Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: Radko Gudas in spotlight for wrong reason … again

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Flyers Weekly Observations: Radko Gudas in spotlight for wrong reason … again

And so the losing and frustration slog on for the Flyers.

Yet another week of no real progress is in the books as the Flyers endured another shutout loss, blew a two-goal lead in painful fashion and then let another one slip away through their fingers two days later.

The Flyers were shut out yet again by the Minnesota Wild, 3-0, Tuesday, dropped a 3-2 shootout decision Thursday to the Winnipeg Jets and then suffered a 5-4 OT defeat Saturday afternoon to the Calgary Flames.

We’ve got plenty to chat about here, gang, so let’s hop right into it.

And, of course, we’re starting with the most-talked moment of the week, not just with the Flyers, but around the league.

• Ah, Radko Gudas … the guy just can’t seem to keep his name out of the disciplinary spin cycle, can he? The repeat offender found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reason again Thursday in Winnipeg when he viciously chopped Jets forward Mathieu Perrault in the back of the head with his stick.

Gudas was originally given a two-minute minor on the play, but after officials saw the play on the video board high above the ice (that’s another argument for another day), he was rightfully handed a game misconduct. It was just a completely reckless play that was incredibly dangerous in nature and could have been way more dangerous in action.

Gudas is a vet who’s been through this before, he knows a target is on his back and that mercy, if any, will be slight from both the officials on the ice and those who dole out punishments in the league office. Do I think it was a totally intentional play? I don’t, but Gudas has to be smarter than that for both himself and his team. His first-period actions put the Flyers in a five-man defensive hole for a game that went 65 minutes.

The reality is, Gudas put himself in this situation and now the league has rightfully thrown the book at him with a 10 game suspension. There’s no place for that sort of play in the league and the league has to start coming down harder on things like this and this is now Exhibit A. An example was set at Gudas' expense, unfortunately for the Flyers.

• Yes, Brian Elliott gave up five goals Saturday afternoon to the Flames, but he still had a solid week in net for the Flyers and, in my eyes, continued to cement his grip on the No. 1 goalie job.

While he had only 17 saves, he was superb Tuesday against the Wild and gave the Flyers a chance to win, but, alas, no help. He then backed his claim to the top job up again with 31 saves in a hard-luck loss at Winnipeg on Thursday when he had to take on prolific snipers Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine in the shootout (that didn’t end well).

Everybody could have been better against Calgary, including Elliott, who stopped 26 of 31 shots but also had to face 10 power-play shots as the Flyers couldn’t stop heading to the penalty box.

What the Flyers need right now is stability in all phases, not just from the top line (more on that shortly). Elliott is giving the Flyers a chance to win on a nightly basis and they’re not producing in front of him. The last thing they need right now is to be playing the goalie flip-flop game in net. Elliott is giving them chances to win and that’s what matters right now. But knowing how Dave Hakstol is so fickle with his netminders, don’t be surprised to see Michal Neuvirth in net Tuesday vs. Vancouver after a five-goal game.

• I could sit here and write this point over and over again week after week after week because until it changes, it will dramatically plague the Flyers — players not named Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek need to score and score consistently. Couturier (two) and Voracek (one) scored three of the Flyers’ seven goals this week.

No need to keep harping on, it’s got to change, plain and simple.

What could help? The return of Nolan Patrick certainly is a boost. Patrick returned to the ice in his native Winnipeg on Thursday. And while he eased his way back into the swing of things that night with just over seven minutes of ice time, he made a major impact against the Flames in his over 13 minutes as he fired four shots on goal and collected his second tally of his young career, a nifty backhander past Calgary netminder Mike Smith off a rebound. The return of the talented 19-year-old is no doubt a lift.

• My colleague John Boruk soundly encompassed the Flyers’ frustrations with themselves Saturday after their undisciplined play, specifically that of Shayne Gostisbehere, in the second period was a major turning point in the eventual OT loss to the Flames.

The postgame quotes say it all. And Hakstol, usually as steady and collected as can be, was as visibly and verbally frustrated as I’ve seen him in his three seasons here in Philadelphia — “It pisses you off,” he said no-so-politely after the game.

