Flyers-Jets observations: Goal drought ends, but no win to show for it

Flyers-Jets observations: Goal drought ends, but no win to show for it


WINNIPEG, Manitoba — All the Flyers needed was a change of opponent to change their goal-scoring luck. However, it didn’t change the outcome. 

The Jets connected on 3 of 4 shootout attempts to earn the extra point Thursday and defeat the Flyers, 3-2, at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg.

Jakub Voracek snapped the goalless drought just 2:27 into the opening period and Sean Couturier added to the lead a few minutes later as the Flyers were up 2-0 after the opening period. 

Jets center Mark Scheifele tied the game with 49 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.

Despite the loss, Brian Elliott was still superb in net as he turned aside 31 of 33 shots.

• Jacob Trouba deserved a high-sticking penalty with roughly two minutes remaining in overtime when he shoved the butt of his stick under Couturier’s chin. Nothing was called by the officials. 

• The Flyers were given another power play and a chance to extend their lead in the third after Dustin Byfuglien’s sloppy tripping penalty on Travis Konecny. Couturier appeared to have a wide-open net from the left circle with Connor Hellebuyck out of position, but he hesitated long enough as it appeared he couldn’t get off a clean shot through traffic.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill came up with an excellent kill early in the third period as the Jets’ PP wasn't able to generate even one shot on Elliott. The Jets never really threatened to score during the entire two minutes.

• There was good early pressure from the Flyers’ second line when Jordan Weal and Konecny harassed the Jets’ defensive tandem of Toby Enstrom and Byfuglien into a turnover as Enstrom threw a blind pass behind the net. Eventually, that line drew a penalty when Scheifele crosschecked Valtteri Filppula away from the puck.

• Excellent rebound control for Elliott throughout, especially on the Jets’ first power play attempt of the second period. You can’t fault him at all on the Jets’ goal once Brandon Manning was deked on the play off a beautiful move from Joel Arnia. Arnia then fed a cutting Mathieu Perreault, who slid a backhand under Elliott’s pads. The play started when the Jets won the faceoff cleanly and the Flyers couldn’t settle into their coverage.

• Where was the forward coverage on Scheifele’s wide-open backhand shot on Elliott late in the second period? With the defense tied up in coverage along the boards, it appeared as if Konecny was late to react to a wide-open Scheifele in the slot.   

• With the Flyers in the middle of a line change, Couturier forced Trouba into a turnover along the boards and then centered a pass to Konecny, who had a wide-open look from the high slot. Those are the opportunities the other lines need to create and the type of shots Konecny needs to convert. Konecny had another prime opportunity with about five minutes remaining. It appeared he had a wide-open look but then elected to pass.

• Byfuglien delivered an elbow and an open-ice hit that came very close to Weal’s head. No penalty was called, but it very easily could have been elbowing as Byfuglien extended his forearm against a smaller Weal.

• It looked like the second power-play unit had an open seam to Michael Raffl right in front of the crease as the Jets lost containment for a second. Raffl has played well on the fourth line, but hasn’t had too many scoring opportunities. He has just 12 shots on goal in his first 18 games.

• Late in the second period, players on both teams started taking runs at their opponent as they tried to line up the big open-ice hit. These game against Byfuglien and the Jets usually seem to trend in that direction.

• It took all of 2:27 into the first period for the Flyers to finally break the drought. The play started when the Jets’ shot attempt missed the net completely, which produced a clean breakout for the Flyers. Voracek brought the puck across the blue line and sent a cross-ice pass to Couturier, who unleashed a shot that created a big rebound. Credit Couturier for shooting low on Hellebuyck and Voracek skating into the middle where he was in perfect position for the rebound goal.

• Mired in a 4-for-35 slump, the power play gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead as it was able to find the open lanes in the Jets’ box. Voracek spotted Wayne Simmonds just to the left of Hellebuyck. Simmonds nearly scored along the post, but his shot created another rebound in the slot where Couturier was lurking. 

• With Scott Laughton off for hooking, the Jets’ always dangerous first-unit power play looked to unleash Patrick Laine’s wicked one-timer. Elliott was obviously trending to his right and was in position to make a couple of saves on Laine.

• Perreault completely baited Radko Gudas into the five-minute slashing major when Perreault was taking several whacks into Gudas’ back. After having his helmet dislodged and slipping to the ice, Gudas caught Perreault’s neck with his stick (see video). It had the appearance of a very dangerous play, but those are the types of plays that Gudas needs to show some restraint. The play looked a lot worse than it was. 

• Can’t figure out what the officials were thinking when they assessed matching minors and then went to look at video before making the determination that Gudas deserved a major/game misconduct. You make those calls on the ice, not after video review.      

• Big glove save from Elliott on Bryan Little. However, the play was set up by Nikolaj Ehlers, the Danish-born winger who’s one of the more underrated players in the NHL. Ehlers has loads of talent with tremendous puck-handling skills and terrific speed. Ehlers had another drag move that completely faked out Simmonds to free up his shot on the Jets’ power play.

• The best shift of the first period came from Laughton as he displayed tremendous pursuit and aggression to fight off three Winnipeg defenders and cycle the puck behind the net. After the Jets finally gained possession, Laughton never stopped skating and jumped on a turnover and was able to get a shot off from the high slot. Textbook shift! 

• Travis Sanheim seemed inspired to play in front of about 20 family and friends who made the drive to Winnipeg from Elkhorn, Manitoba, which is about a three-hour drive west. Sanheim made a good defensive play on Perreault and then made a nice pass to Couturier, who didn’t appear to be expecting the feed. He seems primed to score his first NHL goal.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

John Boruk/NBCSP

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Aaron also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an Orange and Black diehard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based Original Six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Philadelphia Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably six-to-nine years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies - Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia it’s first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time this weekend, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” said 54-year-old Tom Banks. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

USA Today Images

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).