Flyers' 'pretty good' not nearly good enough vs. NHL's best

Flyers' 'pretty good' not nearly good enough vs. NHL's best


There’s nothing Dave Hakstol, or even a Super Bowl-bound coach, could have done to change the Flyers’ fate.

On a night when the Eagles’ Doug Pederson dropped the ceremonial first puck prior to the game (see story), the Tampa Bay Lightning showed why they’ve owned the NHL during the first half of the season. 

The Lightning struck fast and furiously during a three-goal second period to cruise to a 5-1 win over the Flyers Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations). The victory was Tampa Bay’s 34th of the season as it also became the first team to reach 70 points this season.

With the All-Star Game convening in Tampa, Florida, this weekend, the Lightning showed why they have the largest contingency chosen to represent the Atlantic Division. 

All-Star center Brayden Point opened the scoring just 25 seconds into the second period when the Flyers overloaded their coverage to the far side of the ice and left him alone in front of Michal Neuvirth (see highlights).

“We knew how they play on the road,” Neuvirth said. “They shoot a lot of pucks and they are just playing with the puck and waiting for the big scoring chance, and we had a tough time in front of our net.”  

Nine and a half minutes later, winger Yanni Gourde increased the Lightning’s lead to 2-0 when he was left unaccompanied just to the right of Neuvirth as the Flyers had another breakdown in coverage.

“I think we played pretty good, but pretty good doesn’t cut it against teams like that,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “A couple of mistakes cost us the game. We fell behind but we were pushing. We scored a goal to make it 3-1, but gave up another one right after, which we cannot do.” 

Russian-born Provorov had to admire the play of his fellow countrymen Nikita Kucherov (two assists), Vladislav Namestnikov (two goals) and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who showed precisely why he’s been the NHL’s best goaltender in the first half of the season as he denied 36 of the 37 shots he faced.

“He’s big. Even the pucks he doesn’t see he uses his body pretty well to still find a way to stop it,” center Sean Couturier said. “He seems to be athletic. He’s a good goalie. He made some big saves, kept them in the game, and the next thing you know we’re chasing.”

Perhaps most discouraging was to watch the Flyers’ power play cough up another shorthanded goal, its eighth this season. Ryan Callahan wheeled completely around defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere for a goal that essentially put the game out of reach at 3-0 in the final minutes of the second period.

“Whether you’re a fan of us or not, that was a really nice hockey play,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That was probably the one that took the wind out of their sails. That was a heck of an effort.”

Hakstol expressed concern during the morning skate over how his team appeared mentally and physically exhausted just two nights earlier in Detroit. However, that didn’t appear to be the case against the Lightning, as the Flyers outshot them by a 37-22 margin.

“I thought we deserved a better fate,” Hakstol said. “Second period, we came out of it down 3-0 and that’s a pretty deep, deep hole. In the goals we gave up, there were a couple of individual mistakes and probably somewhere in there we need a save on one of those, at least.”

“Obviously we outshot them quite handily, but their opportunities were prime opportunities, and obviously they’re probably the highest-scoring team in the league,” forward Wayne Simmonds said.  

Despite the loss, the Flyers have won eight of 10 to propel them into a wild-card position. Only the Boston Bruins have earned more points in the Eastern Conference during that stretch.

“I think we put ourselves in a good spot,” said Travis Konecny, who now has a four-game goal streak. “It’s tough saying that when you lose a game like this, but I think we’ve done a lot of good things up to this point. I think we can take these last 10 games going into the break as a positive even though we had a little slip-up, but those happen."

“It’s frustrating going into a break like this, but at the same time, we’ve got to look at what we have been doing for a month or so and we’ve got to build on it when we come back,” captain Claude Giroux said.

Since the start of 2018, an interesting trend has also emerged. One the Flyers would like to carry over coming out of the All-Star break:

• 5-1 loss to the Penguins on Jan. 2 followed by four straight wins

• 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Jan. 16 followed by four straight wins

• 5-1 loss to the Lightning on Jan. 25 …

Another four-game winning streak? We’ll see if the pattern continues next Wednesday in Washington.

Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

USA Today Images

Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

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.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Flyers fans can't wait to see this at the NHL level.

