Revved-up Flyers show their 'mojo'

Revved-up Flyers show their 'mojo'


“It’s pretty blatant.”

Direct words an hour before game time from general manager Ron Hextall as he laid out the lack of secondary scoring and production from the Flyers' supporting cast, and how it had to get better in the second half of the season.

Somehow that message worked its way down seven stories from the Wells Fargo Center press box to the Flyers' dressing room as five different players scored goals and 12 registered a point in the 6-4 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night (see observations).

“I think everyone is starting to get into their mojo now,” forward Travis Konecny said. "You’re seeing different guys every night step up and it’s important when you have a whole team contributing each and every night.”

“If we want to be a playoff team, we need everyone, especially from now on,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “Games are going to get a lot tighter, a lot tougher and we need everyone to step up in any way we can."

Over the past 15 games, Elliott has been the one assigned to step up and carry the load in net. It marks the longest stretch of starts since Ilya Bryzgalov started 22 straight in 2013. On Thursday, for once, the Flyers bailed out Elliott.

“I didn’t feel like I had my best effort,” Elliott said. “It’s nights like that when other guys pick up the slack. That’s huge for me. Next game is next game. You kind of erase this one from the records and start all over again.” 

Aside from the pond-hockey scoring, the Flyers also displayed some raw emotion as the game featured three separate fights from players who don’t typically drop the gloves. Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton and Konecny each spent five minutes in the box for throwing punches against their Islander counterparts (see highlights).

“It was a big game tonight,” Couturier said. “They’re just ahead of us in the standings. We knew it was important and there’s a lot of emotions out there. Guys responded and that’s what happens during the game.”

Konecny may very well be one of those key scoring components as the Flyers enter the second half of the season. While Konecny hasn’t played top-line minutes alongside Couturier and Claude Giroux, he filled the scoresheet with a goal, five shots, a fight and three hits. He’s now registered a point in three of his last four games.

“There’s a simplicity to his game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He has such good speed. He’s very tenacious on pucks. He’s not the biggest body, but he’s heavy on pucks and I think he’s using all those abilities. Instead of trying to make that extra move through people, he’s shooting the puck.”

After a three-goal lead was reduced to 5-4, the referees threw the Flyers a last-minute life preserver when they slapped Isles forward Andrew Ladd with a tripping penalty with 49 seconds remaining in the game. 

Prior to that moment, New York had been coming at the Flyers hard, and appeared as if it were on the verge of sending the game to overtime yet again.

Much like the Islanders did in this same building on Nov. 24 when they trailed the Flyers, 4-2, entering the third period before winning, 5-4, in overtime. The Flyers simply could not afford to hand another point to a divisional opponent on home ice.

“We can be better in the last 20 minutes,” Hakstol said. “We took our foot off the gas a little bit, and against this team they’ve got a history here of pushing hard in the third if they’re down. They can come hard. They’ve got pretty good offensive numbers for a reason. Give them some credit, but I thought we backed off some of that.”

Thursday’s win over the Islanders was the Flyers' first victory over a Metropolitan Division opponent since the home opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 14. The Flyers were 0-1-4 in the previous five divisional games.

To put it bluntly, the Flyers need much more of this. 

More scoring from the team’s role players. More victories over teams in the Metropolitan Division.

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

John Boruk/NBCSP

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Aaron also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an Orange and Black diehard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based Original Six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Philadelphia Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably six-to-nine years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies - Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia it’s first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time this weekend, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” said 54-year-old Tom Banks. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

USA Today Images

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).