Flyers

Gustav Nyquist scores twice as Red Wings take down Penguins

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USA Today Images

Gustav Nyquist scores twice as Red Wings take down Penguins

DETROIT -- Gustav Nyquist scored twice, Jimmy Howard made 37 saves and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Sunday night.

Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen also scored for Detroit. Evgeni Malkin got his fifth goal in seven games for the Penguins.

The Wings took the lead 11:31 into the opening period. Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg fed a cross-ice pass to Nyquist in the middle of the Pittsburgh zone. Nyquist skated out between the hash marks and used Pittsburgh defenseman Frank Corrado as a screen to fire a high shot past Matt Murray on the glove side.

Larkin added to Detroit's advantage just 59 seconds into the second. He burst down the right wing past Malkin and tucked the puck past Murray as he cut across the front of the net.

The Penguins got on the board with a power-play goal at 8:04 of the second. Howard made a spectacular glove stop Malkin's shot, but a video review determined that his glove was across the goal line when he caught the puck.

Detroit went up 3-1 at 15:18 of the second. Nielsen skated down the left wing and faked a slap shot. When Murray bit on the fake, Nielsen slid the puck along the ice under Murray's right pad.

Nyquist added his second at 16:34 of the third period. Murray stopped Tyler Bertuzzi's shot, but Nyquist was on the doorstep to slide in the rebound.

Murray finished with 19 saves (see full recap).

Johnson scores twice in Lightning's rout of Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tyler Johnson scored twice, Andre Vasilevskiy stopped 21 shots for his ninth career shutout and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-0 on Sunday night.

Johnson's second-period goals extended his point streak to 12 games, tied for the longest in the league this season. He's got eight goals and 10 assists in that stretch.

After a slow start, Tampa Bay scored four times in a span of 7:23 in the second period, sucking the energy out of the sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena on New Year's Eve.

Nikita Kucherov got his league-leading 25th goal of the season, and Steven Stamkos and Cory Conacher also scored for the Lightning. Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Hedman had two assists apiece.

Vasilevskiy didn't have to work particularly hard in recording his league-leading fifth shutout of the season for the Lightning, who lead the NHL in wins and sit atop the Atlantic Division at 28-8-2.

Joonas Korpisalo had 30 saves for Columbus. He started in place of Sergei Bobrovsky, who has struggled lately and was rested by coach John Tortorella. The Blue Jackets were 6-6-2 in December and have slipped to third in the Metropolitan Division (see full recap).

Karlsson has hat trick, Golden Knights beat Maple Leafs
LAS VEGAS -- William Karlsson had the first hat trick in Vegas history and added an assist to help the streaking Golden Knights beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Sunday.

The Western Conference-leading Golden Knights have won seven straight and have earned points in 12 consecutive games, both NHL records for a first-year team. An NHL-best 11-1-1 in December, the Golden Knights are 16-2-1 at home and 26-9-2 overall.

Karlsson pushed his team-leading goals total to 20. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault also scored, and Malcolm Subban made 19 saves.

Auston Matthews scored twice for Toronto, Patrick Marleau added a goal, and Frederik Anderson stopped 25 shots.

Toronto is 11-7-1 against the Western Conference and 8-5-0 against Pacific Division team. The Maple Leafs, who played their 10th road game of the month, finished a five-game trip 2-2-1.

Toronto went 0-for-3 with the man advantage (see full recap).

Flyers defenseman grades and lookahead part 1 — The young guns

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Flyers defenseman grades and lookahead part 1 — The young guns

2017-18 was a season of growth for the Flyers' young defense with half of that six-man unit in their first or second years of NHL service. After three consecutive years of drafting defensemen in the first round, we finally received a glimpse of how the Flyers defense core will look like over the next few years. 

Shayne Gostisbehere
Regular season: A-
Playoffs: D     

Gostisbehere’s season took off when he was paired with Ivan Provorov in the second half of the season. His defensive stickwork and positioning improved significantly and he even developed a physical side at times. Had a terrible six-game playoff against the Pens forcing Dave Hakstol to break up his top pair. Interestingly, his goal production dipped as the powerplay struggled. Ghost scored five goals in December, or the same number from January through April.  

2018-19 outlook
Enters the second year of his 6-year, $27-million dollar extension he signed last summer. A deal that looks very team friendly comparative to the other contracts of players his age. I expect Ghost to start next season on the top pair with Provorov after showing great improvements in the defensive side of his game. 

Robert Hagg
Regular season: B-
Playoffs: Incomplete

Surprisingly solid while playing in the Flyers' first 70 games of the season. A strong physical presence that still needed work positionally as he hit a wall midseason. Didn’t deserve to be a healthy scratch over the final month of the regular season, but the Flyers liked what they saw out of Travis Sanheim throughout March and refused to break up the Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas pairing. Only played the final two games of the playoffs.  

