The one that got away from the Flyers

The one that got away from the Flyers


COLUMBUS, Ohio — The losses at Nationwide Arena are mounting up, and the time elapsing from the Flyers' last win in Ohio's capital grows more distant.

With Saturday night's 2-1 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets, the Flyers have now lost 11 straight games in Columbus — the Flyers haven't won here since Dec. 13, 2005.

Blue Jackets rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois scored the shootout's only goal.

Dave Hakstol's 200th game as the head coach wasn't all for naught, of course, given the Flyers at least exited with a point — just like they did in five previous losses on the road against the Blue Jackets.

In just their fifth contest of the season against a divisional opponent — and the first of four against their rival from Ohio — the Flyers once again found themselves playing catchup, thanks to Seth Jones' power-play goal in the opening stanza.

The Flyers answered in the second period with Ivan Provorov's blast from the point that found eyes through traffic and past Sergei Bobrovsky.

With Michal Neuvirth still on the shelf, Hakstol continued to ride Brian Elliott, who made his 11th straight start and second in as many nights. The 32-year-old backstop was once again sensational, turning away 35 Columbus shots on 36 total shots.

Before the Flyers take their holiday hiatus, here are some observations from Saturday’s showdown in the Buckeye State:

• Much like the previous 10 road games against Columbus, the Blue Jackets clogged the neutral zone early on, suppressing a good portion of the potential chances that did end up in the Flyers’ offensive zone. Columbus’ transition game, on the other hand, made zone-entry for them not so difficult.

The Blue Jackets’ speedy transition established possession often, and for as much of a cliché as “getting pucks deep” is, it’s exactly what the Blue Jackets did.

• The Flyers failed to damage Columbus’ fourth-ranked home penalty kill, as they struggled to set up shop in their own zone. The normally sure-handed Shayne Gostisbehere was unable to keep the zone on a pass to the point and later turned the puck over, leading to a breakaway chance for Matt Calvert.

The orange and black failed on their second power play of the night in the second period due in large part to an outstanding Bobrovsky save on a Giroux one-time attempt set up by Voracek. An early third-period penalty to Nolan Patrick was nullified by a roughing penalty to Artemi Panarin, which also came up empty.

• The orange and black’s penalty killing unit was not granted such fortune. Seth Jones broke the game’s seal on the man advantage thanks to a too many men penalty taken by the Flyers' bench.

Jones’ wrister from just inside the point deflected off of Ivan Provorov before setting the cannon off. With their first-period power-play goal, Columbus has now scored on the man advantage in four straight games.

• The Blue Jackets’ opening tally marked the 15th time they’ve scored the game’s first goal in their last 24 outings. Columbus is now 16-3-2 when scoring first. Conversely, the slow starts for Hakstol's team bit them Friday night in Buffalo and nearly once again Saturday night.

• Columbus continued to pressure the Flyers at the start of the second, pushing the visiting team back on their heels until Provorov blasted home the equalizer. Later in the second, it appeared as though the Flyers took the lead on a goal deflected off the stick of Taylor Leier, but an officials’ review determined that Leier’s stick was above the crossbar, wiping the go-ahead mark off the board. After the play was replayed on the big screen, it’s interesting the goal was not waived off right away.

• Although the number of former Flyers who have come back to haunt their former team is plenty, perhaps no other former Flyer has done so more than Bobrovsky. Not only has the Russian-born goalie gone on to win a pair of Vezina Trophies, he’s also been a nuisance to the team that’s historically had their share of goalie woes.

The fact Bobrovsky has thrived post-Philadelphia within the Flyers’ division, no less, adds salt to a wound that Elliott has otherwise bandaged.

Bobrovsky was excellent Saturday night. He made 30 saves and was perfect in the shootout.

• Tonight’s tilt was career game Mo. 692 for Giroux, moving him past Simon Gagne for 10th on the Flyers' all-time list. The captain now sits only 33 games behind Gary Dornhoefer for ninth on the list.

• Just the Flyers' fifth game this season against a Metropolitan Division opponent, and the first since just after Thanksgiving.

• After playing their fifth game throughout the span of the last full week, the Flyers will enjoy the holidays with an extra day off on the tail end of the Christmas break. Their next slate of action will include two games in the next eight days.

What are Flyers made of? We're about to find out

What are Flyers made of? We're about to find out

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Penguins have the Flyers on the canvas in a headlock.

The faces of the guys who wear orange and black are turning purple, and unless they put up a courageous fight as they did in Game 2, they will tap out of this best-of-seven series after just five games (see story).

General manager Ron Hextall spoke to the media for the first time since the series started and believes the Flyers have displayed a lack of mental fortitude through the first four games.