Last weekend, Lindblom potted a goal in three straight games for the Phantoms, giving him 16 on the season through 54 contests. All three tallies came within close range as the Swedish winger's scoring IQ continues to grow during his first AHL season.

Since going scoreless in his first six games, the 2014 fifth-round pick hasn't gone more than four straight games without a point.

Lindblom surprised many with his vast development leading up to the 2017-18 season. While some were disappointed he didn't make the Flyers' roster out of training camp, a 20-goal campaign at Lehigh Valley will be a nice accomplishment along his path to Philly.

Travis Sanheim, D, 21, 6-4/199, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Just how much of a difference-maker is Sanheim? The Phantoms are 9-1-2 since the 2014 first-round pick joined them after he was sent down by the Flyers.

Over Lehigh Valley's 3-0-1 week, Sanheim extended his point streak to seven games with five more assists, putting him at 12 helpers in as many games.

Seeing plenty of minutes and responsibility, Sanheim has collected 13 points to go with a plus-11 rating.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, 21, 5-11/187, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Aube-Kubel is another Phantom worth noting here.

The 2014 second-round pick put up five points (one goal, four assists) in four games last week, continuing his surge in Year 2 of his AHL development. He now has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last 12 games.

After a feeling-out process last season, Aube-Kubel is coming on strong in 2017-18, as he's a plus-20 and third on Lehigh Valley with 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists).

Quick hits
• Ho-hum for Morgan Frost, who had a six-point week through three games. At 94 points, Frost is six away from 100, while his plus-54 rating remains best in the OHL.

Here's a glimpse into his vision and skill:

• Goalie Carter Hart picked up a win and a shootout loss over the weekend. In total, he made 60 saves on 65 shots.

Maksim Sushko tallied two goals (including this one below) and two assists through three games last week. A 2017 fourth-round pick, the 19-year-old has 48 points in 47 games for Owen Sound.

• Wingers Isaac Ratcliffe and Matthew Strome, also 2017 draft picks, recorded three points each in a pair of games.

• Playing for the first time since Jan. 31, German Rubtsov returned from an undisclosed injury to notch an assist over three games last week. The Flyers' 2016 first-round pick has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 27 games for Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

• In Michigan's two-game sweep of top-ranked Notre Dame, Cooper Marody tacked on three more assists, giving him 26 overall, which is tied for most in the Big Ten.

Here's his primary helper from Sunday's 1-0 win:

Anthony Salinitri pushed his point streak to seven games with an assist Friday and a goal Saturday. The 2016 sixth-round pick has 25 goals and 25 assists in 56 games.

• During the four-game week for the Phantoms, Mike Vecchione scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season, while adding an assist.

Philippe Myers had an assist Tuesday for his first point since Jan. 26, while Samuel Morin (undisclosed injury), who hasn't played since Jan. 20, remains out.

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

USA Today Images

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Taylor Hall scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left in overtime, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The goal extended Hall's league-best streak of games with a point to 18.

New Jersey had won the first of the teams' four meetings this season on Thursday night to start the Hurricanes' three-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid stopped 40 shots for the Devils.

The Devils led 1-0 after a first period in which the Hurricanes outshot them 13-9.

Nico Hischier scored New Jersey's first goal on a power play midway through the first, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid (see full recap).

Matthews scores in final minute to give Maple Leafs win over Red Wings
DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.

"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.

To Toronto center Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.

"We've got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn't go in.

"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."

Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves (see full recap).

McDavid notches 3rd hat trick of season in Oilers' victory vs. Avalanche
DENVER — Late in the second period, with his team outplaying Colorado, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan couldn't believe his Oilers were trailing 2-1.

"Jay Woodcroft and I looked at each other and said, `How are we losing this game?'" McLellan said.

They didn't, thanks to another big game by Connor McDavid.

McDavid had his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his career, and the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday to snap a six-game losing streak.

McDavid now has 11 goals in the last nine games and two hat tricks. His first two goals tied the game, and his last one was into an empty net with 1:26 remaining (see full recap).

Sheahan scores twice in Penguins' win over Blue Jackets 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period, rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, and Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for the Penguins. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The win in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena moved them past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 22-year-old Jarry played well standing in for starter Matt Murray, who got a rest as Pittsburgh played the second leg of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. It was Jarry's first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.

Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine. In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus outshot its opponent (37-23) but couldn't score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division (see full recap)