Flyers-Capitals observations: 3-goal 2nd sparks home-opening rout

Flyers-Capitals observations: 3-goal 2nd sparks home-opening rout


The Flyers made clear Saturday it's a new season.

With the Washington Capitals in town for the 2017-18 home opener, the Flyers put an 8-2 whipping on the back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning bunch.

A lively Wells Fargo Center witnessed a relentless brand of offensive hockey that never let up, and it wasn't from the visiting Capitals, who had hung a pair of defeats like this on the Flyers last season.

This time, this season, the Flyers showed they're capable of dishing it out, too.

Sean Couturier (two goals, one assist), Claude Giroux (two goals, two assists), Shayne Gostisbehere (three assists), Scott Laughton (two goals), Jakub Voracek (three assists) and Wayne Simmonds (one goal, one assist) all produced multipoint efforts as the Flyers moved to 3-2-0 to commence a five-game homestand.

Impressively, the last time the Flyers scored eight or more goals in a home opener was 1982, when they tallied nine.

The Capitals, playing the second game of a back-to-back set, dropped to 3-2-1.

This marked the first meeting of a four-game season series between the Metropolitan Division teams.

Now, let's get into some observations:

• Voracek looked filthy with the puck in creating a point-blank chance for Simmonds on a second-period power play as the Flyers snared a 3-1 lead. Give Voracek some space with a head of steam, and he'll make plays.

Voracek has nine assists through five games and was buzzing Saturday. Not long after Simmonds' goal, he made a stunning fake for separation and another good look, this one to Laughton, who missed wide. No problem, though, because the Flyers scored moments later when Giroux deflected home his first of the game off a Couturier pass. The first line of Giroux, Couturier and Voracek was thoroughly dominant, and when it is, the Flyers will be tough outs.

• If Giroux has lost a step at all, his vision, however, hasn't gone anywhere. The Flyers' game-opening goal at 7:18 of the first period all started with Giroux making a magnificent cross-ice pass to a streaking Voracek, who found Couturier opposite in front. Couturier's first shot didn't go but he was able to corral the rebound and put it home. None of it happens without an igniter from Giroux, who is one assist shy of 400 for his career. In the third period, Couturier and Giroux each tacked on their second tallies as the rout went into high gear.

There's no arguing the Flyers' big three came up small against this Capitals team last season. Giroux, Simmonds and Voracek combined for two points in four matchups with Washington. The trio was a different animal Saturday, delivering three goals and six assists for nine points. What an answer in the home opener.

• Weal really got after it late in the second period to help extend the Flyers' lead to 5-2. He maneuvered his way into the offensive zone with the puck and then made a nice hesitation to set up Valtteri Filppula's third goal of the season.

Weal is off to a promising start and that goal was important because it came after the Capitals made it a 4-2 game a little less than seven minutes prior.

• Mr. Laughton, take a bow. The rejuvenated fourth-liner netted a pair of goals. Before Saturday, Laughton hadn't scored an NHL goal since April 10, 2016. And good for him, because he worked hard at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last season and seems to have found himself in 2017-18, adopting his new role.

He made a heady play near the end of the first period by skating hard, attacking the puck carrier and forcing a turnover to score a shorthanded goal, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead. It was eerily similar to a certain goal in the past …

• Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom entered as the NHL's early leaders with 10 points apiece. They combined for just one goal and one assist.

• Brian Elliott was solid in net with 21 saves. Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer was lit up and still made 29 saves. The Flyers were all over him.

• The Flyers held a touching moment of silence for those affected by the deadly shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month. "Vegas Strong" flashed across the ice and chants of "U-S-A" broke out once the moment of silence concluded. Also, all proceeds from the Flyers' 50/50 raffle held throughout the Wells Fargo Center are benefiting victim relief efforts. Beautiful job by the Flyers and fans.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice Monday and then host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (7 p.m./NBCSP) for Game 2 of the five-game homestand.

Flyers-Islanders observations: Losing streak reaches 7 with another OTL

Flyers-Islanders observations: Losing streak reaches 7 with another OTL


The losing streak rolls on.

The Flyers, after the Islanders fought back from a two-goal deficit, lost their seventh straight game Friday with a 5-4 overtime loss to New York at the Wells Fargo Center.

