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).

Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

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Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

NEW YORK -- Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves after getting a vote of confidence from his coach, and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Monday night to snap a five-game winless streak.

Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares scored goals for the Islanders, who built a 3-0 lead early in the second period and ended Washington's four-game winning streak.

It was the second time this season that Halak held an opponent to a single goal and the third time New York has allowed one goal as a team. Halak's strong performance came after coach Doug Weight sternly defended his goaltenders following the team's skate Monday morning. New York was 0-3-2 over its last five games.

Braden Holtby made nine saves for the Capitals before being pulled after the Islanders scored their third goal 1:34 into the second period. Philipp Grubauer made 17 saves in relief, and Dmitry Orlov scored Washington's only goal (see full recap).

Bernier makes 39 saves as Avalanche top Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- Jonathan Bernier stopped 39 shots and Mark Barberio scored in the third period, helping the Colorado Avalanche top the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Monday night.

Blake Comeau added an empty netter against his former team as Colorado won its second straight after a string of six losses in seven games. It was Comeau's seventh of the season.

Barberio put the Avalanche ahead to stay 6:17 into the third. His slap shot off the rush hit Pittsburgh forward Riley Sheahan in front and got past goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Bernier was on track for his second shutout of the season before Phil Kessel scored his 15th goal for Pittsburgh at 19:48. Bernier beat the Penguins for just the second time in 10 career games (see full recap).

Perreault, Jets beat Canucks to snap skid
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Mathieu Perreault scored two goals and added an assist to help the Winnipeg Jets halt a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.

The win was the Jets' seventh straight victory at home and they have points in their last 11 games (10-0-1) at Bell MTS Place.

The Canucks have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season.

Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg (18-8-5). Ehlers' 14th of the season was on the power play and gave him goals in three straight games.

Brock Boeser scored his team-leading 16th goal for the Canucks. He also extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for Winnipeg (see full recap).

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

VOORHEES, N.J. — Home is where the _____.

For the Flyers, filling in this blank hasn’t solicited positive responses this season.

Of course, the Flyers haven’t provided positive results.

After trouncing the Capitals and Panthers in their first two home games of the season, the Flyers have dropped 10 of their last 12 in South Philly. They gifted the Arizona Coyotes their first win of the season back in late October and have turned in lethargic efforts against the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins in recent weeks.

More alarmingly, the Flyers have just a 1-2-5 record in one-goal games, a situation in which home ice should come into play as one of the deciding factors. The losing and frustration culminated with a barrage of boos and a “Fire Hakstol” chant during that 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

“It doesn’t help, but we’re not doing anything to help ourselves,” goaltender Brian Elliott said Monday. “You’re trying not to listen to any crowd. You’re just trying to block it all out and stay in that moment, just playing with your team out there, and that’s probably how I approach it. It’s taking that road style hockey game and bringing it here.” 

“I think the atmosphere will be better,” Sean Couturier said. “When you’re losing, it’s tough. We were trying so hard to get a win. It didn’t seem to come, and then finally to get one, two and then three. We’re kind of on a roll, but at the same time, it’s only three games. We’re pretty excited to be back home and keep winning.”  

Tuesday, the team will be looking to change its Wells Fargo Center fortunes when it opens up another five-game homestand, its longest of the season, beginning with a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers are hopeful they can carry over their success from a three-game sweep in Western Canada when the Leafs hit town. 

“We keep it simple on the road. We went on the road and made a pact to keep it simple and play the right way,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We’ve had one of the best home records over the past three years. I think we do alright at home. Obviously, we’ve had a slow start at home, but we’ll pick it up.”

Not that the previous 14 home games have been irrelevant, but the final 27 games on home ice will have a much greater emphasis as 23 of their final 28 games come against Eastern Conference opponents, with 12 of those directly within the Metropolitan Division.

“From now on, games are going to get more and more important,” Couturier said. “Every point is pretty much necessary for us, especially when you lose 10 games in a row. You get behind in the standings and you’re chasing. We've got to stick together and get some more wins.”

'Ghost' feels for Wentz
Shayne Gostisbehere knows what it's like to wake up the way Carson Wentz did on Monday morning.

Wentz tore the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 43-35 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. 

In November 2014, Gostisbehere tore the same ACL in his knee during his rookie season with the Phantoms just five games in and never returned to action. Faced with months of rehab, there were moments when "Ghost" didn’t feel as if the injury was improving.   

“I saw the game yesterday,” Gostisbehere said. “I hope for the best for him. The rehab is really grueling. It's ups and downs. Some days you’re going to feel great, feel like you’re getting ahead of the game, and other days you feel you’re never going to get better. I think overall he’s going to have the best care in the world. I think obviously you hope for the best and hope it’s not that bad.”

Elliott named third star
Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was named the NHL’s third star of the week after posting three road wins with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

“It’s great when you get recognized,” Elliott said. “Whenever you get those recognitions as a goalie, it really shows how the group has been playing, especially this last week here. It’s probably my name up there, but definitely the whole team deserves that.”