Flyers-Flames observations: Losing skid is finally over

Flyers-Flames observations: Losing skid is finally over


CALGARY, Alberta — The Flyers stampeded into Calgary and put an end to their longest losing skid since 2008 with a 5-2 win over the Flames on Monday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

It was the Flyers’ first win in almost a month after their previous victory came back on Nov. 9 over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dave Hakstol elected to break up the Flyers’ top line and the decision yielded positive results as the line of Valtteri Filppula, Michael Raffl and Jakub Voracek combined for seven points and a plus-8 rating.

The Flyers jumped on the Flames in the second period with three goals in a span of 1:11.

Voracek assisted on three of the Flyers' first four goals, and Scott Laughton scored twice.

Brian Elliott was spectacular in victory as he stopped 43 of 45 shots. 

• Elliott had to produce some key saves during the first 5½ minutes. The Flames were looking to come out of the chute with some jump after they were completely flat against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. They fell behind, 6-1, in an eventual 7-5 loss. Elliott may be criticized for some of the rebounds, but they’re mostly controlled where he’s in position for the next shot or the rebound is in the vicinity of a teammate.  

• The first goal was an example of when Elliott expected the defense of Travis Sanheim and Brandon Manning to clear the puck. Manning wasn’t in position and Sanheim took a weak backhanded swipe and whiffed. With that said, if Elliott protects the five-hole, he likely prevents Troy Brouwer’s rebound goal, but it’s a bang-bang play. 

• The Flyers had a big opportunity early in the opening period when Ivan Provorov threaded a beautiful breakout pass to Jordan Weal. Unable to really make a move, Weal had his shot glance off Mike Smith’s right pad. If Weal had been playing with confidence (like last season), he likely would have challenged Smith a little more. Not a very challenging save for the Flames’ netminder.

• I liked the early pressure generated by that new-look line of Raffl, Voracek and Filppula. Raffl and Voracek are very strong on the puck and their size and physicality help them carve out space down low. Together they answered with a goal one minute after the Flames got on the board. Andrew MacDonald pulled the trigger on a shot from the slot, which created a rebound chance and Filppula connected right in front of the Flames’ crease.

• Nolan Patrick prevented an early goal when he covered up the back post on a play during which Elliott got caught in traffic on the other side. A good, smart play by the rookie to deny Matthew Tkachuk of a shot on net.

• The Flyers’ power play once again looked stale and failed to generate a shot on net in the first period. Sean Couturier had a good look in the slot but his shot clanged off the post.

• I didn’t like Provorov’s game through the opening 25 minutes. Coupled with a couple of unnecessary icings, he had the turnover that sprung Johnny Gaudreau free for a breakaway. MacDonald took a hooking minor in an attempt to slow Gaudreau down. The Flyers’ PK did a solid job of not giving the top unit the time and space it had in Philadelphia.

• There was a beautiful give-and-go between Raffl and Voracek to set up the Flyers’ third goal. It was a play that started when Raffl forced a turnover in the Flyers’ zone. Raffl has been playing some of his best hockey since his 21-goal season playing alongside Voracek and Claude Giroux.

• The Flyers’ power play wasted no time going to work just 10 seconds after Couturier drew a high-sticking penalty. Brouwer committed a giveaway, and Voracek threw it in front where the Flyers had all sorts of net-front presence with Couturier on one side and Wayne Simmonds on the other. Couturier banged away and Simmonds finally stuck it home for a cushy 4-1 lead.

• Sean Monahan loves games against the Flyers. Coming off a hat trick in the contest in Philadelphia, Monahan and the Flames capitalized off a Patrick turnover. Monahan picked the top right corner on a perfectly placed shot on Elliott.

• The Flames’ defense has been turnover-prone, especially behind the team’s own net. That led to some excellent chances for the Flyers. Weal made Calgary pay when he jumped on a turnover and tried to stuff it home, which created an easy rebound opportunity for Laughton and the Flyers’ fifth goal of the game.

• Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic collided with Dale Weise. Hamonic was ejected for an illegal check to the head even though replay showed that Hamonic didn’t clip Weise. I’m not sure it deserved a match penalty regardless.  

