Flyers

Flyers end Anaheim frustrations with OT win over injury-depleted Ducks

Flyers end Anaheim frustrations with OT win over injury-depleted Ducks

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Not even the finest sous chef in the United States can serve up duck on a silver platter like this.

No Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler — Anaheim’s top two centers with a two-way game capable of shutting down the opposing team’s best offensive players.

No Hampus Lindholm or Sami Vatanen — two of Anaheim’s top four defensemen capable of generating offense from the back end.

No Nick Ritchie, who was a late scratch, forcing head coach Randy Carlyle to promote a fourth-line player into the top six.

Add all of those key pieces to the Ducks’ lineup and you can see why these birds have been an Alfred Hitchcock-like nightmare to the Flyers — a frustration level unlike any other over the past seven years.

The frustration ended Saturday night.

Wayne Simmonds played hero again, potting the game-winner 44 seconds into overtime to give the Flyers a 3-2 win over the injury-ridden Ducks at the Honda Center, their first win in Anaheim since Dec. 2, 2011 (see observations).

"This is a tough building to get points in," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "And they had some key guys out. You know the guys who are in the lineup are going to be absolutely at their top level. You see that a lot within the game. You have a couple of key guys out and everybody else picks it up a notch or two.

"We wanted to make sure we controlled our readiness and our determination. It's a real good two points for us on the road."

Coming into Saturday, the Ducks had beaten the Flyers in eight straight in what has been a lopsided series, and had an 11-0-1 record against the Flyers since October 2010.

Simmonds' OT winner was his fourth goal of the season and his second game-winner in just three games. He recorded a hat trick in the season opener Wednesday in San Jose.

After the game, Simmonds acknowledged the importance of jumping on a team with such significant health issues.

"I think it's important," Simmonds said. "We're a young team so at this point of the season, we got to make sure we're worried about ourselves, make sure we're continuing to do the right things.

"I think we did that tonight, whether they were down a couple guys tonight or not. We just want to make sure we're playing hockey the right way and I think we did that tonight."

While it wasn't reflected on the scoreboard, the Flyers dominated the Ducks throughout long stretches of the game. Take the second period, for example. Through nearly the first 14 minutes, the Flyers actually had more goals (1) than the Ducks had shots (0).

And if the Anaheim Duck was the main course, Ivan Provorov was the Flyers' maitre d’ of defense. The Flyers' shutdown defender not only scored his first goal of the season but completely stifled the Ducks' top line of Andrew Cogliano, Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry as the trio combined for just three shots and was held off the scoresheet.

For 25 minutes, Provorov's defensive play was surgical in its precision, as he continuously separated player from the puck and negated Anaheim from cycling the puck down low.

"He's kind of a machine out there," said goalie Brian Elliott, who earned his second win of the season. "I heard when I came in here what type of guy he was. He played a great game tonight. It doesn't really get noticed all the time, but that's probably the best thing when a defenseman doesn't get noticed."

“For sure that team missed those guys, but it doesn’t matter, this league is so competitive,” Provorov said. “Everybody plays hard, so our main focus was focusing on our game, play the right way and that’s what we did tonight.”

There will be defining moments throughout the course of an 82-game season when the Flyers will win games they should have otherwise lost, and games like this one, where they may have felt deflated coming away with one point when they fully deserved two. 

Saturday night, to their credit, they took full advantage of a wounded bird.

A 1st for Patrick
Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick collected his first NHL point Saturday night, assisting on Provorov's first-period goal. Patrick and Provorov were previously teammates in the WHL with Brandon.

However, Patrick appeared to have found a running mate, as he was paired with second-year player Travis Konecny. The duo had instant chemistry that was refreshing to see after Hakstol switched Patrick and Valtteri Filppula in the lineup.

"I love playing with guys like that," Patrick said of Konecny. "He competes hard and he's fast and makes plays down low. I really like his game. Obviously, I like (Dale) Weise's game, too. He plays heavy and sees the ice well and it was obviously a good first game with both of those guys."

