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Flyers-Wild observations: On the wrong end of another shutout

Flyers-Wild observations: On the wrong end of another shutout

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Devan made me do it.

That could serve as the Flyers’ excuse for being swept in their home-and-home series with the Minnesota Wild. The Flyers were shut out once again, this time with a 3-0 final at the Xcel Energy Center Tuesday night.

Devan Dubnyk stopped all 30 shots for his third straight shutout to extend his scoreless streak to 195:05. He blanked the Flyers in both games.

For the first time in franchise history, the Flyers have been shut out in five of their first 18 games.

Nino Niederreiter scored Minnesota’s first goal just 12 seconds into the game. It was the first goal in four games scored by a Wild player other than Jason Zucker, who had the team’s previous six goals over that span. Eric Staal and Zucker added empty-netters over the final 1:09.

Brian Elliott was solid once again in a losing effort as he turned aside 17 of 18 shots. 

• Minnesota should have had a 2-0 lead with 6:30 remaining when Marcus Foligno got in behind the Flyers’ defense. His backhand attempt was stopped by Elliott and it appeared Chris Stewart missed a wide-open net.

• The short and speedy Tyler Ennis had a clear breakaway on Elliott, who didn’t give up his ground and stoned Ennis blocker side. 

• Minnesota is like a vacuum in the defensive zone. Robert Hagg appeared to have some open ice on a Flyers’ breakout, but he was snuffed out by four players by the time he got to the top of the circles. Then Dale Weise got behind the defense but couldn’t put any sort of move on Dubnyk as he elected to test the five-hole. However, Dubnyk had it closed off.

• Once again, Minnesota’s top line of Staal, Niederreiter and Zucker was buzzing on its first shift of the second period. There were a couple of good chances down low from Zucker and Niederreiter. Ivan Provorov and Hagg have had their hands full containing that trio down in the trenches.

• Minnesota had a solid 30- to 40-second shift when Travis Konecny broke his stick, which left Jordan Weal and Weise working even harder to clear the zone. The Flyers were also left with Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas defending and neither player could corral the puck and work it to a Flyers forward.  

• Scott Laughton provided the Flyers with their best opportunity of the game with a pair of shots from close range that Dubnyk was able to deny with his left pad. It’s about as close as the Flyers have been able to penetrating Minnesota’s defense.

• The Flyers started to regain the possession edge over the final 10 minutes of the second period. Claude Giroux had a tip-in attempt that Dubnyk was able to glove, but for the most part, the Flyers haven’t been able to clog the area in front of the crease and make life miserable for the goalie.

• Did you catch Matt Dumba’s move from behind his own net? He banked a pass off the net and spun around Jori Lehtera to get out of danger. Dumba has a huge slap shot and big offensive upside. However, in these two games he’s played very sound defensively. 

• Taylor Leier gave the Flyers two good looks in the final 90 seconds of the second period, including one that rang off the post. Dubnyk saved the other, and through six periods, he stopped all 62 shots he faced from the Flyers.

• Just an ugly start for the Flyers. Twelve seconds into the game, Staal stripped Provorov along the boards and fed Niederreiter for the one-timer goal over the shoulder of Elliott. It tied the record for the fastest goal on home ice in franchise history. 

• After they started the game on the ice for that unforgettable first goal, the new-look second line of Weise, Weal and Wayne Simmonds had a strong shift. That stretch included Weal’s high-percentage scoring chance in the slot on the feed from Simmonds. Their puck possession also included drawing a penalty that led to the Flyers’ first power play. 

• Elliott kept the deficit to 1-0 with a big pad save on Mikko Koivu from the left circle during the first. In consecutive shifts, Minnesota’s top three lines had good pressure in the Flyers’ zone. That included a clear path for Luke Kunin, who reversed his way from beyond the goal line to get a clear look but the puck was poked away. 

• Later, Brandon Manning committed a turnover as he skated deep into his own end that saw Joel Ericsson have a free look at Elliott, who came up with a glove save.

• The Wild’s Ryan Suter may be one of the best rebound-clearing defenseman in the NHL. Suter seems to always know where the low-traffic area is on the ice. He was outstanding in the game at the Wells Fargo Center and he has such quick wrists that he’s capable of knocking the puck away before a Flyers’ stick can get to it.

