Flyers

Flyers-Sharks thoughts: The Nolan Patrick-led youth movement begins tonight

Flyers-Sharks thoughts: The Nolan Patrick-led youth movement begins tonight

Flyers at Sharks
10:30 p.m. on NBCSN, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 10
 
Ready for the real thing?
 
The Flyers' 2017-18 regular season gets underway tonight with a visit to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center, opening up a four-game road trip to commence the new campaign.
 
Thanks to a Nolan Patrick-led youth movement and a current core starting to fight the proverbial clock, this Flyers' season brings a fascinating dynamic to the table (see Fearless Forecast).
 
How it all unfolds begins now (see predictions).
 
So, without further ado, here are some thoughts for the season opener:
 
• Let's enjoy Patrick's NHL debut, regardless of how he fares tonight. The fact he's here is still sort of hard to comprehend. Remember when the No. 2 overall pick in the June entry draft just fell into the Flyers' lap courtesy of immense lottery luck? A little over five months ago, the chances of Patrick wearing orange and black were slim to none.
 
Now it's actually here.
 
It sure will be a treat to watch the 19-year-old center night in and night out. He's expected to center the second line between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. One quote that encapsulates Patrick comes from his uncle, James, in June. "If he's playing with some skilled guys, he will get them the puck, he will make plays," James said. "Put the best players on the ice with him and they will get chances, and chances all night. I think that's what his offensive upside is."
 
• Claude Giroux to the left wing will always be worth watching, and especially now when the games start to matter. It looks like the Flyers' captain will start the season in the new spot, next to Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Giroux put up four assists but no goals in four preseason games of playing left winger. Still, there were tons of positives and it will be interesting to see how long this change sticks. A quick start certainly won't hurt.
 
“It's different with ‘G’ on the left plank. I think he can risk a little bit more than when he was at center,” Voracek said last week. “For his advantage, I think it’s real important that he can use the boards because he’s a very smart player. If you know how to use the boards, it’s a big advantage. I think we’ve been very good and we’ve just got to keep going."
 
• The Flyers are carrying eight defensemen, including three rookies. Two very well may be healthy scratches in the opener, before one of them could be sent back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley soon. Robert Hagg is the only rookie defenseman playing tonight, while Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim will serve as extras provided Shayne Gostisbehere (upper-body injury) is able to go. Hagg will be paired with Gostisbehere. Nonetheless, the defense will be key in both ends. The Flyers are hoping a lot of their offense can come from the blueliners joining the rush and making plays.
 
• Last season, the Sharks surrendered the fourth-fewest goals at 2.44 per game, which helped outweigh them scoring just 2.67 per game, only two spots ahead of the Flyers. Goalie Martin Jones was strong at 35-23-6 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. San Jose, which was just in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, is top heavy with formidable names in Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.
 
• The Sharks went 26-11-4 at home last season, while the Flyers went 14-22-5 on the road. The Flyers have lost four of their last five season openers and 17 of their last 21 matchups to San Jose.
 
• Keep an eye on the power play, which never found great rhythm or consistency during the preseason and is under new instruction from first-year assistant coach Kris Knoblauch. The man advantage wasn't of great emphasis early in training camp, so some patience may be required.
 
• Brian Elliott will make his Flyers debut tonight. Elliott was 26-18-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 49 games last season with the Flames.

Best of NHL: Vladimir Tarasenko records 4 points as Blues rip Oilers

uspresswire-blues-team-celebrate.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of NHL: Vladimir Tarasenko records 4 points as Blues rip Oilers

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals and two assists and got in a rare fight Tuesday night, helping the St. Louis Blues to an 8-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Brayden Schenn also had two goals and two assists, and Jake Allen stopped 26 shots for the NHL-leading Blues.

Tarasenko's fight came in the second period. In just the third scrap of his six-year career, Tarasenko tangled with Matt Benning and landed a solid right hand much to the crowd's delight.

Tarasenko was reacting to Benning's near-collision with Schenn that was almost a knee-on-knee hit.

It was Tarasenko's second career Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game. The other one came on Nov. 13, 2014, against Nashville.

St. Louis (16-5-1) scored two goals in each of the first two periods before adding four in a wide-open third.

Tarasenko got his 11th goal 3:16 into the first period on two deflections. Shooting from the slot, he scored when his shot hit Connor McDavid's stick and then Adam Larsson's stick for a 1-0 lead.

Tarasenko has 14 points in his last 13 games (nine goals, five assists) against the Oilers (see full recap).

Stars rally for home win over Canadiens
DALLAS -- Devin Shore and Jason Spezza scored 59 seconds apart late in the second period to lift the Dallas Stars over the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Shore had no goals in the first 19 games this season, but scored for the second straight game to tie it 1-all at 18:22 of the second. Spezza, who also has scored in consecutive games after netting only one goal in the first 19, put in a rebound just less than a minute later.

Shore had an assist on Spezza's goal. So did Tyler Seguin, who scored into an empty net with 27 seconds to play.

