Flyers

Flyers-Ducks thoughts: Topping off a fulfilling homestand?

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AP Images/NBCSP

Flyers-Ducks thoughts: Topping off a fulfilling homestand?

Flyers (5-3-0) vs. Ducks (3-3-1)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers have a chance to punctuate their five-game homestand when they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Let's get you set for puck drop with some thoughts before Game 9 of the season.

• This is tied for the longest home stretch of the Flyers' season, and it just so happened to come in October. The Flyers have another five-game homestand from Dec. 12-20. Despite the first one being so early, the Flyers are making it meaningful. They've built confidence and even somewhat of a new identity for the 2017-18 season. The Flyers have shown they're faster, more mobile and much scarier from top to bottom, while they've also displayed the ability to win in a variety of styles.

Look at what the Flyers have accomplished on the homestay before the finale. They're 3-1-0 and with a combined score of 10-3 in two of the victories over teams led by Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid. In the four games total, the Flyers have outscored the opposition, 15-5, while the penalty kill is 13 for 14. They've also outshot teams, 127-112, and have won more faceoffs, 124-101.

It may be a small sample size, but it's a good one.

• With Andrew MacDonald out four to six weeks because of a lower-body injury, the Flyers will maneuver their defensemen a bit (see story). An exciting new pairing will be second-year blueliner Ivan Provorov with rookie Robert Hagg. We know the special makeup of Provorov, but Hagg has quietly been a rock for the Flyers. He leads the team with 22 hits, is first among Flyers defensemen as a plus-5 and has committed just four giveaways.

The 22-year-old rookie does all the little things and played some with Provorov during the preseason, so the two have a nice understanding of how to complement each other. Hagg's ice time could see an uptick from the 18:19 he's logged through eight games.

The third pairing of Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim will also be worth watching given both players have yet to play in a regular-season game together.

• Brian Elliott in net seems likely for the Flyers. He saw the Ducks a little over two weeks ago, making 21 saves on 23 shots for a 3-2 overtime win. He's also coming off his best performance of the season in which he stopped 23 of 24 shots in a tight, 2-1 win over the Oilers.

However, his career numbers aren't great against the Ducks, posting a 2-7-3 mark in 13 lifetime matchups to go with a 3.10 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.

• The Ducks will look different from the Oct. 7 meeting with the Flyers. Ryan Getzlaf missed the game because of a lower-body injury, but he'll be in the lineup Tuesday. The big 6-foot-4, 223-pound center has never been easy on the Flyers, with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 14 career games against the orange and black.

Also, defenseman Hampus Lindholm will make his season debut. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder is only 23 years old and has been a real positive for Anaheim through his first four NHL seasons.

The last time the Flyers took consecutive matchups over the Ducks was when they won on Feb. 2, 2008, and Jan. 2, 2009.

• Jakub Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere are tied for third in the NHL with 10 assists apiece. They have one goal between them, but they've been stalwarts in making things happen for the Flyers.

• Through eight games, the Flyers currently have six players with six points or more. Through seven games, the Ducks have just one as Andrew Cogliano is their leading scorer with six points (two goals, four assists).

• Here is the Flyers' projected lineup:

Update: Weal (upper body) and Read (healthy) were the final players off the ice at morning skate, signaling they are the likely scratches.

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Shayne Gostisbehere-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Matt Read and Dale Weise, and defenseman Andrew MacDonald (injured).

Flyers-Penguins Game 6 essentials

Flyers-Penguins Game 6 essentials

Here's everything you need to know Sunday afternoon for Game 6 of the Flyers-Penguins best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

Flyers vs. Penguins (Penguins lead series 3-2)
3 p.m. on NBC; Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. on NBCSP+ with Postgame Live after final buzzer

Live stream
Live stats
Social media
Series schedule

Projected lineups

Flyers
Forwards
Claude Giroux-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forwards Oskar Lindblom, Jordan Weal and Taylor Leier; defensemen Travis Sanheim and Johnny Oduya; goalie Petr Mrazek.

Penguins
Forwards
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel
Conor Sheary-Derick Brassard-Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese-Riley Sheahan-Tom Kuhnhackl

Defensemen
Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang
Olli Maatta-Justin Schultz
Jamie Oleksiak-Chad Ruhwedel

Goalies
Matt Murray
Casey DeSmith

Scratches: Forwards Dominik Simon, Josh Jooris and Carter Rowney (injured); defenseman Matt Hunwick.

