Flyers

Flyers-Oilers observations: A win streak!

Flyers-Oilers observations: A win streak!

BOX SCORE

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Flyers have followed up their 10-game skid with their first winning streak in a month and half after defeating the Edmonton Oilers, 4-2, at Rogers Place on Wednesday night.

Jordan Weal, Dale Weise and Michael Raffl all scored for the Flyers, and Wayne Simmonds added an empty-net goal. Weal scored his first goal in 13 games. For Weise, it was his first goal since Nov. 4. 

Raffl has been red hot with goals in four of his last seven games.

Brian Elliott stopped 24 of the Oilers’ 26 shots.

The Flyers completed the season sweep of the Oilers after beating them, 2-1, at the Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 21. They can sweep the Western Canada portion of this road trip with a win in Vancouver Thursday night. 

• Claude Giroux drew the first penalty when defenseman Matt Benning pretty much bear-hugged the Flyers’ captain. The Flyers’ first PP unit got a good down-low look early on, but not much more after that. The second PP unit moved the puck a little better, but couldn’t generate a shot on net as Travis Konecny’s attempt went just wide.

• Through the opening 10 minutes, there wasn’t much open ice for Connor McDavid and the Oilers’ top line. McDavid had a sliver of daylight entering the Flyers’ zone, but was swallowed up quickly by four Flyers defenders.

• The Flyers’ best chance early on came when Darnell Nurse attempted to clear the zone, but Shayne Gostisbehere jumped on the puck and kept it in before it crossed the line. That set up Jakub Voracek with a shot that Laurent Brossoit was just able to extend his right pad on and make the save.

• The Flyers earned a second power-play opportunity in the first period. The best look came when Weal worked down low on the goal line and fired a saucer pass to Nolan Patrick for a one-time attempt from the left circle.

• Sean Couturier showed why he’s a grade-A defender, essentially taking out McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi with his strip of the puck behind the net. From that moment, the Flyers gained and maintained possession for a duration of 1:40, which resulted in a Voracek slap shot.

• Overall, it was a dreadful first period of action. I can’t remember so many stoppages of play (25 faceoffs) and a period that had very little flow.

• Patrick Maroon went after Taylor Leier with a cheap hit. Maroon received two minutes for interference and the Flyers got their third power play in the first 22 minutes of the game. 

• Not only did the PP look wretched in its two minutes, but Couturier had the puck stripped by McDavid. The result was nothing but open ice and a perfect 2-on-1 shorthanded opportunity that ended in a shorthanded goal for Leon Draisaitl. I know McDavid’s a great player, but Couturier has to do a better job of protecting the puck in that situation.

• The Flyers finally got a PP goal on their fourth attempt. Interestingly, Weal was in the spot occupied by Simmonds with the first power-play unit. The Flyers finally had some quick puck movement as Giroux made a slap pass to Couturier on the left wing (see highlights).

• Didn’t you love the perfectly executed hip check Ivan Provorov laid on McDavid? Textbook check!

• Credit Giroux with the Flyers’ second goal. Giroux won a foot race to the puck and left it for Weise. He fired a harmless shot through the legs of Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba that also went through Brossoit five-hole from between the circles in the high slot. A bad goal from a bad goalie.

• It appeared that Giroux lost coverage momentarily during the opening faceoff of the third period as Mark Letestu nearly scored on a shot that deflected off the post.

• Good passing set up the Flyers’ first three goals. For example, Voracek outraced his man to a puck along the boards and saw a streaking Raffl catch the Oilers’ defense flat-footed for a breakaway goal.

• The Flyers lost coverage on the Oilers’ second goal. Travis Sanheim followed his man behind the net and left Mark Alt as the only defender in front of the net. The Flyers just didn’t have the bodies down low as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was able to put in the rebound goal in a wide-open net. 

• Not a smart move on Scott Laughton’s part as he committed a holding penalty on the other end of his own net with three minutes to play and the Flyers nursing a 3-2 lead. Just an unnecessary penalty at that stage of the game.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy), and defensemen TJ Brennan (healthy) and Radko Gudas (suspended).

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Replacing Wayne Simmonds on the power play may be one of the toughest assignments in the NHL.