It’s those kinds of self-inflicted wounds that just cost the Flyers way too much. So the frustration from the coach is more than understandable.

• Dear NHL, no more Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, please and thank you. With love, the Flyers.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Vancouver (7:00 p.m./NBCSP), Wednesday at New York Islanders (7:00 p.m./NBCSP+), Friday vs. New York Islanders (4:00 p.m./NBCSP).

Like it or not, boring is working for Flyers

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Like it or not, boring is working for Flyers

We are deep into the season of giving and the Flyers just keep giving fans exactly what they want: wins.

OK, sorry for that seasonal yet corny intro, but the fact remains the Flyers are on a tear right now, and it continued this past week with three more sound wins to push their winning streak past a handful to six games.

This week got off to the right skate with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory Tuesday over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. The good vibes kept coming Thursday with a grind-it-out 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. And the week ended on the highest of notes Saturday night with a 2-1 OT win at home over the Dallas Stars.

Well, well, well … they’re back, aren’t they?

And before the Flyers push for seven straight Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings, let’s look back at the successful week that was, shall we?

• The Flyers' three wins this week were good, solid wins over the Leafs, Sabres, and Stars. When you’re still trying to claw out of the hole a 10-game losing streak put you in, all wins are good, solid wins right now. But these three Flyers wins this past week weren’t of the most exciting variety. Let’s be blunt, all three wins were mostly boring.

Tuesday’s triumph over the Leafs was sleepy until Travis Konecny’s tying seeing-eye shot in the third and then Claude Giroux’s fantastic through-the-legs pass that led to Sean Couturier’s wicked wrister of a winner. Thursday’s win over Buffalo was a snoozer for the better part of 50 minutes. And Saturday’s victory over Dallas, while chippy, didn’t have much action to it outside of Shayne Gostisbehere’s heroics.

But the Flyers aren’t caring about being exciting and neither should you right now because it’s working for them. Jake Voracek’s quote after the Buffalo game says it all.

“I thought this was a boring game,” Voracek said. “Honestly, I don’t think we played good today, but we got the win, which is really important. You’re not going to play great every night. We played well when we needed to, but we can play a lot better, which is positive.”

Yes, they can play better. But two points are two points right now, no matter how boring. Simply put, boring is working.

• So why the sudden turnaround for the Flyers? There’s a multitude of reasons — timely scoring, better defensive efforts and Brian Elliott playing like a rock in net, just to name a few.

But one major reason: discipline. In the three games this past week, the Flyers took three penalties total, on in each game. Dating back to Dec. 4 when this six-game win streak began in Calgary, the Flyers have faced just nine power plays against. Compare that to the 22 power plays the Flyers have had in the same span.

That’s a gigantic boost for a team that, as of Sunday morning, is still 29th in the league with a 76.7 percent success rate on the PK.

How do you cure something that ails you? Don’t put yourself in the situation.

• When Gostisbehere is at his very best, he can just dominate a game with his elusiveness, booming shot and dynamic offensive ability. And that’s just what we saw Saturday night against the Stars as Gostisbehere was a dangerous entity all over the ice and controlled the game when the puck was on his stick.

He brought the Wells Fargo Center to life with his second-period power-play goal that saw him dive a lift a rebound past Dallas goalie Ben Bishop. And then he unglued the place with his game-winner in OT on the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“Ghost” is such a key piece for the Flyers as so much of the offense tends to be filtered through him when he’s on the ice, and especially so on the power play. We saw what happened when he wasn’t playing up to his abilities during the 10-game skid. But the Gostisbehere we saw against the Stars is just what the doctor ordered for the Flyers. And it shows just why.

• Good for Travis Sanheim getting the monkey off his back and potting the first goal of his NHL career during Thursday’s victory over Buffalo.     

During the first period, Sanheim took a feed from Dale Weise and deposited home a one-timer from the circle to knot the game at 1-1. Sure, he got a little help from Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner, who lounged wildly at the shot. But still, Sanheim made no mistake as he went top shelf with it. And he got the puck and the Ric Flair robe after the game to boot.