Giroux passes Recchi
With a secondary assist on Sean Couturier’s goal, Claude Giroux passed Mark Recchi into fourth-place in franchise history with his 396th assist. Moving forward, Giroux has only franchise Hall of Famers to pass up. The captain is now 68 assists shy from overtaking Bill Barber for third place on the all-time list.

Wayne Simmonds played with more injuries than he can remember

Wayne Simmonds played with more injuries than he can remember

VOORHEES, N.J. — There were so many, Wayne Simmonds even lost track.

"I actually forgot about that one," he said with a laugh.

The Flyers' power forward was referring to the torn ligament in his thumb, the lone injury to declare victory with Simmonds this season.

And don't think he didn't have his battles.

As Simmonds sat down at his end-of-the-season press conference Wednesday, the list of injuries could have unrolled from his chair and out the door.

With some picking and prodding, one by one he ran them off.

In total?

A tear in his pelvic area, fractured ankle, pulled groin, busted mouth (twice) and the torn ligament in his thumb.

Simmonds missed only seven games in 2017-18, with the thumb finally dragging the unbreakable man off the ice.

Call him crazy, call him naïve, but don't question his dedication or toughness.

"I think for me, I don't know if it's the right thing, but I can't not play," Simmonds said. "It's just geared in my head to where if I'm not dead or I'm not deathly sick, I'm going to try and get out there and do whatever I can. Whether the coach is going to play me, or whatever minutes he wanted to play me, that was up to him. I'm definitely going to sacrifice my body for the team, that's for sure."

The trigger to the mess came well before his season-opening hat trick. Simmonds' pelvic tear was diagnosed in training camp, an injury he believes was suffered prior to report day.

"But I had no idea," Simmonds said. "You start doing all the skate testing and everything like that, and you find out pretty quickly."

The 29-year-old, coming off back-to-back 30-plus-goal seasons, was then faced with a dilemma. Surgery to repair the tear was an option, but that meant missing a month to a month and a half of action.

"It wasn't something I wanted to do," Simmonds said. "I thought I'd be able to play through it and do a decently good job. I didn't play up to my expectations this year. It was a very frustrating year. Things didn't go the way I wanted but if I can play, I'm going to play."

The decision boiled down to something pretty simple.

"They showed me the MRI and I was like, 'Can I play?'" Simmonds said. "Yeah, I can play."

The problem was the injury brought side effects.

"Having that, that leaves other things," Simmonds said. "Your body is overcompensating and other stuff starts breaking down. It wasn't good."

Because of it, Simmonds said he then pulled his groin in October before fracturing his ankle not long after following a power-play shot to the foot.

"It kind of just broke," Simmonds said. "It wasn't a weight-bearing bone, so you're still able to play with that."

However, he wasn't able to play from Feb. 20 to March 4. He also underwent serious dental work in February.

In all, it sounded like hell.

"When everything's piling on top of one another, it sucks," he said.

Simmonds finished the regular season with 24 goals, 22 assists and a minus-16 rating in 75 games. During the first-round playoff exit to the Penguins, he had two assists in six games.

He seldom looked like himself.

"That was the biggest thing. It didn't allow me to have the power I usually have," Simmonds said. "It was extremely frustrating. Obviously you want to be able to do something and you're able to do it usually, and then your brain is telling your body to do it and your body's not doing it."

Simmonds, who said surgery on his pelvis is likely, now faces an offseason in which he's eligible for an extension starting July 1 ahead of his 2018-19 contract year.

"I know this year wasn't ideal for me and they probably didn't see from me what was required for an extension," Simmonds said. "This is definitely where I want to be.

"This is where I want to be for the rest of my career."

Banged up or not.