What to watch for …

John Boruk
Keep an eye on: 
Ivan Provorov
The Flyers' minute-munching defenseman was dinged up in the final 90 seconds of the Game 5 win. Provorov's presence is vital if the Flyers want to push the series to a Game 7. He logged 30 minutes in Game 5 and the Flyers needed him on the ice during the final minute when Sidney Crosby nearly tied the game. Provorov hasn’t missed a game in his two-year career, and while I don’t expect him to miss Game 6, watch closely to see if he’s limited in any way.

Bold prediction: Game 6 will be decided in overtime. You have to go back to the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Devils to find the Flyers' last playoff game decided in overtime — a stretch of 20 straight in the postseason. As poorly as the Flyers have played on home ice in this series, Game 6 will be competitive as Michal Neuvirth will turn in another solid effort to keep the game close.

Tom Dougherty
Keep an eye on:
Flyers on home ice​
The Penguins have outscored the Flyers, 20-4, in eight games at the Wells Fargo Center this season, including the playoffs. No one thought there would be a Game 6, yet here we are. The Flyers extended their season one more game, but how will they fare on home ice? Home ice hasn't treated the Flyers well vs. Pittsburgh; they have to figure it out today.

Bold prediction: The Flyers are so unpredictable. With that said, I don't see this series going back to Pittsburgh. This one will be close; perhaps the Flyers even take the lead. But in the end, the Penguins come out on top, and the Flyers schedule their vacations.

Jordan Hall
Keep an eye on: Michal Neuvirth
Neuvirth is arguably the most important player on the ice for the Flyers. With the lineup employed, the Flyers are trying to muddy things up in an attempt to force the Penguins out of their style. A more physical, low-risk approach keeps the Flyers in it, but to play such a game, you desperately need your goalie to do his part. Neuvirth is 3-1-0 with 133 saves on 137 shots for a 1.01 goals-against average in his last four playoff starts. Can he have sustained success against these Penguins?

Bold prediction: The team that has scored first has won every game of the series. That will change in Game 6 as momentum swings will be felt at a lively, pressure-filled Wells Fargo Center.

Recommended reading
• Flyers' fate lies with Neuvirth ... and that's a good thing

• Hakstol's unconventional decisions keep season alive

• With Giroux's story, heroic Couturier pulls a Pronger

Michal Neuvirth gives the Flyers hope against Penguins

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AP Images

Michal Neuvirth gives the Flyers hope against Penguins

VOORHEES, N.J. — And now comes the real test.

Watch the Flyers one night and they may look unbeatable. The next night they’ll come out flatter than Kyrie Irving’s view of Earth.  

The Flyers, maddeningly inconsistent at times — OK, most of the time — will need to build off of Friday’s Game 5 win to keep the series alive with a win in Sunday’s Game 6.

It’s now or never for these Flyers.

After steamrolling the Penguins in Game 2 in Pittsburgh, the Flyers returned to home ice with all the momentum in the world. And we all know what happened next. A 5-1 drubbing in Game 3, a loss seemingly dolled out before the horn sounded after the first period.

This time around, though, the orange and black will have a huge upgrade they were dearly missing in Games 3 and 4.

Goalie Michal Neuvirth. Yes, that’s right, the oft-injured Neuvirth is the Flyers’ best and only hope of forcing a Game 7. That’s not a hot take, either. Just check out the numbers.

Neuvirth’s playoff numbers are staggering. His .930 career playoff save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average rank third and fourth, respectively, among active goalies. 

“I just enjoy playing in the playoffs,” Neuvirth said of his ability to ramp up his play in the postseason. “Crowds been unreal in Pittsburgh and at home so it’s just so fun playing in the playoffs. I had success in the past, even in the AHL so I believe in myself that I can bring my A-game on the big stage.”

The fact is, Neuvirth — when healthy — is the only goalie on the Flyers’ roster capable of delivering that brick-wall, game-stealing performance for the team.

Playing his first full game since Feb. 16, Neuvirth stopped 30 of 32 shots in Game 5, including the ones that mattered most. 

The 30-year-old stoned the Pens’ blazing powerplay, as the penalty kill went a perfect 5 for 5. The Pens came into the game 5 for 19 with the man advantage, but the stability of Neuvirth, as well as the return of Sean Couturier, stifled the attack.

“We knew Neuvy was gonna come in and play big for us,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “He’s a playoff goaltender.”

And he did just that in Game 5. With the extra attacker, Neuvirth robbed Sidney Crosby of a soul-crushing, game-tying goal in the waning seconds of the game to send the series back to Philly.

“He made some huge saves the end of the third period there to able to go across (robbing Crosby)," Giroux said after the 4-2 win. "When he plays cocky, he’s pretty good.”

Of course, that was all just one game. 

But with the Flyers facing elimination, one more game is all the team can ask for.