2018-19 outlook
A restricted free agent, Hagg should get a two- to three-year deal for next season and should start the season out of camp. Playing three seasons in the AHL was a significant part of Hagg’s development and he should comprise one of the Flyers' three defense pairings next season. 

Ivan Provorov
Regular season: A
Playoffs: C+  

When asked to assess his season, Provorov said there were three to five games during the regular season. where he didn’t play like himself. He experienced some puck-handling struggles during the second half, but nothing that impaired the team defensively. He suffers the occasional bad read or breakdown in his own end, but the Flyers are blessed that Provorov hasn’t been forced to miss any time over his first two seasons. A shoulder separation was a tough way to end the season (see story).

2018-19 outlook
Provorov is the workhorse on the blue line after displaying an immunity to the sophomore slump. Can he expand on his offensive numbers and potentially reach the 20-goal mark? If so, Provorov’s third NHL season could be the year he enters the Norris Trophy discussion.   

Travis Sanheim
Regular season: C
Playoffs: B-

Sanheim looked like a different player once he returned to the team from Lehigh Valley on March 10, with four points and a plus-7 rating in his first eight games back. He started seeing the ice much better and making the smart, low-risk plays that the coaching staff was looking for out of a young player. Did not look out place throughout the first four games of the Flyers' first-round series. Unfortunately, his best game was part of a 5-1 loss in Game 4.    

2018-19 outlook 
With one more season remaining on his entry-level contract, Sanheim will be expected to make the season-opening roster straight out of training camp. He should be paired with a steady veteran while also seeing time on the second power-play unit.

In Friday's Part 2, we will look at Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Wayne Simmonds played with more injuries than he can remember

Wayne Simmonds played with more injuries than he can remember

VOORHEES, N.J. — There were so many, Wayne Simmonds even lost track.

"I actually forgot about that one," he said with a laugh.

The Flyers' power forward was referring to the torn ligament in his thumb, the lone injury to declare victory with Simmonds this season.

And don't think he didn't have his battles.

As Simmonds sat down at his end-of-the-season press conference Wednesday, the list of injuries could have unrolled from his chair and out the door.

With some picking and prodding, one by one he ran them off.

In total?

A tear in his pelvic area, fractured ankle, pulled groin, busted mouth (twice) and the torn ligament in his thumb.

Simmonds missed only seven games in 2017-18, with the thumb finally dragging the unbreakable man off the ice.

Call him crazy, call him naïve, but don't question his dedication or toughness.

"I think for me, I don't know if it's the right thing, but I can't not play," Simmonds said. "It's just geared in my head to where if I'm not dead or I'm not deathly sick, I'm going to try and get out there and do whatever I can. Whether the coach is going to play me, or whatever minutes he wanted to play me, that was up to him. I'm definitely going to sacrifice my body for the team, that's for sure."

The trigger to the mess came well before his season-opening hat trick. Simmonds' pelvic tear was diagnosed in training camp, an injury he believes was suffered prior to report day.

"But I had no idea," Simmonds said. "You start doing all the skate testing and everything like that, and you find out pretty quickly."

The 29-year-old, coming off back-to-back 30-plus-goal seasons, was then faced with a dilemma. Surgery to repair the tear was an option, but that meant missing a month to a month and a half of action.

"It wasn't something I wanted to do," Simmonds said. "I thought I'd be able to play through it and do a decently good job. I didn't play up to my expectations this year. It was a very frustrating year. Things didn't go the way I wanted but if I can play, I'm going to play."

The decision boiled down to something pretty simple.

"They showed me the MRI and I was like, 'Can I play?'" Simmonds said. "Yeah, I can play."

The problem was the injury brought side effects.

"Having that, that leaves other things," Simmonds said. "Your body is overcompensating and other stuff starts breaking down. It wasn't good."

Because of it, Simmonds said he then pulled his groin in October before fracturing his ankle not long after following a power-play shot to the foot.

"It kind of just broke," Simmonds said. "It wasn't a weight-bearing bone, so you're still able to play with that."

However, he wasn't able to play from Feb. 20 to March 4. He also underwent serious dental work in February.

In all, it sounded like hell.

"When everything's piling on top of one another, it sucks," he said.

Simmonds finished the regular season with 24 goals, 22 assists and a minus-16 rating in 75 games. During the first-round playoff exit to the Penguins, he had two assists in six games.

He seldom looked like himself.

"That was the biggest thing. It didn't allow me to have the power I usually have," Simmonds said. "It was extremely frustrating. Obviously you want to be able to do something and you're able to do it usually, and then your brain is telling your body to do it and your body's not doing it."

Simmonds, who said surgery on his pelvis is likely, now faces an offseason in which he's eligible for an extension starting July 1 ahead of his 2018-19 contract year.

"I know this year wasn't ideal for me and they probably didn't see from me what was required for an extension," Simmonds said. "This is definitely where I want to be.

"This is where I want to be for the rest of my career."

Banged up or not.