Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: No need to read between the lines

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Flyers Weekly Observations: No need to read between the lines

That week for the Flyers?

To poach a line from a Charlie Brown movie you may have watched over the last few days … “Good grief.”

This past week saw the Flyers hit the ice three times and fall three times in disheartening fashion, pushing their losing streak to seven games, the longest for the club since it lost 10 straight in 2008.

On Tuesday, they sleepwalked to a bowling-shoe ugly 5-2 loss to the visiting Vancouver Canucks. On Wednesday, they suffered 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn. And in the annual Black Friday matinee, they blew a two-goal lead to the Islanders in the third period and fell yet again in OT, 5-4.

There is plenty to get to as the natives get more and more restless, so let’s hop right into this week’s observations.

• Moments after the Flyers sewed up their longest losing streak in nearly a decade Friday, head coach Dave Hakstol stood in front of the media and made some interesting comments regarding his team’s recent play.

“You’ve got to evaluate it for what it is,” he said. “I think in seven of our last ten we’ve gotten a point. Five of those are shootout or overtime losses.”

Hmmmm.

A point is a point, sure, but a loss is also a loss. The Flyers, before Sunday’s games around the league, have 22 points and are last in the Metropolitan Division. They also still have seven straight losses and the season could be on the verge of unraveling before we even hit December. 

Hakstol also hinted at veteran merit as a reason for throwing a Claude Giroux-Valterri Filppula-Brandon Manning three-man unit out against the Isles in OT rather than playing a younger, more offensively gifted defenseman such as Shayne Gostisbehere or Travis Sanheim, or even Robert Hagg or Samuel Morin in OT.

Again … hmmmm.

Merit is one thing, the best chance to win the game and end a long losing streak is another. Odds are the younger players give the Flyers a better chance to win there with their offensive gifts.

Look, many coaches aren’t going to be negative to the media, especially after a hard loss. And Hakstol is “coach-speak” royalty. Very rarely are you going to get something out of him in a press conference — and that’s fine, that’s just who he is.

But who are the Flyers right now? No need to read between any lines, the Flyers just aren’t a very good team right now, in all phases.

• While he didn’t find the scoresheet in the two games against the Isles this week, Danick Martel left a nice impression after his call-up from the Phantoms.

Martel, who earned his promotion to the big club by scoring 14 goals in the Phantoms’ first 17 games of the season to lead the entire AHL, fired four shots on goal and made himself noticeable on the ice. You have to like the scrappiness he displayed as he played an integral role in any scrums when he was on the ice and wasn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.

Those are the types of things that can provide energy and that’s a player himself who can provide energy. And if there’s something the Flyers need a desperate injection of right now, it’s energy.

• Remember the shootout narrative that has forever plagued the Flyers? That was a rhetorical question, of course, you do. Well, there’s a new narrative forming to bog the Flyers down because they can barely get to the shootout without falling flat.

The Flyers are now 2-10 in one-goal contests through 23 games played this season. They are 1-4 in overtime games and 0-2 in shootouts this year, as well. 

So let’s do everyone’s favorite activity, math, and add up the numbers here. That’s six extra points left on the table in the OT and shootout losses and another helping of six more points left on the table in the remaining three one-goal losses. That adds up to 12 potential points the Flyers have left hanging there.

Even worse, the Flyers have held leads at some point of each of the last five games of this miserable losing streak.

• The effort Tuesday against the Canucks may have been the most futile of the still-young season for the Flyers. After Ivan Provorov’s first-period tally that opened the scoring, the Flyers were just lifeless as Brock Boeser and the Canucks dominated from there on out. The boos that played the night’s soundtrack at the Wells Fargo Center that night were well-earned.

That black eye Tuesday ended a stretch that saw the Flyers play 10 straight games against Western Conference foes. They went 2-4-4 in that span and were shut out four times.

• Observation (kinda) from the future: The Flyers will face the blood-rival Penguins for the first time this season Monday evening. And while the many of the main characters who made the Battle of Pennsylvania must-see television in recent years remain in their respective sweaters, some of the luster has been wiped away, as the Flyers have been so inconsistent and the Pens have dominated all comers. 

Here’s hoping the rivalry can soon find that same disdain and boiling blood that we all know and are gluttons for.

Coming up this week: Monday at Pittsburgh (7 p .m. on NBCSP), Tuesday vs. San Jose (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. Boston (1 p.m. on NBCSP).

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

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John Boruk/NBCSP

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Roberts also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an orange and black die-hard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based original six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games, Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably 6-to-9 years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies — Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia its first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time Saturday and Monday, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario, native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” 54-year-old Tom Banks said. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).