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

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


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

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

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

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

Why Flyers should ride Alex Lyon, not Petr Mrazek

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Why Flyers should ride Alex Lyon, not Petr Mrazek

When the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from Detroit out of necessity in February, Ron Hextall explained the trade as a reward for his players’ hard work.

“We’re in a tough situation — you lose your top two goalies when you’re fighting for a playoff spot,” Hextall said then, “and our players have worked hard for a long time now. I didn’t feel like it was fair to not have a proven NHL goaltender for this team.”

One month later, Mrazek has been erratic, and the Flyers’ grip on a playoff spot is loosening. With eight games remaining, Dave Hakstol owes it to his players to ride the steadier goalie, and that's not the proven NHL goaltender.

For the second time in six days, Hakstol was forced to pull Mrazek on Tuesday night, and for the second time in six days, Alex Lyon battled in relief, giving the Flyers a chance in a game they otherwise had no business being in.

Lyon stopped 11 of 12 shots Tuesday, holding off a determined Red Wings team and allowing the Flyers to fight back from a 3-1 deficit and force overtime. They lost, 5-4, in a shootout, but the point was huge.

We’re tired of hearing that too. But at this stage, and with how the Flyers have played in March, any point is needed. The goal is the playoffs, and right now, the Flyers cannot trust Mrazek.

What we’ve seen from Mrazek in his short time here explains why the Red Wings soured on him.

Mrazek showed glimpses of his potential in his first three starts as a Flyer, but since, he’s been inconsistent and unreliable.

In his last nine games, Mrazek’s 2-5-1 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .865 save percentage. He's allowed fewer than three goals just once. There have been far too many bad goals along the way too.

Last Thursday, Mrazek was pulled after yielding his fourth goal against the Blue Jackets, a team the Flyers are jockeying with for playoff position in the Metropolitan Division.

That relief appearance earned Lyon the start Saturday in Carolina, where he was again steady. Hakstol went back to Mrazek on Sunday and then again Tuesday.

Now, it’s time to ride Lyon until the rookie shows wear on his tires and until either Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth is healthy enough to return, which likely will not be until closer to the final week of the season.

Lyon has not looked out of place since his second call-up of the season Feb. 11. In six games — three starts — he has a .933 save percentage.

The 25-year-old passes both the numbers and eye test, and it’s time to show faith in him.

After Tuesday’s loss, the Flyers dropped to the top wild-card spot, with Columbus leap-frogging them to third in the Metro. Both teams have eight games left. The Flyers are four points ahead of the Devils, who have one game in hand.

Then, there are the Panthers, five points behind the Flyers with three games in hand. Per Hockey-Reference, the Flyers have an 88.8 percent chance at the postseason.

We’ve seen crazier collapses happen, though. When March began, the Flyers were one point behind the first-place Capitals. They’ve picked up just eight of a possible 22 points this month.

At this point, it’s about surviving, and Lyon gives the Flyers a better shot to stay above the line than Mrazek.

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time


DETROIT — The Flyers brought a cold engine to the Motor City and it took a good 40 minutes to finally get it started.

Sure, Dave Hakstol’s team rallied back from a two-goal deficit Tuesday to earn a point at a time when every point is critical, but losing a 5-4 shootout to a fragile Detroit team is unacceptable and unexplainable (see observations).

“Maybe we thought it was going to be an easy game,” Sean Couturier said. “We didn’t play the right way. We didn’t play hard. We wasted 40 minutes. We came back and got a big point, but we can’t be wasting time at this time of the year.”

On a night when the Flyers could have officially eliminated the Red Wings from postseason contention, they turned back the clock and made this Detroit team look more like the juggernaut that won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships 20 years ago. 

At least through the first two periods.

“The second period was god-awful,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We really didn’t help our cause out. We weren’t pushing plays and we just weren’t battling out there. You saw in the third what we could do when we light a fire under our ass. It’s tough like that when you dig yourself a hole and you come back, you expend a lot of energy. The positive we can take is that we got a point out of it.”

You may have never known this was the same Red Wings team that, like the Flyers in the first half of the season, had dropped 10 straight with an 0-9-1 record. Detroit had been outscored a whopping 41-19 from Feb. 28-March 18.

The Red Wings had also returned from a four-game Western Conference road trip less than 48 hours prior to the opening faceoff.

With eight games remaining on the Flyers' schedule, Hakstol is also mired in a goaltending dilemma. Petr Mrazek was rescued from Detroit to be the savior in Philadelphia following injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. 

After winning his first three starts, Mrazek’s numbers reek of mediocrity: a 2-5-1 record, 3.72 GAA and an .860 save percentage. Most recently, he’s been pulled in favor of Alex Lyon in two of his last three games.

“The second one is a bad-angle goal,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, he wants that one back, but we gave up a number of opportunities that he was very strong on.”

Mrazek was pulled from the game at 3-1, and before heading to the locker room, he expressed his disappointment with the coaching staff over a non-goaltender interference call during the Red Wings' third goal.

“I talked to Coach and I was just wondering about the goalie interference because someone had bumped in there during the shot,” Mrazek said. “It wasn’t anything like I was mad or something that I got pulled. I was just asking him if there was a goalie interference or not.”

The Flyers' shootout loss coupled with the Blue Jackets' ninth straight victory now drops the orange and black into wild-card territory (see standings).

If this is indeed a playoff team, it needs to repair what’s under the hood and fix it fast.