Flyers’ goaltending grades and outlook for next season

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Flyers’ goaltending grades and outlook for next season

Over the next three days, we’ll evaluate the Flyers at each position, give a regular season and postseason grade and provide an outlook for their roster status for the 2018-19 season. First up, goaltending: 

Brian Elliott

Regular Season:
(23-11-7, 2.66 GAA, .909 save percentage)

Playoffs: C- 
(1-3, 4.74 GAA, .856 save percentage)

Elliott seized the starting job at the beginning of the season and helped pull the team out of the depths of a 10-game winless streak. His quality start percentage of .476 was below league average, but he was solid in games when given a lead until he suffered a core muscle injury that required surgery in February. Dave Hakstol pulled “Moose” in two of the four playoff games he started in the playoffs.

Elliott admitted he needed to tear up the scar tissue once he resumed hockey activities to gain a full range of motion. A month ago, the pain was so unbearable it prevented him from putting on shoes and socks. He certainly wasn’t healthy in the six games he played in April, which contributed to his poor play and he’s still dealing with issues. He will spend the majority of his offseason in Philadelphia and expects to be 100 percent by training camp.

2018-19 outlook: Elliott has one year remaining on the two-year deal he signed in the summer of 2017 and will enter 2018-19 as the Flyers’ starting goaltender as long as he’s healthy.  

Michal Neuvirth

Regular Season: B- 
(9-7-3, 2.60 GAA, .915 save percentage)

Playoffs:
(1-1, 4.40 GAA, .847 save percentage)

How unreliable was Neuvirth this season? At no point did Neuvirth start three consecutive games as he was plagued with a multitude of injuries. Had the Flyers won Sunday, Game 7 would have been the first time. Neuvirth was solid in the Flyers’ Game 5 victory in Pittsburgh, but he wouldn’t have overcome the Flyers' defensive breakdowns over the course of an entire series.   

Neuvirth will have arthroscopic surgery on both hips and his injury frequency has now led him to hire sports performance trainer Adam Francilia, Neuvirth's third different trainer over the past three years. Francilia has been instrumental in the offseason conditioning of goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck and Devan Dubnyk. “It’s going to be hard for my family,” Neuvirth said. He will spend the majority of his offseason in Kelowna, British Columbia. 

2018-19 outlook: Like Elliott, Neuvirth is signed through next season and will likely start the season as Elliott’s backup. However, if the Flyers feel Neuvirth’s injury risk is too high, they may be more inclined to trade Neuvirth and bring in someone more reliable.

Petr Mrazek

Regular Season: C-
(14-13-6, 3.03 GAA, .902 save percentage)

Playoffs: No grade
(1 GP, 3.87 GAA, .857 save percentage)

With three wins in his first three starts, Ron Hextall appeared to have engineered one of the great goaltending heists in Flyers history. However, reality set in and Mrazek’s game quickly tanked. In his final 13 regular starts, Mrazek allowed three or more goals in all but two of those games and was he pulled in the second period in one of those two. His only playoff action came in relief of Elliott in Game 1.

While Mrazek stated in his exit interview he was able to show teams what he could do once he got a chance to play, he ultimately cost himself millions of dollars by slumping in March.

2018-19 outlook: Mrazek is a restricted free agent and the Flyers can qualify him at 105 percent of his $4 million salary for next season. No way that happens, so the Flyers can attempt to trade Mrazek to a team that will qualify him or he will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. 

Alex Lyon

Regular Season: B-
(4-2-1, 2.75 GAA, .905 save percentage)

Playoffs: No grade

With injuries to Elliott and Neuvirth, Lyon provided stability during a stormy period when the Flyers’ season could have gone off the rails. He earned his first win in relief on Neuvirth at Madison Square Garden, and for whatever reason, Lyon had considerably better numbers coming off the bench. He had a tendency of lunging for pucks and he looked unsettling at times, but still found a way to get the job done.  

2018-19 outlook: Lyon is the Phantoms’ starter in the AHL playoffs, but with the addition of Carter Hart next season and the impending health of Anthony Stolarz, there’s a chance Lyon could be third on the depth chart as the Flyers could have a rare surplus in goaltending at the minor league level. Don’t be surprised if Lyon is traded this summer to a team that may view him as an NHL backup or an AHL starter.