Flyers

Flyers-Wild observations: 5-game winning streak over Minnesota ends

Flyers-Wild observations: 5-game winning streak over Minnesota ends

BOX SCORE

The Minnesota Wild once again relied on their two hottest players Saturday night in beating the Flyers, 1-0, at the Wells Fargo Center.

Jason Zucker scored the only goal of the game and, remarkably, has scored all six Minnesota goals over the past three games.

Devan Dubnyk stopped all 32 shots for his second consecutive shutout. Dubnyk has not surrendered a goal in his last 136 minutes and 20 seconds of action.

The two teams will meet again Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

• The Flyers pulled Brian Elliott in the final minutes and still couldn't stuff the net, as they got their best look with five seconds remaining, but Dubnyk covered up any potential rebound opportunities.

• The Flyers' power play generated very little after their first opportunity, manufacturing just one shot on Dubnyk over their final four minutes.

• Zucker scored the game's only goal, banking a shot off Elliott that found the back of the net. The initial slap shot from the point was deflected, creating a wicked bounce and catching Elliott completely out of position.

• With the top line generating the majority of the offensive pressure in the third period, Sean Couturier lost his stick, picked it up just in time to take a centering feed from Claude Giroux and nearly scored on Dubnyk's five-hole. Couturier has set up his office in front of the crease and seems to embrace the combative nature in the trenches. Minnesota's 5-foot-9, 168-pound defenseman Jared Spurgeon couldn't remotely budge him out of the way.

• One problem I have with shorthanded opportunities is failing to understand the situation. Such was the case when Wayne Simmonds came charging down the right side and tried to fire a low percentage shot top shelf on Dubnyk. Simmonds missed the net, which led to a power-play rush and a quality scoring chance for Minnesota. Elliott was able to extend his right pad on Marcus Foligno and prevent a goal.

• Considering Simmonds' position on the ice, the better shot would have been low to Dubnyk's outside pad, creating a rebound opportunity. Instead, the puck rimmed around the boards.

• Minnesota’s second line of Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Zucker was its biggest threat with its combination of size and quickness. Still, they couldn’t capitalize on a 3-on-1, as Niederreiter took a pass and fired a slap shot that hit Elliott right in the crest. 

• The Flyers killed off the Wild’s first power-play of the game. Minnesota’s best opportunity came when Zucker came flying around Shayne Gostisbehere and fired a wrist shot on Elliott from close range. It was the Wild’s only shot on net during the two-minute man advantage, as the Flyers' PK did a solid job of keeping the play around the perimeter. 

• Overall, the Flyers turned in a strong opening 20 minutes of the game, especially defensively, not allowing the Wild to generate much possession time. The Flyers outshot Minnesota, 12-5.

• The standout defensive play came when defenseman Ivan Provorov raced back to break up a 2-on-1 opportunity when Zucker tried to feed Niederreiter, who was cutting down the left side. Provorov, perhaps not known for his speed, got a stick on the pass, eliminating any potential scoring chance.

• With the Flyers on their first power play of the game, Wild center Mikko Koivu forced a turnover at the blue line and went in alone on Elliott. Koivu faked a slap shot and Elliott forced him outside. Koivu appeared to have an open seam, but Elliott did a good job recovering and stopping Koivu’s shorthanded shot with his paddle.

• Elliott stopped another potential goal when he reached out and poked the puck away from just outside the crease.

• The Flyers' best opportunity on that one and only first-period power play came when Travis Konecny took a feed and fired a shot from the left circle, electing to test Dubnyk’s glove hand.

• Prior to the game, general manager Ron Hextall talked about the Flyers' need for secondary scoring. There’s been too much reliance on their top line recently, however, Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula nearly got the Flyers on the board first, as they swarmed Minnesota’s defense with a strong forecheck with Filppula feeding Weal, who came in strong on Dubnyk’s right side. 

• At 6-6, Dubnyk takes up so much size that there’s not much net to shoot at. You have to get him moving and active in his crease to have success. 

Injury updates
It appears Nolan Patrick will return to his hometown of Winnipeg with his teammates when the Flyers take on the Jets on Thursday. Whether Patrick suits up and plays remains a mystery at this point. The Flyers' rookie center skated for a third straight day Saturday and Hextall hopes Patrick can skate with the team Monday.

“He has been skating on and off for a week to 10 days by himself. He skates early in the morning,” Hextall said. “So, he has been on the ice, but it's a big difference on the ice by yourself and with your teammates. He has work to do. There’s been no setbacks.”

Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald suffered a deep bruise to his left knee when he blocked a puck in a game Oct. 21 against the Edmonton Oilers. Hextall is expecting MacDonald to practice Monday as well, his first time on the ice in three weeks. 

“Mac’s not a guy that takes a long time to get ready to come back,” Hextall said. “He’s a heavy guy, but he’s been off for a bit so, hopefully, he gets some good practice this week and play it day by day.”

