Flyers-Sharks observations: The suffering continues

Flyers-Sharks observations: The suffering continues


With boos and “Fire Hakstol” chants filling the Wells Fargo Center (see story), the Flyers turned in a lifeless effort in a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.

The defeat extended their skid to nine straight games. The Flyers are 0-4-5 in their current winless streak, their longest since 2008 (see story)

The Sharks scored three unanswered goals, including Joe Thornton’s 5-on-3 power-play goal near the end of the opening period that proved to be the game-winner.

Coming off a disastrous ending in Pittsburgh that saw the Flyers blow a two-goal, third-period lead and another lead late in the game (see story), Dave Hakstol’s team turned in a sloppy, turnover-filled effort. The Flyers went more than 23 minutes during one stretch from the second period to the third with just one shot on net. 

• The Flyers couldn’t have asked for a better start as Claude Giroux fired a one-timer off a feed from Jakub Voracek for his 11th goal of the season just 48 seconds into the game. That is ironically also how the season started for the Flyers in San Jose. The play was made possible when defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic blocked Andrew MacDonald’s shot. Vlasic stayed down in obvious pain, which allowed the open lane for Voracek’s pass. 

• Travis Konecny continues to play well and create offense in the offensive zone but also struggle with his coverages in the defensive zone. The Sharks had a couple of open looks at Michal Neuvirth during an early 4-on-4. On the other end, Konecny almost gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead with a feed to Ivan Provorov, who has been jumping into play more frequently. Provorov was very active in the offensive zone in Pittsburgh.

• Konecny led a 2-on-1 with about eight minutes remaining in the first period. The pass was taken away and Konecny’s shot was gloved by Aaron Dell. I almost prefer to see Konecny shoot as his shot has been all over the place recently. He needs to snipe one to help regain his confidence. 

• It’s easy to get enamored with Voracek’s offensive numbers, but the bad turnovers and decision-making are starting to add up. Voracek turned the puck over in his end to Joonas Donskoi. Voracek is thankful Travis Sanheim was back to block Donskoi’s shot. Offensively, Voracek still attempts to do too much with the puck, skating into traffic and trying to create something where there’s nothing.

• Chris Tierney scored the Sharks’ first goal when he took a pass from Brent Burns and fired it past Neuvirth. San Jose added a second goal when Thornton fired a sharp-angle shot during a 5-on-3 power play. In both instances, Neuvirth was slow to react. On Thornton’s goal, he wristed a shot five-hole that Neuvirth left exposed and he didn’t even have the paddle in position.

• Talk about a snakebitten team. The Flyers are several inches from scoring about a half-dozen goals between this game and the one in Pittsburgh. Valtteri Filppula and Shayne Gostisbehere both hit the posts in the span of 45 seconds.

• Sloppy play and bad turnovers in the opening period led to good scoring chances for the Sharks. Timo Meier got in behind the Flyers’ defense, which led to a Wayne Simmonds slashing call. The Flyers committed three minors in the final three minutes of the first period. Overall, the Sharks had 11 first-period scoring chances, five of those in the high-danger areas. 

• Discipline is becoming an issue for Hakstol’s club as the Flyers have been whistled for nine minors over their last four periods of play dating back to the third period of Monday’s game in Pittsburgh.

• Voracek picked up where he left off with a senseless tripping penalty nine seconds into the Flyers’ power play. Just a bad, mindless penalty.

• Gostisbehere continues to be plagued with little mishaps in his own end. With Donskoi bearing down on him, “Ghost” simply lost control of the puck without absorbing much of a hit. It’s as if he’s reacting to the anticipation of the pressuring attacker.

• Once again, the Flyers gave back power-play time. This time, Simmonds was called for tripping to negate the final 21 seconds.

• The Flyers got outworked on the Sharks’ 3-1 goal as Vlasic redirected Logan Couture’s shot. Defensively, the Flyers were flat-footed and their gap play was way off.

• There was another neutral-zone turnover as Scott Laughton lazily attempted a cross-ice pass that was intercepted. The puck was passed quickly up ice to Thornton, who got behind the defense for a breakaway scoring opportunity. Neuvirth came away with his best save of the night. The Flyers had an abundance of turnovers in this game and were absolutely brutal in the neutral zone.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Danick Martel-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Jori Lehtera-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Brandon Manning

Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forwards Jordan Weal (healthy) and Taylor Leier (healthy), and defenseman 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 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).