Flyers

Flyers searching for a New Year's identity

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Flyers searching for a New Year's identity

New Year’s Day has long been that one day of self reflection while providing an opportunity to find the necessary improvements to bottle into a New Year’s resolution.  

Collectively, the Flyers are no different.

Identifying a team identity would serve as a good starting point. So what is that identity?

“That’s a tough question,” said goaltender Brian Elliott, who's playing on his third different team in three years. “I think we know that we can play with and beat any team. We’re right there in that wild-card race and we have to keep inching up. There’s going to be a lot of three-point games and you can’t just win one and lose one. That’s not going to do it in this league.

“I think we’re still trying to find what our identity is,” said forward Dale Weise. “One night when you see in Tampa that we can compete with anybody in the league, and then the next night, no disrespect to Buffalo, we can get dominated by some teams down in the standings. I think going forward we need to find what that identity is and find some consistency.”

More importantly, is that identity passed down from management and the coaching staff or is it developed internally from the leadership group to where it spreads throughout the entire organization?

“It’s probably a two-way street,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “I think everybody has to do their part in building that identity. This is a group that has success through its depth. That identity hasn’t wavered or changed. We went through a real tough stretch where we couldn’t get the results, but that still didn’t change the identity of our team.”

The Flyers may have a positive outlook for 2018, but to produce better outcomes, it’s essential to learn and correct the mistakes from 2017, which saw the Flyers finish the calendar year with a 35-33-14 record, or 84 points in 82 games. 

And now they embark on a pivotal four-game homestand vs. Pittsburgh, the New York Islanders, St. Louis and Buffalo where points will be at a premium. The Pens and Isles are both ahead of the Flyers in the wild-card hunt. The Sabres currently have the fewest points in the East. And while the Blues are a formidable foe, the Flyers shut them out earlier in the year out in St. Louis.

This is where some consistency would be a huge boost.

“First 38 games (this season) we’ve been very inconsistent. When you look at the winning and losing, that’s obvious. Even when you’re having a bad day, you have to find a way,” said forward Jake Voracek. “We know we can come back at any time. Obviously, we were short in Buffalo and we were short in Florida, but in some games when we're down 3-0 to get some of those points. So I’d say that identity is that we really never give up.” 

Flyers prefer the warmth
With the 10th anniversary of the Winter Classic outdoor game and the Flyers' upcoming game against the Penguins, it’s a reminder how those two factors will merge next season when the Flyers host the Pens at Lincoln Financial Field on Feb. 23, 2019.

Despite early morning temperatures in the single digits, it was still a balmy 16 degrees at puck drop between the Sabres and Rangers at Citi Field in NYC, making it the second coldest outdoor game in NHL history.

As a kid, Claude Giroux would skate outdoors on the pond in Northern Ontario in temperatures that were minus-30 to minus-40.

“When you’re a kid, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re cold or not, you just play through it. You’re just having so much fun, the weather’s not really an issue,” said Giroux.

As far as next season’s game against Pittsburgh?

“A little bit of cold. The wind makes a big difference. When you’re skating on one side, you’re going way faster from when you’re skating on the other side. I actually enjoy a little bit of snow,” Giroux said. “I think when we played in Pittsburgh there was a little bit of snow.” 

World Junior Championships snow?

“That was too much snow,” Giroux said followed by smile.

A better Provorov?
Prior to the Flyers’ New Year’s Day workout, Ivan Provorov’s younger brother, nine-year-old Vladimir, was going through a rigorous workout with father Vladimir, who was barking out instruction in Russian. Ivan’s brother was skating around cones while shooting through a small gap near the cross bar with one net lodged against the other.      

“He’s pretty good. I think he’s definitely ahead of where I was at 9 years old,” said Ivan. “He skates two or three times a day when he has a chance, watches highlights and just loves hockey.”

Ivan says the younger Vladimir has an advantage since his father was able to experiment with Ivan growing up in Yaroslavl, Russia before Ivan left to play in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania at age 13.

“I think it’s the same way, except now, he sort of knows what works and how and which way to push and in which direction,” said Ivan. “I think he knows right now which way to go.”

Vladimir currently plays forward and wants to follow in Ivan’s footsteps, but not for some time. He won’t be NHL draft eligible until 2026.

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

BOX SCORE

When asked what he thought about the current Flyers team prior to his retirement ceremony, Eric Lindros admitted he really didn’t know all that much regarding this year’s team. 

After Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Lindros’ hometown Maple Leafs (see observations), "Big E" and a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd learned something about the Flyers that no one in Philadelphia had been privy to.

The Flyers capped off their first win this season when trailing by two or more goals entering the third period. Interestingly, the only other third-period comeback that led to a victory was when they trailed this same Toronto team, 2-1, on Dec. 12. Prior to this game, the Flyers were 1-12-2 this season when trailing after two periods.

Certainly, the Flyers needed goal scoring, but more importantly, they also received a handful of momentum saves from goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

“Huge," Neuvirth said regarding his 29-save performance. “When we tied it, it was like, 'OK, here we go. You gotta be at your best right now.' So I was just focusing on the next shot. Just happy the way the guys responded in the third.”