Ben Bishop made 29 saves for Dallas on his 31st birthday. He allowed only a power-play goal by Brendan Gallagher at 12:04 of the second. Gallagher scored on a rebound after Charles Hudon sent a slap shot from the blue line.

After that, the Stars killed off all three Montreal power plays in the third period.

Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren had 26 saves.

Neither team scored in the first period. The best chance came with 2:15 remaining, when Mattias Janmark skated in alone on Lindgren, who stopped the shot with his glove and smothered the puck on the ice.

Montreal had a 4-on-3 power play to end the first period and start the second. The Stars killed off that penalty and finished 4 for 5 on the penalty kill.

The Canadiens had a scoring chance 4 minutes into the second when Brandon Davidson's wrist shot trickled past Bishop. Gemel Smith knocked the loose puck out of the crease for the Stars.

Gallagher had two close-in chances on rebounds after Hudon's shot and poked the second into the net for the game's first goal (see full recap).

Flyers blitzed by Canucks as losing skid extends to 5 straight games

Flyers blitzed by Canucks as losing skid extends to 5 straight games

BOX SCORE

There were so many mistakes to be found in the Flyers’ 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night that head coach Dave Hakstol surprisingly admitted even he could have done things differently by pulling Michal Neuvirth after the goalie gave up a third goal in the opening minutes of the second period.

“That one was on me,” Hakstol said. “I should have done that after the third goal to give our team the best opportunity. Once it got to four (4-1), it’s tough to dig out of that hole. The change after three may have been the spark that our team would have needed, but hindsight is 20/20.”

Starting for the first time in 17 days, Neuvirth was pulled with 5:20 remaining in the second period after making 18 of 22 stops. He wasn’t nearly a sharp as he’s been in his previous outings.

“Obviously, I need to be better than I showed today,” Neuvirth said. “It was difficult not skating. I had three days off over the weekend and I had one practice (Monday), so it was difficult. I need to be better.”

With Radko Gudas serving the second game of a 10-game suspension, the Flyers turned in one of the worst defensive games of the season as they allowed the Canucks a handful of prime opportunities based on turnovers, missed assignments and even a poor line change (see observations).

“We had a tough time starting in the neutral zone,” Jake Voracek said. “A couple of times, the defense tried to skate it through. We just didn’t generate enough speed. On the odd-man rush we had a couple of good looks in the second [period]. It is always more open in the second.”

The pairing of Brandon Manning and Shayne Gostisbehere had an especially tough time and it started when Daniel Sedin snuck behind Gostisbehere for an early, first-period breakaway goal.

“That first goal is probably preventable,” Manning said. “Me and Ghost talked about it and we can probably sniff that one out a little bit better. The second one is tough with the young guys trying to get off for a matchup.”

Canucks leading scorer Brock Boeser capitalized on a bad change from the Flyers’ defense when he rifled the first of his two goals far post over Neuvirth’s blocker.

“We gave up two easy goals that we didn’t make our opponent work for,” Hakstol said. “You’ve got to have one defenseman out there. You can’t have two D going. That’s the reality of it.”

“It’s just little details that are costing us games right now, and I think the PK needs to be better,” Sean Couturier said. “On the defensive side, we need to be sharper. Little details, whether that’s picking up your guy or chipping it out or line change. It’s all those little things that add up.” 

For a team that has been in every game at some point of the third period this season, that simply was not the case Tuesday night. Forward Wayne Simmonds admitted some bad habits are creeping into the Flyers’ game.

“I would agree with that,” Simmonds said. “We have to find a way to break those habits. We have to find a way to get a win here, no matter what it takes. We can’t be leaving them for 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s, 3-on-2s or whatever it may be. That’s going to hurt and it did.”

After winning their season opener in San Jose, the Flyers’ abysmal record against the Western Conference dropped to 5-8-4. They’re currently the only team in the Metropolitan Division with more regulation losses than regulation wins. 

“You’ve got to own it,” Hakstol said. “We’ve got to do better. You can’t sit back and rest on a lack of confidence. You give yourself confidence by preparation, work ethic, togetherness and those are things we have to put back into our game tomorrow night.” 

On Wednesday, the Flyers will travel to Brooklyn to face the Islanders for just the second divisional game of the season after blowing out the Washington Capitals, 8-2, in the home opener at the Wells Fargo Center.

Changes coming?
While the rest of the team loaded up for Wednesday night’s game on Long Island, Flyers defenseman Mark Alt took his equipment with him as he’ll rejoin the Phantoms. With Matt Read clearing waivers, general manager Ron Hextall could quite possibly make a couple of call-ups from Lehigh Valley.

“You evaluate everything on a daily basis depending on what happens,” Hextall  said. “You just don’t know. Someone gets hurt, we just can’t put them on IR. We need the flexibility for tomorrow.”

Don’t expect defenseman Andrew MacDonald to be available until Friday at the earliest. MacDonald’s skating still isn’t 100 percent even though he has practiced with the team since last Thursday. 

“It’s kind of a progression thing and we’ll see where it goes and we’ll see how he progresses,” Hextall said.