Flyers have questions after lousy Florida trip

Flyers have questions after lousy Florida trip

The Flyers are done with the state of Florida, and aside from receiving a reprieve from paying state income tax, there weren't many rays of hope to come out of the Sunshine State over the weekend. The Flyers allowed 10 goals over the weekend set against the Lightning and Panthers and have now surrendered 14 goals over their last three games, all losses. It's clear the Flyers have some warts to fix, and the first chance for fixing? Wednesday when the rival Penguins come to town.

Sanheim time?
Defensively, the Flyers were a mess over the weekend for a myriad of reasons. Against the Lightning, it came down to poor collective execution in the defensive zone exits, which were a problem area going back to last Thursday’s clunker against the Hurricanes. Ivan Provorov’s errant pass led to Dan Girardi’s goal in the second period and Andrew MacDonald’s blatant third-period giveaway led to Victor Hedman’s go-ahead goal.

Against the Panthers, the curse was the Flyers' self-inflicted wounds and failures to contain the Panthers' skilled forwards, coupled with more of those pesky turnovers that resulted in stretch passes and breakaways. With injuries to MacDonald (upper body, day to day, per GM Ron Hextall) and Johnny Oduya (left Sunday's game, no official update yet), the Flyers may be looking to dip into their Lehigh Valley depth to add a defenseman. Travis Sanheim has played exceptionally well with 16 points in 18 games and an eye-popping plus-14 rating since he was sent down. While Sanheim can be more assertive offensively at the AHL level, it’s critical that his defense has improved for him to earn a spot on the Flyers' blue line, but I don’t think there’s much of a downgrade with him over Oduya.

Sure, Oduya has veteran experience, but there’s a reason why the Senators weren’t able to trade him for a low-round draft pick and why roughly two-thirds of the league passed up on the 36-year-old defenseman before the Flyers claimed him off waivers last week. It’s naive to think Oduya could just settle in and fortify the Flyers' defense corps. Oduya needs practice time, but the early results in Florida weren’t favorable.   

Power-play Patrick
One of the biggest decisions looming for head coach Dave Hakstol is the personnel on his top power-play unit as Wayne Simmonds looks set to return from injury this week. Nolan Patrick has excelled since he was inserted onto that unit in Simmonds' place. In fact, the Flyers' rookie center has scored the team’s last three power-play goals. The last Flyer outside of Patrick to score on the power play was Claude Giroux on Feb. 13 in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Devils.

Patrick’s net-front presence is different from what Simmonds brings. Patrick has a knack for finding the open seams down low that require quick, inside looks on plays from the perimeter. He has soft hands and is capable of accurately redirecting and elevating pucks sent in his direction. The "Wayne Train" prefers a more blue-collar approach as a disruptive force, taking away the goaltender’s vision while redirecting shots from the point and hammering away at rebounds.

Both styles have proven to be equally effective on the Flyers' setup. My hunch is that Hakstol reinserts Simmonds on that top unit once he’s healthy. He’s a leader and you can’t discount the 85 power-play goals he’s scored since joining the Flyers in 2011-12 (second to Alex Ovechkin in that span). It’s not as if the power play has been clicking over its past seven games with Simmonds out of the lineup. The group is just 3 for 22, or 14 percent efficiency.

Ghost and the gang
Regardless of the outcome, Shayne Gostisbehere was all smiles after the Panthers game as he met with with the Florida state championship hockey team from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty members were fatally shot on Feb. 14. Gostisbehere attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas for two years.

“It’s the least I could do,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve got to thank the Panthers for setting it up and obviously the Flyers for going with it. It’s just something to take their minds off. They’ve had a rough past couple of weeks here."

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny is one of a handful of young Flyers who thrives on confrontation, lining up an opponent in his crosshairs and going for the kill.

And that’s just his profile in Call of Duty — the popular war-based video game he plays occasionally with teammates.

And while Konecny didn't show up on the scoresheet Sunday evening, he still answered his call of duty, leading the charge in a variety of ways in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals that inched the Flyers within four points of the division-leading Caps and two points of Pittsburgh for second place. All three teams return to action Tuesday with the Flyers in Detroit.

Battered, bloodied and perhaps a little beaten, Konecny was determined that the Capitals weren’t going to get the best of him.

“I just think I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been here it doesn’t matter what your role is on the team,” Konecny said after the game. “Everybody buys in, everybody blocks shots, everyone goes to the net, everyone backchecks. I think it’s a part of me that’s learned to become a Philadelphia Flyer.”

The orange and black uniform was only a cover for the black and blue bruises Konecny’s body endured. In the third period, he stood directly in the line of fire of Christian Djoos’s shot and then limped back to the locker room. On his next shift, Konecny blocked another shot from Dmitri Orlov.