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy), and defensemen Mark Alt (healthy) and Radko Gudas (suspended).

Voracek vaporizes late deficit for rolling Flyers

Voracek vaporizes late deficit for rolling Flyers


Jakub Voracek did it all Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens.

The NHL’s assist leader decided to let his goals do the talking as the Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2, in overtime at the Wells Fargo Center.

Voracek scored the game-tying goal with 1:25 remaining in regulation and then won it in overtime to extend the Flyers’ point streak to nine games.

Replacing the injured Wayne Simmonds on the top power-play unit, Nolan Patrick scored the Flyers’ first goal. Patrick now has seven points (four goals, three assists) over his last 11 games.

Alex Lyon stopped 25 of 27 shots, earning back-to-back victories.

The Flyers also became the second team in NHL history to not allow an opponent a power-play opportunity in three straight games. 

• With Simmonds missing his first game since April 2015, it was interesting to see who would take his place on the Flyers’ power play. Once again, Dave Hakstol pushed the right buttons by utilizing the rookie Patrick. One of Patrick’s attributes are his incredibly soft hands, which he put on display as he redirected Claude Giroux’s pass. Patrick positioned his stick beautifully and ramped the puck top shelf that Carey Price had no chance at stopping. 

• The Canadiens scored the go-ahead goal with 11 minutes remaining in the third period. Paul Byron was left all alone in front of the goal mouth as the Flyers attempted to recover from a defensive breakdown with Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas out there with the Patrick line. To make matters worse, Lyon attempted unsuccessfully to poke check the puck away, which took him completely out of position to make a save.

• As Lyon came off the bench, the Flyers promptly converted with the extra man as Voracek scored the game-tying goal from the top of the right circle. Clearly Voracek, with a low shot, was attempting to create a rebound opportunity. However, replays showed the Canadiens got a stick on the puck, which was redirected past Price and through the five-hole.

• After some sloppy and sluggish starts this season, the Flyers brought some jump and energy from the opening faceoff. They outshot the Devils, 6-0, in last week’s game against New Jersey, and the Flyers dominated the first six minutes as they didn’t allow the Canadiens a shot on net.

• Making his NHL debut, Oskar Lindblom produced a solid opening period as he played just over four minutes at even strength. Lindblom complemented the Scott Laughton line well and most of their shifts were spent in the Canadiens’ side of the ice. He may not be considered a fast skater, but he has a quick burst that allows him to close on pucks. 

• After the first intermission, Lindblom told Flyers radio, “I was a little nervous there in the beginning, but after a couple of shifts it felt like normal again. It’ a good time.”

• Unlike the previous game against Montreal on Feb. 8, Canadiens goalie Price looked much more confident in net. Price allowed five goals in the previous game, his positioning was awful and he was all over the place. Price looked supremely confident with his glove hand in the opening 20 minutes.

• I liked Lyon’s demeanor, structure and body language in the first period, and you can’t blame him for Jeff Petry’s deflected shot goal. So hard to tell what part of Petry deflected the puck, but it threw Lyon off the original shot angle. 

• The Canadiens led, 1-0, which marked the first time in eight games the Flyers trailed after the opening period.

• Lyon built on his solid first period with a pair of saves on Canadiens sniper Max Pacioretty, including the second save he snagged up high with his glove hand.

• While the Flyers defensively weren't as loose as they were in New York on Sunday, they still gave up too many quality scoring chances that the Canadiens were unable to convert.

• The Flyers had a golden opportunity to take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission as Giroux and Voracek couldn’t stuff home a prime opportunity. Voracek passed up a chance to beat Price and elected to pass back to Giroux, who didn’t have much open net to look at. Simply one too many passes, but Voracek made up for it later.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Jakub Voracek-Nolan Patrick-Jordan Weal
Oskar Lindblom-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise

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

Alex Lyon
Petr Mrazek

Scratches: Forwards Wayne Simmonds (upper-body injury) and Taylor Leier (healthy), and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

How Flyers prepare for life without Simmonds, Neuvirth

How Flyers prepare for life without Simmonds, Neuvirth

One Czech is out, and another has checked in.

