Flyers

At this point, Brandon Manning appears to have advantage over Travis Sanheim

At this point, Brandon Manning appears to have advantage over Travis Sanheim

VOORHEES, N.J. — Brandon Manning won’t have to wait another 10 days for his shot in the lineup.

Manning was paired with Radko Gudas during Monday’s practice while Travis Sanheim put in extra work, suggesting that Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol will lean on the Manning-Gudas combination as his third pairing for Tuesday’s game against the visiting Florida Panthers.  

“To be honest, I think I have good chemistry with both guys, “Gudas said. “Playing with Manning, I’m a little more used to it. We played together for awhile the last two years. It’s a little more that we know each other already. And with Travis, he’s getting better every game he plays. It was fun playing with him and we’re getting used to each other.”

Manning started the season as the sixth defenseman in San Jose and was surprised his number wasn’t called again until the home opener this past Saturday.

“You start off the first game of the season and you pick up the win. To come out of the lineup is obviously tough,” Manning said. “I understand the situation. I understand the direction the team’s going, the value of the young kids and their development. You look at the Washington game and it’s a bit of a blowout. But after sitting around for 10 days, I felt pretty good out there. It’s a home opener, so it’s an easy game to get up for.”

Manning can see the writing on the wall. Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin are the future of the Flyers' defense. On a handful of other teams, including the Capitals team the Flyers demolished on Saturday, around the league, Manning would be a mainstay on the blue line.

The numbers back up Hakstol’s thought process. Through the first five games this season, the Flyers are 2-0 with a plus-8 goal differential with Manning in the lineup, compared to the games Sanheim has played in which the Flyers are 1-2 and a minus-2 differential. With Sanheim, the Flyers' even-strength save percentage is 73.3 percent (last on the team) compared to that of Manning’s 88.9 percent, which is currently ranked fifth out of the seven Flyers defensemen.

“I think Travis has played well,” Hakstol said. “I think his play in games and his practices have been good. We're trying to build our lineup each night to what we think gives us the best opportunity to win that night. Travis' play has been good and I’ve been very happy with his performance.”

It's not unexpected that Manning has served as the Flyers' steadier option in the opening month as Sanheim continues to acclimate himself to the NHL game, which has come at a different speed than the level of play during the preseason.

“That’s part of being professional,” Manning said. “That’s something I’ve learned in my couple of years here in the NHL. The situations I’ve been in, I think it’s all about how you react and how you handle them. You can sit there and be pissed off about it, but at the end of the day, there’s going to be decisions that [GM Ron Hextall] and Hak make that you can’t control. What you can control is how hard you work in practice and how well you play, and you prepare for those situations you’re going to be in.”

It’s a unique paradox right now. The Flyers need wins and Sanheim needs to play. At some point this season, everyone’s needs will be met.

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 every right to throw the book at him. My guess: a firm 10 games. 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. Gudas could be the example, 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).

Best of NHL: Anthony Duclair scores hat trick, Coyotes beat Senators in OT

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Best of NHL: Anthony Duclair scores hat trick, Coyotes beat Senators in OT

OTTAWA, Ontario — Anthony Duclair gave the lowly Arizona Coyotes another two points.

Duclair scored in overtime to complete a hat trick and the Coyotes beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Saturday for their second straight victory.

Antti Raanta made 30 saves to help the Coyotes improve to 4-15-3. On Thursday night in Montreal, they rallied to beat the Canadiens 5-4 for their first regulation victory of the season.

"I think it was a well-earned win to be honest," Duclair said. "We carried that momentum from the Montreal game and all four lines were rolling and we just played a solid 60 minutes."

Duclair scored at 1:23 of overtime, his shot trickling through Condon's pads and over the goal line (see full recap). 

Anisimov's third-period goal leads Blackhawks past Pens
PITTSBURGH — Artem Anisimov scored a power-play goal in the third period, and the Chicago Blackhawks continued their winning streak against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 2-1 victory on Saturday night.

Anisimov scored his 10th goal of the season just 21 seconds after Pittsburgh tied the game. Gustav Forsling scored his second for the Blackhawks, who won their eighth straight against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

The Blackhawks have won three of their last four games after taking two of their previous seven.

Corey Crawford made 35 saves for Chicago, including a right-pad stop on Phil Kessel in the final 20 seconds (see full recap). 

Lee scores 2 goals, Islanders beat Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. — New York Islanders coach Doug Weight had a simple message after a big lead was slipping away: Stay calm.

Anders Lee scored twice and the Islanders held on after nearly blowing a four-goal lead, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 Saturday night.

"He was just telling us what we needed to hear," New York right wing Josh Bailey said of Weight's message on the bench midway through the third. "He was just getting his point across. We just needed to calm down a little bit, realize we're in a good position. We've still got the lead in the third period on the road against the top team in the league." (see full recap). 

Ovechkin returns after puck to face, Caps snap Wild's streak
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin returned from taking a puck to the face, T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals snapped the Minnesota Wild's winning streak at four with a 3-1 victory Saturday night.

Behind goals from Oshie, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov and 30 saves by goaltender Braden Holtby, the Capitals stopped their skid at two and won their fifth consecutive game at home.

Ovechkin was bloodied in the second period when a puck ramped off his stick and into his face, but Washington's captain got some repairs and was back on the ice for the start of the third. He set up Kuznetsov's goal late in the period.

Nino Niederreiter scored for Minnesota, which lost for the first time since Nov. 8. Backup Alex Stalock stopped 40 of 43 shots in his first career start against the Capitals (see full recap.)