Flyers

Flyers-Islanders observations: Skid extends to 6 with tough OT loss

Flyers-Islanders observations: Skid extends to 6 with tough OT loss

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders extended the Flyers’ season-high losing streak to six games with a 4-3 overtime win Wednesday night at The Barclays Center.

Josh Bailey rammed home his own rebound just 32 seconds into the OT session as the Flyers fell to 1-5 in overtime this season.

The Flyers finally received some secondary scoring as Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl scored their first goals of the season.

Brian Elliott stopped 35 shots as his record dropped to at 6-6-3.

Once again, the Flyers were buried by their penalty kill as the Islanders converted 2 of 5 power-play opportunities. The Flyers have allowed seven PP goals in their last three games. 

• The Flyers turned it up in the final period of regulation as they outshot the Isles 14-8 with most of those shots coming in the final eight minutes.

• The Flyers penalty kill was considerably better in the opening minutes of the third period. The unit played more aggressively and did not allow the Isles to set up or have several cracks at Elliott. Ivan Provorov had a big block as the Flyers was forced to kill off back-to-back minors. Samuel Morin took a foolish interference penalty.

• There was some big-time pressure from the John Tavares line midway through the third period, but credit the Flyers’ defense as it kept the Islanders’ captain around the perimeter for most of the game. Tavares was one of two Isles player who didn’t have a shot on net.

• In undoubtedly his best game of the season, Raffl was all over the place with his early breakaways and his strong net presence. He led the Flyers with six shots on goal, three hits and even won 3 of 4 faceoffs.

• Elliott stifled a pair of 2-on-1 opportunities for the Islanders in the second period. He came up with a tremendous save when Tavares set up Josh Bailey with a one-timer that Elliott read perfectly and snatched with the glove. Elliott certainly kept the Flyers in this game with timely saves as he faced 29 shots in the first 40 minutes.

• The Flyers got a much-needed power play goal, set up by Wayne Simmonds with a nice and quick cross-ice pass from down low to Jake Voracek in the right circle. The attention Simmonds commands around the crease made that play possible.

• The Flyers lost a key faceoff in the defensive zone in the second, which allowed a pass from Adam Pelech to Josh Ho-Sang to get his stick up and deflect a puck past Elliott. These are the type of goals the Flyers have desperately needed but have failed to get against opposing goalies.

• There was good speed by the Flyers’ third line between Valtteri Filppula and Travis Konecny. However, Filppula was only able to put a weak backhand attempt on net, an easy save for Thomas Greiss. 

• Jordan Eberle picked Provorov’s pocket in the opening seconds of the second period. Sometimes his teammates assume Provy will just skate the puck out of danger or always come away with it when battling along the boards. Tough first six minutes for Provorov, who also took a cheap hooking penalty.

• After Morin flipped the puck into the stands for a delay of game, the Flyers’ PK let them down once again on a 5-on-3 Islanders’ opportunity as Johnny Boychuk found the space just under the crossbar. It was an open lane that doesn’t exist on a 5-on-4 PP, but give Boychuk credit for working his way into the open lane. That made it seven power-play goals surrendered by the Flyers in their last seven periods of action at that point.

• Raffl converted on his second breakaway as he made a move on Greiss just enough for his shot to hit the post and then kicked over the line off the goalie’s skate. The Flyers capitalized on the Islanders’ defensive breakdowns early with three clear breakaways in the first 23 minutes. 

• Dave Hakstol told me Morin was primarily a left-side defenseman, but in the first period we saw him play the right side in a few instances and look comfortable doing so. Morin had a big hit on Eberle late in the first period to dislodge his stick. The Islanders seemed to sense Morin’s length and were reluctant to challenge him in the offensive zone. Overall, it was a solid first period for Morin. 

• There was a very quick read-and-react play from Danick Martel with his takeaway at the point. He then displayed his breakaway speed as he came in on goaltender Greiss, who got enough of his blocker on the shot. Still, that’s precisely the type of offensive jolt the Flyers need from Martel, who said after the first period of his NHL debut, “There was a lot of emotion for sure. Hockey is a simple game and I wanted to keep it simple, play hard and that’s what I did and I had a couple of good scoring chances.”

• Once again, the Flyers’ top line generated an outstanding scoring chance with Sean Couturier and Voracek working in tandem. Voracek’s shot created a big rebound and Couturier failed to elevate the puck or he may have scored his 13th goal of the season. Credit Greiss for being able to extend the right pad and keeping the puck out of the net.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill failed to get the job done once again in the first period as the Islanders’ quick puck movement really backed the PK down low. Matthew Barzal’s shot from the faceoff dot didn’t allow Elliott enough time to react. 

• Raffl, mired in a 42-game stretch without a point, had his best opportunity of the season with a breakaway chance and tried to slide the puck five-hole. I think if Raffl had some confidence in his game he would have made some sort of move on Greiss.