“A lot of it is mentality,” Hextall said. “We need to be stronger if a bump goes the other way. We need to be stronger and bounce back and create energy going back our way. The playoffs are a series of momentum [swings] — within a period and within a game. We need to do a better job of bringing the momentum back our way."

So where exactly does that start? The return of Sean Couturier would help considerably.

After sitting out Game 4’s 5-0 loss, the Selke Trophy finalist hasn’t ruled out playing in Game 5 after skating Wednesday and Thursday on his own. Hextall said Couturier would travel to Pittsburgh and nothing more than that.

“I’m feeling better every day, and we’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” Couturier said. “It’s really on me to see how I feel every day and hopefully, it keeps getting better. It’s really up to my body to see how it keeps progressing.”

Dave Hakstol switched up his lines once again Thursday, most notably installing Valtteri Filppula onto the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and breaking up the top defense pairing of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere.

Robert Hagg is also expected to make his series debut, playing alongside Andrew MacDonald as fellow rookie Travis Sanheim will serve as the healthy scratch.

“About time,” Hagg said. “I’m looking forward to it tomorrow. Hopefully, I can bring something to the team, some energy. I think it’s perfect and I can’t wait to go in and show what I can bring to the team.”

“He brings a different element than a couple of guys in the lineup if we’re so inclined to make that change,” Hakstol said. “We haven’t generated very much over the last five periods, but at the same time, we’ve given up quite a bit in some of the harder areas.”

Toward the end of Thursday’s 45-minute practice, Giroux gathered his teammates around and delivered a speech he hopes can galvanize the Flyers for Game 5 and bring the series back to Philadelphia for Game 6.

“I think it’s believing in ourselves," Giroux said. "All year we’ve done that, and we’ve talked about it before. You lose 10 in a row and find a way to make the playoffs. Tomorrow’s a big game for us, and if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down swinging.”

Quick hits
• Speaking on the collision with Radko Gudas, Couturier said, "We've done this drill all year. It was bad timing and a fluke accident. There's no one to really blame, and I should have maybe had my head up there."

• Hextall believes Couturier should be the Selke Trophy front-runner based on his outstanding 2017-18 season.

"I think he should win it," Hextall said. "I know those other players fairly well, and yes, I watch Coots on a daily basis, but the two-way game that he brings to our team is in my mind, the best in the league this year."

• Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist will miss his second straight game.

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Michal Neuvirth stood by his locker Wednesday night dejected, like the rest of his teammates, after the Flyers’ latest blunder, an embarrassing 5-0 loss on home ice to the Penguins in Game 4.

The Flyers are on the brink of elimination to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, and Wednesday's defeat was the latest reminder of their current state of affairs.

"Definitely good to get in the mix," said Neuvirth, who replaced Brian Elliott in the second period for his first game action since March 28. "But tough outcome tonight. We lost it to a better team tonight."

With that, Neuvirth perfectly encapsulated exactly where the Flyers stand in this first-round playoff series with Pittsburgh. It's definitely good to be in the mix, and they lost to the better team.

We've heard that before and we'll hear it again, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. This Flyers team isn't quite there yet, to compete with the Penguins or in the playoffs.

There are encouraging signs. The postseason experience will pay off in the long run — it's better than not being there. Nolan Patrick, 19, has perhaps been the Flyers' most consistent forward in the series. He was the only player who competed Wednesday.

But goaltending remains an eyesore and rookie mistakes are consistently being made by veterans, and some appear immune to accountability. Game 4 was as ugly as it gets (see story), and that's counting a series that included a 7-0 loss in Game 1.

The Flyers were never really in Wednesday's game outside of about a two-minute stretch in the first period, when they were buzzing in the Pittsburgh zone until a Scott Laughton centering pass turned into a Penguins odd-man rush.

Bang, 2-0 Pittsburgh. Ballgame.

"From our standpoint," Dave Hakstol said, "we have to look from within. There's going to be momentum swings, there are going to be pushes, but we haven't been able to reestablish our game quick enough to give ourselves an opportunity."

Wednesday served as another grim reminder. This Flyers-Penguins rivalry, well, isn't much of a rivalry and hasn't been one in quite some time now.

Coming into this series, we heard the old storylines, about how much these two teams hate each other, how close games are, but the hate hasn't been there for a while and the games, they haven't been close, either.

The Penguins have dominated the Flyers, this season especially. With the 5-0 win Wednesday, the Pens have outscored the Flyers, 38-17, in eight total games and 20-4 in games played at the Wells Fargo Center.

The hype machine was on full blast and we all bought into it. It's the playoffs, different animal, but some things never change no matter the environment.

At some point, it's time to bury the hatchet.

It was fun while it lasted, but for now, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is no more.