Petr Mrazek has endured a rather eventful past 24 hours. Following news of the trade to the Flyers, Mrazek didn’t go to bed until 2 a.m. and was awake at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Philadelphia that had him at the Wells Fargo Center in time for the Flyers' morning skate.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Mrazek said Tuesday. “I got a call at 9:30 from (Red Wings GM) Ken Holland and then Ron Hextall. Yeah, I’m excited. A couple of months ago I had a good conversation with Ken Holland about it and he said if he had a good opportunity to do it, he was going to try and move me. I was really happy.”

With Michal Neuvirth now expected to miss the next four to six weeks with a lower-body injury, and Brian Elliott scheduled to be out until late March recovering from core muscle surgery, Mrazek will now be the Flyers' go-to guy in net. 

“Petr’s a proven guy,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That goes without saying. We’ve said all along we have confidence in Alex (Lyon) and he’s starting tonight, but Hexy alluded to it, going out and getting an established veteran NHL goaltender and that’s what Petr is.”

Mrazek’s game has definitely reached another level since the calendar flipped to 2018. The 26-year-old netminder has a 5-3-2 record to go along with a 2.29 GAA and a .925 save percentage since Jan. 1. 

“I changed a couple of things during the summer,” Mrazek said. “I didn’t play much the first half of the season and it was tough for me to find my game playing once in two weeks or once in three weeks. It was tough but I worked hard during that stretch on the ice to try and improve my game, and I think over the past few months it was going in the right direction.”

Mrazek will also find comfort in a clubhouse with three Czech teammates: forward Jakub Voracek, defenseman Radko Gudas and Neuvirth. They’ve played together at the IIHF World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey.

“I won’t be surprised if we signed Jags after the Olympics,” Voracek said jokingly regarding Jaromir Jagr. “Obviously, something needs to be done regarding Neuvy and Elliott. Petr’s a great goalie and I think we’re having a great season this year. Obviously, he’s very competitive. As long as we find a way to win with him in the net, that’s all that matters.”  

“They’re different style goalies for sure,” Gudas said of the differences between Mrazek and Neuvirth. “He’s a great goaltender who challenges a lot. That’s a good thing for us to have someone who cares as much as he does. I think our goalies were doing a really good job of keeping our defense intact and keeping them honest, and I think Petr is going to do the same thing, especially our young D corps, and help them out.” 

In Bloom
Many expected Oskar Lindblom to make the Flyers out of training camp. Few expected the call-up to come during the heat of a playoff race. 

Regardless, the 21-year-old Swede will make his NHL debut Tuesday against the Canadiens and should see an extended look into March following an upper-body injury to Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers' power forward is expected to miss the next two to three weeks of action.

“I’ve grown as a person and as a player,” Lindblom said. “I just felt I had to go down there (Lehigh Valley) and just do my thing and get better every day.”

“It’s so valuable going into the American League and have the opportunity to gain that experience, especially for Oskar being his first year in the smaller NHL rink,” Hakstol said. “He’s grown as a player. I think his confidence has always been good.”

Certainly, confidence won’t be lacking as Lindblom was lighting it up with the Phantoms, scoring a goal in three straight games, along with another scoring streak that included five goals in a six-game span.  

“I don’t know why I’ve been that way this season,” Lindblom said. “But it’s good when it comes and I need to keep riding on that wave a little bit.”

“He’s got a great shot, great hockey sense,” Claude Giroux said. “He’s been playing some great hockey with the Phantoms, and he’s a great guy in the locker room, too, so I’m pretty excited to see him on the ice since I haven’t seen him in awhile.”

Lindblom will be on the Flyers' third line along with center Scott Laughton and winger Michael Raffl.

“He’s a smart player, a really heady player,” Laughton said. “I’m excited to play with him. I haven’t talked to him too much. I’m sure we’ll talk more before the game with what me and Raffl like to do and we’ll go out there and continue to push forward and look for him in the slot where he likes to score goals.”

Projected lines and pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny

Jakub Voracek-Nolan Patrick-Jordan Weal

Oskar Lindblom-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere

Andrew MacDonald-Robert Hagg

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Alex Lyon

Petr Mrazek