Even after giving all the postgame interviews, Konecny was still limping. The playing surface at the Wells Fargo Center may not have had enough ice for all of his sore spots.

“He’s got the heart of a lion and I think you’ve seen that all year long,” said Wayne Simmonds, who tallied twice in the win. “I kept telling him that’s what winners are made of. It’s the type of effort we’re going to need from every single guy in this dressing room. He blocks one shot, he gets up slowly, gets back on the ice, blocks another.”

The clean-cut and rather reserved Konecny that came to the Flyers as a 19-year-old rookie last season has now been replaced with a more brash, tattoo-sporting, always-chirping Konecny with a longer hair style and the appearance of facial hair.

The only missing element to complete the look is a leather biker’s jacket.  

That rugged toughness was on display again when he dropped the gloves with Washington winger T.J. Oshie and bloodied his knuckles 7:41 into the third period.

“I just got high-sticked right before,” Konecny said. “I got frustrated and I finished my hit on him. Not a bad guy to take off the ice when they’re trying to score."

“It was awesome. It was great to see,” said Simmonds. “You see him get high-sticked there. He didn’t quit on the play and kept going. He battles with a guy who’s probably 20 pounds bigger, maybe more than that. It was a great emotional leap for the team in the third period there. Unbelievable job and kudos to him.”

Konecny, who has 19 goals and 22 asissts on the season and has earned Dave Hakstol's trust with a bump up to the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, has quickly rounded into a five-tool player this season with speed, playmaking, a scoring touch with a hard-nosed edge. Much like Brad Marchand with the Bruins, that type of player becomes vital once the postseason rolls around.

“It gives the bench a good injection of life,” said Hakstol. “They love it and guys love to see that on the bench. I think that’s what our guys expect, but it’s always great when you see one guy doing it.”  

Which is probably why Konecny enjoys that other Call of Duty. Another game with a similar approach, except a lot less painful.

Raffl out
General manager Ron Hextall announced Monday morning that forward Michael Raffl will miss two weeks with an upper-body injury suffered in the second period against the Capitals Sunday. Raffl, who has 11 goals and eight assists this year, had been seeing some time on the top line with Giroux and Couturier recently.

Future Flyers Report — Anthony Stolarz's long road back to playing

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Future Flyers Report — Anthony Stolarz's long road back to playing

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 24, 6-6/232, Reading (ECHL)
It was a long road back but Stolarz found his way back on the ice last week.

Stolarz began his rehab stint with the Royals and it doesn’t appear to be a long one. Per Jason Guarente, Stolarz packed up his gear Saturday and appears headed back to Lehigh Valley.

With Reading, Stolarz allowed six goals on 61 shots. As of this post, he has yet to be recalled.

The 24-year-old had been out since last April and underwent left knee surgery in September. Now that he’s back on the ice, expect Stolarz to see some AHL action. He’s on a one-year deal.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
Well, some disappointing news first. He failed to break the WHL shutout record, allowing one goal in Everett’s final regular-season game. He finishes his junior career with 26 shutouts.

Hart enjoyed one of the best junior seasons ever from a goalie and dominated the WHL. He led the league in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.947) and shutouts (7). The disparity between Hart and the No. 2 goalie, Cole Kehler, in GAA is remarkable. Hart finished with more than a goal better average than Kehler’s 2.77. Griffin Outhouse was second in save percentage, with .914. Hart was head and shoulders above his peers in the WHL.

Up next, the WHL playoffs. Then next season, the AHL. Hart watch is ramping up.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Frost’s quest to lead the OHL in points came up short but the Flyers' “other” 2017 first-round pick finished his draft-plus-1 season as a 1.67 point-per-game player.

The 18-year-old’s regular season ended Sunday with a goal and an assist. He finished the season with 42 goals, 70 assists and 112 points and led the OHL as a plus-70 player. Next up is the OHL playoffs.

Let’s cool the jets on the Frost on the Flyers talk next season. There is a chance he outshines the competition in training camp but he still needs to bulk up a considerable amount.

March Madness
The NCAA Tournament begins Friday. It’ll feature four Flyers prospects, Michigan’s Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski and Clarkson’s Terrance Amorosa.

Quick Hits
• Phantoms center Mikhail Vorobyev remained hot last week with two assists in three weekend games. He has eight points in his last nine games.

• Pascal Laberge’s point streak reached nine games before ending Friday. He finished the regular season with 47 points in 64 games between Quebec and Victoriaville.

• Matthew Strome, who signed his entry-level contract last week, finished the regular season with Hamilton with 37 goals and 68 points.

Isaac Ratcliffe’s season wrapped up on a four-game point streak and three-game goal streak. Ratcliffe led Guelph with 41 goals and 68 points.

• The Flyers signed Maksim Sushko to his entry-level contract. Sushko finished with 31 goals and 60 points. Five of the Flyers’ seven 2017 draft picks have signed.