It’s just a slight taste of what the 21-year-old offensive-minded blueliner can do. In three junior seasons with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Sanheim scored 35 goals. He potted 10 in 76 games with the Phantoms last season.

He can score, and as he gets more and more comfortable at the NHL level, don’t be surprised to see him light the lamp more often.

• Here’s your obvious observation of the week: What a difference two weeks makes.

When the Flyers were shut out by the Bruins 15 days ago, morale was as low as it had been in a long time. Nothing was going right. No breaks went their way. No bounces even came close. The list of misfortunes could go on and on and on. On the morning of Dec. 3, the Flyers had just 22 points, fifth-fewest in the league. They were nine points behind the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Here we are two weeks and change (and six wins in a row) later and the Flyers have 35 points and are just four points behind the New York Islanders for the final wild-card spot in the East.

Hope you guys like roller coasters.

Coming up this week: Monday vs. Los Angeles (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Wednesday vs. Detroit (8 p.m. on NBCSN), Friday at. Buffalo (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday at Columbus (7 p.m. on NBCSP).

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

BOX SCORE

The Flyers developed a Muhammad Ali-type mentality Saturday night.

It was hockey’s version of the rope-a-dope, where the Flyers took the Dallas Stars' best punches early on before going the distance, eventually wearing down an opponent that was playing their third game in four nights.

The end result was a 2-1 Flyers victory, extending their season-high winning streak to six games (see observations).

In fact, the Stars attempted to set the tone on the opening shift when Stars captain Jamie Benn tried to rattle the cage of Claude Giroux. They tangled on their way back to the bench with Benn extending his glove underneath Giroux’s chin.

“We knew they were going to have a good push at the start of the game,” Brian Elliott, who has started all six games of the winning streak, said. "We knew they wouldn't be able to keep it up playing a back-to-back. I thought our guys did a really good job of sticking to that game plan and staying patiently persistent."

The Flyers also knew the Stars would come out of the gates flying after a disappointing 5-2 loss at New Jersey the night before.

“We’ve been on the other side of it,” Giroux said. “Playing a back-to-back, it’s not easy, especially when you’re traveling and we really wanted to take advantage of that. Other teams took advantage of us before.”

The Flyers started to turn up the heat in the opening minutes of the second period when they controlled play with extended shifts in the Stars' end of the ice, coupled with a pair of breakaway opportunities from Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek.

“That (second) period was the one for me where we pushed the game in our direction,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It was during the second period we were able to use everybody. Everybody was going and that allowed us to raise the pace of play a little bit.”

The Flyers were also propelled by their power play that finished the game 2 for 6 and a whopping 12 shots on net. After scoring on a rebound that deflected off the backboards, Shayne Gostisbehere landed the knockout blow with 1:10 remaining in overtime when "Ghost" blasted an overtime slapper during the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“A lot of that power play was going rover," Gostisbehere, who scored his fifth career overtime winner, said, "but you could tell we were feeding off each other, finding lanes and we were just relentless and a goal at the end just showed we weren't giving up there."

Stars coach and former Flyers bench boss Ken Hitchcock was attempting, for the second time, to become the third coach in NHL history to win 800 career games. Much of the reason he didn’t achieve the milestone was the careless penalties of forward Alexander Radulov, which led to both of the Flyers' power-play goals.

“It’s not team discipline, it’s individual,” Hitchcock said. “It’s disappointing to fight like we fought and battle. Come off, playing hard like this off a back-to-back, it’s really disappointing to take those two penalties at the end of the game.”

The Flyers also snapped a seven-game losing streak in contests that extended after regulation. The Flyers had dropped five of those in overtime and another two in the shootout.

“I thought we had a really positive attitude,” Elliott said. “I think everyone thought we would go out there for overtime and win. I didn’t think anybody had any doubts or anything. That’s all you can ask for going into those situations.” 

“I liked the way we approached overtime,” Hakstol said. “I didn’t think we pressed or pushed anything. We weren’t taking any long shifts, no high risk plays. I thought guys just went out and did their job and did it the right way.”

Right now, it’s a Flyers team that may not be floating like a butterfly, but they can certainly sting like a bee.