• Ticky-tack holding call on Simmonds as he grabbed Ennis’ jersey for a brief moment when the puck was on the other side of the ice. The Wild got a couple of early shots, but credit the forwards who did a solid job of keeping Minnesota’s PP on the perimeter.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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

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

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Defenseman Mark Alt (healthy) and forward Matt Read (healthy).

Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

ap-shayne-gostisbehere-flyers-stars-win.jpg
AP Images

Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

From the upbeat music blaring when you first walk in the locker room to the jovial tones the players on the team speak with, it's clear times have changed drastically from a few weeks ago for the Flyers.

Just over two weeks ago, the music would have been shut off and a straight-laced attitude of needing to play better would have been blatantly evident during the 10-game skid.

Wins cure all, don't they?

And the Flyers will be going for their seventh consecutive win when they host the Los Angeles Kings Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Beside the music and the attitude, what has changed over the last few weeks to ignite this stretch of success? The Flyers feel a massive key has been their play in tight games, specifically in the third period. Where they would have crumbled weeks ago, they are excelling now.

"We've come to the conclusion that, obviously, we have to be on the same page to win games," Wayne Simmonds said Monday after morning skate. "We've done the exact same thing every single third period. To win games, you have to be consistent and do the same things every night.

"[Saturday vs. Dallas] in the third period, I think everyone thought we were actually winning the game 2-1 instead of being tied. That sets our expectations high. That's what we expect of ourselves. It was a good feeling and we kind of knew we were going to win that game, whether it was going to take 65 minutes or a shootout. ... We've kept it simple. I think that's the main thing for our team - we've kept it simple and everyone is on the exact same page."

The proof is in the pudding of Simmonds' words.

During the miserable 10-game losing streak, the Flyers were outscored 10-2 in third periods. Five of those games wound up as one-goal defeats decided in either OT or a shootout. Leads were held at one point or another in six of those contests. 

Moral of the story? Points were there for the taking and the Flyers left them dangling on the table for the opponent to grab.

Now, during this six-game win streak, the Flyers are outscoring the opposition 7-1 in third periods.

"We've been going into the third period and we've been on the same page," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We're excited to go out there and win that game. I think we're doing a lot of good things. We were doing a lot of good things when we weren't winning. But now it's more good things, doing the right things. 

"We go into the third period and it's a tight game or we're up a goal, we feel confident. If we play our game, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win. But we have to keep that mindset."

Much like Giroux, head coach Dave Hakstol feels the Flyers were doing good things during the skid, but now they're putting them all together and the wins are the result of just that.

"We obviously went through a stretch where we didn't have good third periods and at times we were our own worst enemy," Hakstol said. "Yet even within those periods we were playing pretty good hockey. But we had a tendency to try a little hard or look for a play that wasn't there that comes back to haunt you pretty quickly. 

"I think that's probably the biggest thing that has been different for us here over the last short stretch - just staying with the game."

Facing a defensively sound and structured Kings team that has a plus-22 goal differential and features a world-class goalie in Jonathan Quick, it likely means the Flyers are in for another close game Monday night.

And unlike two weeks ago, that's a welcomed situation. Because it's never too close for comfort now.

Twisted history
The Flyers on Monday can tie a weird, crazy, bizarre and whatever else you want to call it NHL record. They can tie the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs for the longest winning streak immediately after losing 10 games in a row. Those Leafs lost 11 in a row before storming back to win seven straight. Those Leafs also went on to win the Stanley Cup. 

Hey, who knows anything anymore, right?

More honors for Elliott
Flyers netminder Brian Elliott was honored by the NHL for the second straight week. This time, he was named the league's second star of the week after posting a 3-0-0 record, 1.31 goals-against average and .943 save percentage as the Flyers extended their win streak. His best performance last week came Saturday against the Stars when he stopped 27 shots in the 2-1 OT victory. Elliott, who will start Monday vs. the Kings and sports a 12-6-6 record, 2.61 goals-against average and .915 save percentage this season, was the third star the previous week.

Lineup
No lineup changes are expected for the Flyers Monday. Injured goalie Michal Neuvirth, whose missed the last almost two weeks with a lower-body injury, took part in morning skate again, but still isn't ready to go. Alex Lyon will again backup Elliott.

Giroux-Couturier-Simmonds
Raffl-Filppula-Voracek
Weal-Patrick-Weise
Konecny-Laughton-Leier

Provorov-MacDonald
Hagg-Gostisbehere
Gudas-Sanheim

Elliott
Lyon

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.