• The Flyers scored the first goal for the fourth straight game as Travis Sanheim unleashed a rocket that created a big rebound and Leier did exactly what the players and Coach Hakstol have been preaching: crash the net and work for those dirty goals. The shot inadvertently deflected off Leier’s skate for a 1-0 lead. I feel that Sanheim has been more active in the offensive zone over the past six to seven games.

• It hasn’t been talked about much, but Sanheim has a heavy shot. If taken from the top of the circles, it can create some second-chance opportunities. 

• Elliott has been solid with rebound control recently, but in the first period he gave some long ones that allowed the Islanders some second-chance opportunities.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim
Samuel Morin-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise and Radko Gudas.

Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

ap-shayne-gostisbehere-flyers-stars-win.jpg
AP Images

Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

From the upbeat music blaring when you first walk in the locker room to the jovial tones the players on the team speak with, it's clear times have changed drastically from a few weeks ago for the Flyers.

Just over two weeks ago, the music would have been shut off and a straight-laced attitude of needing to play better would have been blatantly evident during the 10-game skid.

Wins cure all, don't they?

And the Flyers will be going for their seventh consecutive win when they host the Los Angeles Kings Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Beside the music and the attitude, what has changed over the last few weeks to ignite this stretch of success? The Flyers feel a massive key has been their play in tight games, specifically in the third period. Where they would have crumbled weeks ago, they are excelling now.

"We've come to the conclusion that, obviously, we have to be on the same page to win games," Wayne Simmonds said Monday after morning skate. "We've done the exact same thing every single third period. To win games, you have to be consistent and do the same things every night.

"[Saturday vs. Dallas] in the third period, I think everyone thought we were actually winning the game 2-1 instead of being tied. That sets our expectations high. That's what we expect of ourselves. It was a good feeling and we kind of knew we were going to win that game, whether it was going to take 65 minutes or a shootout. ... We've kept it simple. I think that's the main thing for our team - we've kept it simple and everyone is on the exact same page."

The proof is in the pudding of Simmonds' words.

During the miserable 10-game losing streak, the Flyers were outscored 10-2 in third periods. Five of those games wound up as one-goal defeats decided in either OT or a shootout. Leads were held at one point or another in six of those contests. 

Moral of the story? Points were there for the taking and the Flyers left them dangling on the table for the opponent to grab.

Now, during this six-game win streak, the Flyers are outscoring the opposition 7-1 in third periods.

"We've been going into the third period and we've been on the same page," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We're excited to go out there and win that game. I think we're doing a lot of good things. We were doing a lot of good things when we weren't winning. But now it's more good things, doing the right things. 

"We go into the third period and it's a tight game or we're up a goal, we feel confident. If we play our game, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win. But we have to keep that mindset."

Much like Giroux, head coach Dave Hakstol feels the Flyers were doing good things during the skid, but now they're putting them all together and the wins are the result of just that.

"We obviously went through a stretch where we didn't have good third periods and at times we were our own worst enemy," Hakstol said. "Yet even within those periods we were playing pretty good hockey. But we had a tendency to try a little hard or look for a play that wasn't there that comes back to haunt you pretty quickly. 

"I think that's probably the biggest thing that has been different for us here over the last short stretch - just staying with the game."

Facing a defensively sound and structured Kings team that has a plus-22 goal differential and features a world-class goalie in Jonathan Quick, it likely means the Flyers are in for another close game Monday night.

And unlike two weeks ago, that's a welcomed situation. Because it's never too close for comfort now.

Twisted history
The Flyers on Monday can tie a weird, crazy, bizarre and whatever else you want to call it NHL record. They can tie the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs for the longest winning streak immediately after losing 10 games in a row. Those Leafs lost 11 in a row before storming back to win seven straight. Those Leafs also went on to win the Stanley Cup. 

Hey, who knows anything anymore, right?

More honors for Elliott
Flyers netminder Brian Elliott was honored by the NHL for the second straight week. This time, he was named the league's second star of the week after posting a 3-0-0 record, 1.31 goals-against average and .943 save percentage as the Flyers extended their win streak. His best performance last week came Saturday against the Stars when he stopped 27 shots in the 2-1 OT victory. Elliott, who will start Monday vs. the Kings and sports a 12-6-6 record, 2.61 goals-against average and .915 save percentage this season, was the third star the previous week.

Lineup
No lineup changes are expected for the Flyers Monday. Injured goalie Michal Neuvirth, whose missed the last almost two weeks with a lower-body injury, took part in morning skate again, but still isn't ready to go. Alex Lyon will again backup Elliott.