Lines and pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Amid WJCs snub, Flyers prospect Morgan Frost still dominating OHL

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Photo: Aaron Bell/CHL Images

Amid WJCs snub, Flyers prospect Morgan Frost still dominating OHL

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The Greyhounds won their 20th straight game Saturday afternoon and now haven’t lost a game since Oct. 27, and Frost has been at the forefront of Sault Ste. Marie’s winning stream. Frost is averaging two points per game, collecting 40 points during the Greyhounds’ 20-game winning streak. Last week, Frost had eight points in three games.

Frost capped off the week with a two goal, two assist effort in Sault Ste. Marie’s 7-1 blowout win over Guelph. He also had a two-goal game Wednesday in the Greyhounds’ 4-1 win over the Flint Firebirds. Frost is now second in the OHL in scoring, with 55 points, second in assists with 36 and leads the OHL with a plus-42 rating. He’s averaging 1.67 points, third in the OHL and winning 50.1 percent of his faceoffs.

As The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor pointed out, Frost is scoring comparable to what Travis Konecny was during his after-drafted season. Konecny spent one more season in the OHL after the Flyers drafted him in 2015 and then made the team in 2016-17. While it’s easy to look at Carter Hart in awe, Frost is the one prospect who’s breaking out.

We knew what Hart was — and what he’s doing in Everett is astonishing. We’ll see Hart plenty next week in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships. Frost wasn’t invited to Team Canada’s selection camp this year, but it’s a safe bet he’ll be there next year. We continue to see panic over the Brayden Schenn trade, but that’s misguided. Frost is turning out to be an intriguing prospect, and remember, the Flyers have another first-rounder from St. Louis. Frost is most certainly trending upward. Sound familiar?

Pascal Laberge, C, 19, 6-1/162, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Laberge has played his final game for Victoriaville, as the forward will be traded Monday to the Quebec Remparts, according to La Nouvelle’s Matthew Vachon. After a brief period to start the season, Laberge cooled off considerably and has since been inconsistent. In his final week as a Tigre, Laberge had a three-assist game last Friday night in Victoriaville’s 7-2 win over Shawinigan but was pointless in his two other games.

When evaluating Laberge, it’s hard to root against the versatile forward because of his backstory. The 19-year-old faced adversity throughout his draft year and then dealt with concussions during his first season as Flyers property. He’s a kid you want to succeed, and so far, he hasn’t been able to get back to his draft-year production. He has just six goals and 20 points in 31 games this year. He will get a fresh start with the Remparts.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
We’re starting to see Lindblom come into his own with the Phantoms. The Swedish forward continues to adjust to the North American game, and we’re seeing more consistency from him in the AHL. Last week was no different. Lindblom saw his point streak hit four games before coming to an end Sunday against Bridgeport. Lindblom scored his seventh goal of the season last Wednesday, which capped off a three-goal in a four-game stretch. Then he picked up an assist on Friday against Charlotte and another Saturday against Syracuse. When we look at the advanced metrics, with many thanks to Broad Street Hockey’s Brad Keffer, you can see Lindblom’s Corsi numbers consistently improving, which is an indicator that he’s becoming more comfortable here.

Carsen Twarynski, LW, 19, 6-2/201, Kelowna (WHL)
We don’t talk a lot about Twarynski, the Flyers’ 2016 third-round pick, but let’s check in on the defenseman-turned-left-winger. Twarynski, who the Rockets acquired last season from the Calgary Hitmen, is producing above a point-per-game in Kelowna. Twarynski had six points in four games last week. He has 24 goals — seven on the power play — and 39 points in 31 games. What exactly kind of future does Twarynski have? It’s tough to get a read on him because he’s a streaky player. Twarynski projects to be a serviceable AHL player, but whether he’ll be an NHLer is up in the air. His WHL numbers are respectable, but he doesn’t seem to have the consistency to excite.

Quick Hits
• As expected, German Rubtsov made Team Russia for the World Junior Championships. Last week, Rubtsov had a goal in two games for Acadie-Bathurst.

• Sarnia’s Anthony Salinitri has a three-game point streak after picking up two goals and an assist in three games last week. Salinitri has 33 points in 35 games this season.

Matthew Strome, of the Hamilton Bulldogs, extended his point streak to five games. Strome has three goals and six points during his streak. He has 17 goals in 32 games.

• Kitchener’s Connor Bunnaman’s point streak reached five games with a goal Friday and an assist Sunday. Bunnaman has seven points during his current point streak.

Samuel Morin returned to action last Tuesday for the Phantoms but sat out Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. He’s been dealing with lower-body injuries.

• Without any official declarations, it appears Mike Vecchione is dealing with some sort of injury with the Phantoms. Vecchione hasn’t played since Dec. 9.

• The offense has picked up for Nicolas Aube-Kubel in his second pro season. He had two goals and two assists in four games last week. He now has 21 points in 30 games.

Like it or not, boring is working for Flyers

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USA Today Images

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).