Nick Leddy scored the game-winner with 2:16 remaining in overtime.

Once again, the Flyers' top line did most of the heavy lifting as Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek each had multi-point games.

Giroux reached 600 career points, tying him with Rod Brind’Amour for eighth on the Flyers' all-time list.

It was the 11th straight season that the Flyers have played their Black Friday game on home ice.

• Once again, the Flyers coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period. Andrew Ladd somehow had a wide-open look right in front of Brian Elliott, as no one picked up Jordan Eberle behind the net. Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim had net-front presence, but they couldn’t get a stick on Ladd or deflect the centering pass.

• Somehow Voracek got nailed in the third period for hooking Islanders captain John Tavares, who attempted to pull Voracek down on the same play. It elicited a strong reaction from the crowd. It appeared as if both players were fighting for the loose puck, but Tavares was the guilty party.

• After jumping out of the box after serving a matching minor, Travis Konecny caught a high-arcing pass and skated in on a backhanded breakaway, where he could have drawn a penalty shot as he was hooked from behind. Konecny nearly beat Thomas Greiss with a backhand and even had a rebound attempt.

• An unfortunate sequence for the Flyers, as Robert Hagg completely whiffed on a puck that was bouncing around on the ice. Eberle corralled it just to the right of Elliott, got his blade completely under the puck and elevated it just under the crossbar to cut the Flyers' lead to 4-3 in the third.

• Brandon Manning, in the third period, completely lost track of Jason Chimera, who flew down the left side of the ice on a pass from Casey Cizikas. The Islanders' fourth line was a real problem for the Flyers.

• A big blast from Giroux tied the game at 1-1, but it was a nice job by Hagg to step up on the play, which didn't allow the Islanders to break out of the zone. Somehow, the puck squirted right to Giroux, who blasted a one-time shot from the high slot that Greiss had no shot at. Last season, Giroux didn't score his 10th goal until Dec. 21.

• A bad goal given up by the Flyers saw the Islanders' fourth line tie the game at two. The play started when Scott Laughton left a backhanded pass a little short, allowing the Islanders to drive the play deep into the Flyers' end. Eventually, it was Cal Clutterbuck who redirected a shot from the point that Elliott had little shot of stopping.

• Danick Martel had a terrific one-handed pass to Laughton in the second period for a scoring chance down low. I wasn’t sure about Martel trying to squeeze through a pair of Islanders defenders, but somehow with his lightning-quick acceleration, he managed to knife his way through and make a play out of it.

• The Flyers broke a 2-2 tie on a delayed penalty call after Samuel Morin provided a big hit along the boards that allowed the puck to squirt free through the neutral zone. I liked the patience Giroux showed, as he waited for Shayne Gostisbehere to fill the slot and score from the high danger area. 

• The Flyers added another goal just 19 seconds later when Voracek caught Greiss by surprise with a hard-charging forecheck. Voracek had the presence of mind to quickly pass the puck in front to Couturier, who had nothing but a wide-open net after Greiss came out to play the puck.

• The Flyers scored all four goals in a span of 8:41, marking the second time this season they’ve scored four goals in a single period.

• A deflating ending to the opening period, as the Islanders scored with Mathew Barzal, the electrifying first-round pick of 2015, batting the puck out of the air that actually deflected off his pants, off the back of Elliott’s pads and into the net. Barzal was left alone with a breakdown in coverage between Gostisbehere and Morin, who were both caught on the left side of the ice. Valtteri Filppula nearly kept it out of the net.

• A solid opening penalty kill for the Flyers, who kept the Islanders around the perimeter for a good chunk of the two minutes. The Flyers came into this game having allowed seven power-play goals in their last three contests. Interestingly, Taylor Leier, who was part of the No. 1 PK unit with Laughton, wasn’t out there as Dave Hakstol has elected to switch up the personnel.

• A rough shift for Ivan Provorov midway through the first period, as he committed a bad turnover right on the stick to Scott Mayfield and was outworked by Brock Nelson, who worked the puck away from Provorov as the Islanders' third line gave the Flyers' top line some issues.