Giroux-Couturier-Simmonds
Raffl-Filppula-Voracek
Weal-Patrick-Weise
Konecny-Laughton-Leier

Provorov-MacDonald
Hagg-Gostisbehere
Gudas-Sanheim

Elliott
Lyon

Amid WJCs snub, Flyers prospect Morgan Frost still dominating OHL

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Photo: Aaron Bell/CHL Images

Amid WJCs snub, Flyers prospect Morgan Frost still dominating OHL

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The Greyhounds won their 20th straight game Saturday afternoon and now haven’t lost a game since Oct. 27, and Frost has been at the forefront of Sault Ste. Marie’s winning stream. Frost is averaging two points per game, collecting 40 points during the Greyhounds’ 20-game winning streak. Last week, Frost had eight points in three games.

Frost capped off the week with a two goal, two assist effort in Sault Ste. Marie’s 7-1 blowout win over Guelph. He also had a two-goal game Wednesday in the Greyhounds’ 4-1 win over the Flint Firebirds. Frost is now second in the OHL in scoring, with 55 points, second in assists with 36 and leads the OHL with a plus-42 rating. He’s averaging 1.67 points, third in the OHL and winning 50.1 percent of his faceoffs.

As The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor pointed out, Frost is scoring comparable to what Travis Konecny was during his after-drafted season. Konecny spent one more season in the OHL after the Flyers drafted him in 2015 and then made the team in 2016-17. While it’s easy to look at Carter Hart in awe, Frost is the one prospect who’s breaking out.

We knew what Hart was — and what he’s doing in Everett is astonishing. We’ll see Hart plenty next week in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships. Frost wasn’t invited to Team Canada’s selection camp this year, but it’s a safe bet he’ll be there next year. We continue to see panic over the Brayden Schenn trade, but that’s misguided. Frost is turning out to be an intriguing prospect, and remember, the Flyers have another first-rounder from St. Louis. Frost is most certainly trending upward. Sound familiar?

Pascal Laberge, C, 19, 6-1/162, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Laberge has played his final game for Victoriaville, as the forward will be traded Monday to the Quebec Remparts, according to La Nouvelle’s Matthew Vachon. After a brief period to start the season, Laberge cooled off considerably and has since been inconsistent. In his final week as a Tigre, Laberge had a three-assist game last Friday night in Victoriaville’s 7-2 win over Shawinigan but was pointless in his two other games.

When evaluating Laberge, it’s hard to root against the versatile forward because of his backstory. The 19-year-old faced adversity throughout his draft year and then dealt with concussions during his first season as Flyers property. He’s a kid you want to succeed, and so far, he hasn’t been able to get back to his draft-year production. He has just six goals and 20 points in 31 games this year. He will get a fresh start with the Remparts.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
We’re starting to see Lindblom come into his own with the Phantoms. The Swedish forward continues to adjust to the North American game, and we’re seeing more consistency from him in the AHL. Last week was no different. Lindblom saw his point streak hit four games before coming to an end Sunday against Bridgeport. Lindblom scored his seventh goal of the season last Wednesday, which capped off a three-goal in a four-game stretch. Then he picked up an assist on Friday against Charlotte and another Saturday against Syracuse. When we look at the advanced metrics, with many thanks to Broad Street Hockey’s Brad Keffer, you can see Lindblom’s Corsi numbers consistently improving, which is an indicator that he’s becoming more comfortable here.

Carsen Twarynski, LW, 19, 6-2/201, Kelowna (WHL)
We don’t talk a lot about Twarynski, the Flyers’ 2016 third-round pick, but let’s check in on the defenseman-turned-left-winger. Twarynski, who the Rockets acquired last season from the Calgary Hitmen, is producing above a point-per-game in Kelowna. Twarynski had six points in four games last week. He has 24 goals — seven on the power play — and 39 points in 31 games. What exactly kind of future does Twarynski have? It’s tough to get a read on him because he’s a streaky player. Twarynski projects to be a serviceable AHL player, but whether he’ll be an NHLer is up in the air. His WHL numbers are respectable, but he doesn’t seem to have the consistency to excite.

Quick Hits
• As expected, German Rubtsov made Team Russia for the World Junior Championships. Last week, Rubtsov had a goal in two games for Acadie-Bathurst.

• Sarnia’s Anthony Salinitri has a three-game point streak after picking up two goals and an assist in three games last week. Salinitri has 33 points in 35 games this season.

Matthew Strome, of the Hamilton Bulldogs, extended his point streak to five games. Strome has three goals and six points during his streak. He has 17 goals in 32 games.

• Kitchener’s Connor Bunnaman’s point streak reached five games with a goal Friday and an assist Sunday. Bunnaman has seven points during his current point streak.

Samuel Morin returned to action last Tuesday for the Phantoms but sat out Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. He’s been dealing with lower-body injuries.

• Without any official declarations, it appears Mike Vecchione is dealing with some sort of injury with the Phantoms. Vecchione hasn’t played since Dec. 9.

• The offense has picked up for Nicolas Aube-Kubel in his second pro season. He had two goals and two assists in four games last week. He now has 21 points in 30 games.