After all, the guy is second to only Alex Ovechkin with 85 man-advantage goals since the 2011-12 season.

So when the predicament actually faced Dave Hakstol this week, the Flyers' head coach turned to … a 19-year-old rookie.

Why Nolan Patrick?

Three components of the decision stand out:

Intelligence factor
Leading up the NHL draft, the overwhelming strength of Patrick's scouting report was his hockey sense.

Those close to him, as well as draft experts, lauded Patrick for comprehending plays before they even happen and being above the ice in understanding spacing.

Those characteristics are crucial when having an extra man.

Patrick has two goals over two games filling in for the injured Simmonds on the Flyers' top power-play unit. Patrick exhibited his IQ with Thursday's game-winner, where he quickly planted himself right in front of the net, had the presence of mind to find the puck and then bury it past Sergei Bobrovsky.

"We told him, just stand in front, if you see a puck, bring it home," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We tried to simplify it for him and he's going to take care of it himself, he's a great hockey player. It's paying off for him."

All about the touch
Patrick has excellent hands.

Put him around the net, and he'll know how to deflect pucks and find holes in a goalie. His vision, skill and finesse are why he's regarded as such an all-around playmaker.

In Tuesday's win, Patrick found immediate success with the first power-play group. Making his way to the middle, Patrick took a Claude Giroux pass and showed off that touch, adeptly going top shelf as Carey Price went low.

Studying Simmonds' net-front proficiency hasn't hurt, either.

"I watch him every game, he's unbelievable there and good at tipping pucks and making plays," Patrick said. "You learn from just watching every day."

Building up the kid
With time, Hakstol and the Flyers have allowed for Patrick to become comfortable instead of putting the world on his shoulders from the get-go.

That's part of Patrick's makeup.

"He almost always wants to be comfortable and then he really starts to exert himself," Patrick's uncle, James, said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last June

We're starting to see Patrick let loose.

As the Flyers have gradually upped his opportunity and responsibility, Patrick has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last 12 games after putting up six (two goals, four assists) over his previous 34.

Placing Patrick among the team's best talent on the man advantage will only help with his confidence moving forward, in all situations.

The Flyers' power play entered Friday with the NHL's sixth-best percentage at 21.6.

It'll need more of Patrick — but the Flyers couldn't have asked for a much better start to life without Simmonds over the next two to three weeks.

Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

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Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin each had two goals and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Friday night for their season-best sixth straight victory.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby scored a late goal and Olli Maatta also scored. The Penguins took control with three goals -- two by Kessel -- in a 7:39 span in the second period.

Matt Murray made 27 saves for Pittsburgh, which has won 11 of 13 to overtake idle Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Since the Penguins were shut out by Carolina on Jan. 4, they are 16-3-1.

They were just as busy off the ice, completing a mid-game trade in which they picked up center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators. As part of the complicated three-team deal, they sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Teuvo Teravainen scored and Cam Ward stopped 33 shots for the short-handed Hurricanes, who have gone 0-3-1 during a four-game slide that's keeping them outside the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Wild dominate skidding Rangers for New York sweep
NEW YORK -- Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal each scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves in the Minnesota Wild's 4-1 victory over the free-falling New York Rangers on Friday night.

The Wild completed a three-game sweep of New York-area teams after beating the Monday night and New Jersey on Thursday night.

The Rangers lost for the sixth straight time in regulation. New York is 6-17-0 since beating Buffalo in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 (see full recap).

Blackhawks’ Berube dominant in 1st Chicago start
CHICAGO -- Jean-Francois Berube made 42 saves in his first start for Chicago to help the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Friday night.

Defenseman Jan Rutta, activated from injured reserve Friday, and Nick Schmaltz scored, and Artem Anisimov added an empty-netter with 30.5 seconds left.

Anthony Duclair had two assists for the Blackhawks. They won their second straight and third in four games following an eight-game losing streak that dropped them to last place in the Central Division.

Berube lost a bid for this first NHL shutout when Timo Meier scored his 15th goal on a screened shot with 7:51 left in the third period.

Martin Jones stopped 33 shots for the Sharks, coming off a 7-1 loss at Nashville on Thursday night (see full recap).