• Martel is a little bundle of energy and never appears to stop scrapping for pucks. That second line with Martel, Nolan Patrick and Simmonds played a strong opening period, which included Martel’s pass to Patrick that led to a Patrick penalty shot. However, the 5-foot-9 Martel got crushed by John Tavares along the boards. He needs to develop a little more grease in his game to avoid some of those big hits.

• Patrick elected to go backhand on Greiss on his penalty shot, but the Flyers' rookie didn’t commit until too late and Greiss wasn’t forced to move too far laterally. Patrick’s shot was about a foot wide of the left post.

Lines, pairings and scratches
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Danick Martel-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jordan Weal

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim
Samuel Morin-Shayne Gostisbehere

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jori Lehtera, Radko Gudas, Dale Weise

Danick Martel's debut highlights Travis Konecny's regression

AP Images

Danick Martel's debut highlights Travis Konecny's regression

Danick Martel made his Flyers debut Wednesday night at left wing on the second line … without one NHL game to his credit or even a single practice with his linemates.

Perhaps it can all be viewed as a refreshing change for a team that needed a shock to the system, and certainly a different look for an offense that has routinely struggled to score goals.

But more than anything, it revealed a much more glaring problem for the Flyers: Has Travis Konecny regressed to the point that general manager Ron Hextall needs to consider other options?

Martel has now slipped into the role once occupied by Konecny, whose performance so far this season has been nothing short of sporadic.

The second-year winger had a string of games playing on the left side of Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds, but the line never really generated any sustained success, and head coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t seem to know what to do with Konecny at this stage of his career. 

Left wing, right wing, second line, third line. One quarter into this season and already Konecny has been a linemate with eight different teammates, and his ice time has fluctuated anywhere between nine and 18 minutes per game.

This can’t be what the front office envisioned for Konecny when he made the Flyers' roster straight out of training camp in 2016. He may have played like an All-Star during the preseason, but exhibition hockey games typically lack a full complement of NHL players, many of which take the necessary measures to ensure they don’t overextend themselves and suffer an injury before the regular season begins. 

At this stage of their careers, the 22-year-old Martel and the 20-year-old Konecny appear to be almost side by side in their development. As Martel has exploded in his third season with the Phantoms, Konecny has struggled in Year 2 with the Flyers, and a lack of confidence has seemingly followed.   

He has just two goals on 84 attempted shots, many of which have left a black smudge on the glass behind the net, and he’s one of the few Flyers forwards with less than 50 percent of his shots on goal. Konecny, more than anything, needs to experience success along with a committed focus on his defensive responsibilities.

One Western Conference scout who attended Tuesday’s Flyers game against the Canucks believes Konecny could benefit greatly given time with the Phantoms. 

“He went straight from juniors to the NHL,” the scout, who chose to remain anonymous, said. “He hasn’t really learned to play a responsible two-way game at the pro level. I don’t think it would hurt him to refine his game and gain some confidence in the American League.”

Martel had no choice. He went undrafted after three seasons in the QMJHL. Nothing has been given and everything has been earned. Martel told Joe Santoliquito of the Philly Voice last week there’s a certain dose of determination that comes with being 5-foot-9, 162 pounds. 

"I love proving people wrong. It’s why I went undrafted,” Martel said. “It’s why I have a f--- you attitude! That started when I was younger. Not a lot of people trusted in the way I play and my size. I’m going to score anyway. That’s the way I think. It’s the way I play. I’m not small. I play big. You want to make a mistake. Judge me by my size.

“I love pissing off the bigger players because they automatically assume that they’re better than me. It’s why I will never stop working. I need to work on the defensive zone if I’m going to play in the NHL.”

Martel has a hunger and determination that Konecny needs to rediscover. There’s no reason he should have minor-league immunity. Scott Laughton needed a full year with the Phantoms to become the player the organization envisioned, and it appears to have paid off. 

As Hextall stated when he sent highly-touted Oskar Lindblom to Lehigh Valley prior to the season opener in San Jose, “American League time hasn’t hurt one player in the history of professional hockey. It’s not a death sentence.” 

Let’s remind ourselves that even Claude Giroux had a 38-game stint with the Phantoms. 

Right now, it can only help the career of Konecny in the same way it has worked out for Martel.