opportunities.

That accomplishment alone is unprecedented. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, at no point over the previous 30 years (how far their research goes back) have the Flyers had a stretch of hockey where they've exercised such cautious discipline. By comparison, over the past three seasons, the Flyers had only a five-game stretch in which they allowed their opponent two or fewer power play chances. 

"I think we're hitting better," said Jake Voracek, who leads the Flyers with 13 minor penalties taken. "When you hesitate to go into the spots you're supposed to be in and you get there too late, you reach in and you're hooking. When you're confident and you're playing with urgency, you have that extra step. I think that's the biggest thing."

Over the team's current eight-game stretch, the Flyers' power play opportunities have also outnumbered their opponents by a whopping plus-21 margin (34-13) while outscoring teams by six more goals with the man advantage.   

By contrast, the Flyers were a minus-15 in the special teams department, allowing 41 power play opportunities to their 26 from early November through the 10-game winless streak. The basis behind the turnaround in their results can be primarily attributed to this area.

"I think we got lazy," Dale Weise said. "We got down in games and that's when you get frustrated and you start to take slashing penalties or penalties 200 feet away from your net. We had some timely penalties that killed us late in games during that stretch."

Perhaps there's a belief that the scales of justice will eventually tip in the direction of the Flyers' opponents, but the Flyers have made significant improvements 5-on-5, where they have allowed just 50 goals this season — tied for first in the NHL. Head coach Dave Hakstol feels if the Flyers continue their style of play, officials won't have that opportunity.

"We went through a stretch where we had some issues, where we were in the box too much," Hakstol said. "A lot of those, I felt, were stick penalties, were penalties created from chasing a play, chasing a game.

"I feel like we've had the puck a little bit more over this last stretch. When you have to defend less and you have the puck more, the penalty differential is going to go your way. So it's not just about discipline, it's about how much you have the puck versus how much you're trying to get it back and you're defending." 

Under Hakstol, the Flyers have gradually improved their standing in the Department of Discipline — from 23rd in minor penalties taken during his first season in 2015-16, to 16th a year ago, to now tied for 10th through their first 33 games of the season.

In hockey, it's much better to think — and play — outside the box.  

Neuvirth to return
Michal Neuvirth is expected to back up fellow goaltender Brian Elliott when the Flyers host the Red Wings Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Neuvirth practiced for the first time with teammates Tuesday but was on the ice for the fourth straight day as he continues to work his way back from a lower-body injury that he sustained in Calgary a few weeks ago.

"Conditioning's good, I've been moving well," Neuvirth said. "It's about the timing and tracking the puck. The eyes have to get quicker a little bit."

With the Flyers on the back end of a stretch of seven games in a 12-day span, it's likely Neuvirth will earn one of two starts on the team's upcoming back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Columbus.

Crosby's highlight-reel goal sparks Penguins' rally

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Crosby's highlight-reel goal sparks Penguins' rally

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby ignited a rally with a highlight-reel goal and became the third active player with 700 career assists in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Crosby's picked up his 24th goal of the season when he knocked a pass from Jake Guentzel out of the air, deflected it toward the front of his stick and smacked it by Carey Price to tie it at 3 late in the second period.

Derick Brassard put the Penguins in front to stay, beating Price early in the third period as Pittsburgh avoided dropping both games of a back-to-back against also-rans Montreal and the New York Islanders.

Guentzel had a goal and two assists. His 21st goal of the season came off an assist from Crosby, the 700th of Crosby's career. Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Penguins, who drew within two points of idle first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division. Casey DeSmith finished with 27 saves.

Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Scherbak and Jacob de la Rose scored for the Canadiens, who have dropped nine of their last 10 games. Carey Price made 34 stops in his first start in a month due to a concussion (see full recap).

Schwartz, Blues top Bruins in OT
ST. LOUIS — Jaden Schwartz scored his second goal of the game 30 seconds into overtime to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

Schwartz skated up the middle and fired a shot past Anton Khudobin. The Blues won for the fifth time in six games to move within a point of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

Jake Allen made 21 saves to improve to 24-21-2.

Ryan Donato scored for Boston. The Bruins clinched a playoff spot and moved within four points of Tampa Bay for the Eastern lead.

Schwartz tied it midway through the third period with a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

Donato scored his second goal in his second NHL game. He had a goal and two assists in a 5-4 loss to Columbus on Monday night.

Donato, still a student at Harvard University, returned to Massachusetts on Tuesday to attend class before flying back to St. Louis to rejoin the Bruins. His father, Ted, played 528 games in two stints with the Bruins (1992-99, 2003-04) (see full recap).

Rookie sets record in Coyotes’ victory
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Clayton Keller had two assists to set the Arizona Coyotes' franchise record for most points by a rookie in a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night in a matchup of the NHL's two worst teams.

Rookie Dylan Strome scored in his first game after being called up from the minors. Derek Stepan had a goal and assist, and Richard Panik and Max Domi, with an empty-netter, also scored. Antti Raanta stopped 29 shots to improve to 12-4-4 in his past 20 starts.

Keller, Arizona's 2016 first-round draft pick, extended his points streak to six games, in which he has two goals and five assists. He has 55 points, one more than Peter Mueller had in setting the rookie team record in 2007-08. And Keller has 35 assists, one more than teammate Max Domi had in his rookie season two years ago.

Arizona improved to 13-5-2 in its past 20, and earned its 61st point in leaving Vancouver alone at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Jordan Nolan scored for Buffalo, which dropped to 23-38-12 to remain in last place in the overall standings (see full recap).

Breaking down why Flyers traded Cooper Marody

Michigan Athletics

Breaking down why Flyers traded Cooper Marody

The Flyers on Wednesday traded NCAA prospect Cooper Marody’s rights to the Edmonton Oilers for a 2019 third-round draft pick that originally belonged to the New Jersey Devils.

Marody enjoyed a breakout junior season at Michigan University in 2017-18. The 21-year-old led the Wolverines with 32 assists, 46 points and 1.24 points per game.

His 32 assists were tied for third-most in the nation, while his 46 points were tied for ninth most. He made the Big Ten All-Tournament team and was the Big Ten scoring champion.

Let’s make sense of why the Flyers moved Marody and why it’s a good return.

One, he was a 2015 sixth-round draft pick with little NHL upside. Essentially, this boils down to a sixth-round pick netting you a third-rounder, which has a higher probability of hitting.

Two, the Flyers’ pipeline is loaded with forwards, and the book on Marody doesn’t project him to be a top-six forward. Think of him as a solid AHL player with bottom-six NHL potential.

Three, the contract limit. The Flyers are currently at 47 contracts, three under the limit. Sure, four players are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this summer with four more hitting restricted free agency. They could easily fit Marody under the contract limit but it goes back to No. 2.

Another potential factor is the 2019 third-rounder the Flyers owe the Red Wings if they make the playoffs since Petr Mrazek has won five games already with the team. They now have a third-rounder in that draft.

Any way we slice it, the Flyers turned a sixth-rounder into a third-rounder. If Marody proves the Flyers wrong, so be it. If not, it's no big deal. The chances of winning this trade are higher than losing it.