Neuvirth had little, if any, margin of error after the Leafs scored twice in a 28-second span to grab a 2-0 advantage, but the Flyers' backup netminder provided a handful of momentum saves that allowed the Flyers to win in overtime.

• A minute after Wayne Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with a shorthanded goal, Neuvirth stopped Auston Matthews and Connor Brown on back-to-back shots, including an impressive blocker save on Brown from up close.

• With 2:48 remaining in regulation, Neuvirth made the save of the game with the Leafs coming down on a 2-on-1. Neuvirth expected Nazem Kadri to shoot. Instead, he passed it to his left, forcing Neuvirth to make a full extension on Patrick Marleau, turning aside the shot with the tip of his right pad (see highlights).

• Neuvirth denied Matthews from in tight with another pad save just 10 seconds into overtime. That save created a 2-on-1 scoring chance resulting in Sean Couturier’s game-winning score. 

“At least three 10-bell saves by Neuvy. He was tremendous,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We generated a lot in the third period, but when you give up those chances against, Neuvy stole the show in my opinion and you need those saves sometimes to win games. For me, he was first star.”

Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers needed an initial spark and 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick was surprisingly the one to provide it. After taking a shot that hit the side of the net and caromed behind it, Patrick chased down Mitch Marner, stole the puck and fired a quick shot on goaltender Frederik Andersen for his first goal in his last 25 games.

“I tried to forget how many games it was in a row without a goal and just keep playing,” Patrick said. “I thought I was playing some good hockey lately and I knew it would come.”

A minute and 52 seconds later, Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with the Flyers' second shorthanded goal of the season, extending his point streak to six games.

Struggling to find the right overtime combinations, Hakstol elected to go with the trio of Couturier, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to start the extra session. Couturier continued his magical run and now has 11 goals in his last 12 games, while also providing five game-winning goals in the Flyers' last 10 victories. 

“He’s hot. We keep calling him ‘Rocket,’" Simmonds said, referring to Hall of Famer Maurice “Rocket” Richard. “You just keep giving him the puck and he’s going to find the back of the net. When you’re hot, you want to keep giving it to a guy like that. Hopefully, he’s going to continue to score for us.”

More Couturier goals and more game-changing saves, and the Flyers will find themselves rocketing up the standings.

Golden Knights make statement in clash of conference leaders

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Golden Knights make statement in clash of conference leaders

TAMPA, Fla. -- Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves, David Perron had a goal and an assist, and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 Thursday night in a matchup of conference leaders.

James Neal, Nate Schmidt and William Karlsson also scored for the Golden Knights, who swept the two-game season series with the NHL-leading Lightning.

Tampa Bay, coming off its bye week, got a goal from Ondrej Palat, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots. Vasilevskiy, an All-Star this season, has allowed 19 goals over his last four games.

Fleury made a number of impressive stops, including a left-circle shot by Steven Stamkos and in-close chance from Nikita Kucherov during the second period. The goalie, who spent most of career with Pittsburgh, is 19-11-4 against the Lightning.

Neal opened the scoring with a nifty deflection 56 seconds into the first, and Schmidt made it 2-0 with 3:57 left in the period. Deryk Engelland got his 100th NHL assist on Neal's goal.

Vegas is 19-1-0 when scoring first, with the lone loss coming Oct. 30 to the New York Islanders (see full recap).

Devils beat Caps in OT on Hall’s goal
NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall scored on a breakaway 34 seconds into overtime and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Thursday night.

Sami Vatanen collected his third assist of the game on the winning goal, a shot over the shoulder of goaltender Braden Holtby.

Drew Stafford, Andy Greene and Miles Wood also scored for the Devils, who have won two straight after breaking a six-game winless streak (0-3-3). Keith Kinkaid had 16 saves and the Devils killed off all five Washington power plays.

Brett Connolly scored twice and Dmitry Orlov had a goal for the Capitals, who lost for only the second time in eight games. The Capitals, however, extended their streak of getting a point against New Jersey to 14 games (12-0-2).

Holtby made 28 saves, but gave up three breakaway goals (see full recap).

Panarin puts Stars over the top in shootout
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Artemi Panarin scored in the second round of a shootout, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Thursday night.

Joonas Korpisalo had 35 saves for Columbus (26-18-3), which returned from its five-day break after losing both ends of a back-to-back last week. Jordan Schroeder scored his first goal of the season in the first period.

Korpisalo blocked a shootout try by Jason Spezza before Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin came up empty. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop blocked Jussi Jokinen's shootout attempt before Panarin beat him.

Korpisalo got the start ahead of Vezina Trophy-winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who struggled in the recent losses. The 23-year-old Finn got his first win in nearly a month in his ninth game this season.

Dan Hamhuis scored for Dallas with 2:15 left in regulation. Bishop had 25 stops, including a terrific glove save on Alexander Wennberg with 30 seconds left in the third.

Dallas (26-17-4) had won two in a row (see full recap).