Flyers

Scott Laughton, Claude Giroux remember Roy Halladay

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Scott Laughton, Claude Giroux remember Roy Halladay

VOORHEES, N.J. — Somewhere Scott Laughton's old No. 32 white Roy Halladay jersey he wore as a kid is stored in a closet down in his parents' basement.

“I remember going to Jays games with my dad and watching him and Carlos Delgado and guys like that," Laughton said Wednesday. "It kind of chokes you up a bit. It was really, really tough to see that. I don’t want to see that happen to anyone. It’s definitely a sad time.”

After learning of Halladay’s tragic death, Laughton tweeted:

Laughton grew up in Oakville, Ontario, a Toronto suburb about 20 miles from the Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome), and while hockey has always been Laughton's true passion, attending baseball games was a summertime ritual with his father, Craig Laughton.

His parents were at the stadium the night the Blue Jays and Joe Carter defeated the Phillies in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series to capture Toronto's first ever world championship. Laughton was born seven months later, and by the time he was 8, he was watching arguably one of the organization's best players during his prime years.

"He was the best pitcher in the organization for quite some time," Laughton said of Halladay, "and then he came to the Phillies and did a great job too. Just the way he worked, I read a couple of articles last night where he finished his workouts at 5:30 a.m. and things like that.”

While Laughton never had the opportunity to meet Halladay in person, Claude Giroux did.

Halladay pitched his perfect game in Miami on the same day the Flyers and Blackhawks squared off in Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final on May 29, 2010, and within a few years, Halladay and Giroux were undoubtedly the two best athletes in their respective sports in the city.

"I talked to him a couple of times," Giroux said. "I was a pretty big Blue Jays fan and the things he did for Toronto. When I came here, he was playing for the Phillies, a good ambassador for the sport.

"I didn’t know him that much, but I never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. When it was game day for him, he was a very focused guy. He did a lot of good things for baseball.”

Before to Thursday night’s game against the Blackhawks, the Flyers will hold a moment of silence in remembrance of Halladay.

Make it three?
Michal Neuvirth was the first guy on the ice for Wednesday's practice and the first player to come off — one indicator he's in line to start Thursday against Chicago.

"I've been here in this league for a while," Neuvirth said, "so I know when I have a good practice and when I don't, I'm trying to push myself even harder."

If he does start, it would mark the first time this season Neuvirth has started three consecutive games. He missed Monday's practice but has put in a couple days of hard work.

"He's gone out and made a lot of good saves at key times," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Neuvirth. "Sometimes the focus is on goals that go in or goals that are given up and that has a way of having people forget some of the saves that are made throughout a game at key times. I think Neuvy has been a pretty consistent figure for us and has battled hard for us."

It will be up to Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers to continue one of the longest streaks in the NHL when the Blackhawks come to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night.

The Flyers have beaten the 'Hawks in their last 13 regular-season games in Philadelphia.

Chicago's last win in Philadelphia came on Nov. 9, 1996, which will mark exactly 21 years to the day the Blackhawks left South Broad Street with a 4-1 win over the Flyers in a game that saw former Flyer Jeff Hackett stop 33 shots in a winning effort.

What are Flyers made of? We're about to find out

What are Flyers made of? We're about to find out

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Penguins have the Flyers on the canvas in a headlock.

The faces of the guys who wear orange and black are turning purple, and unless they put up a courageous fight as they did in Game 2, they will tap out of this best-of-seven series after just five games (see story).

General manager Ron Hextall spoke to the media for the first time since the series started and believes the Flyers have displayed a lack of mental fortitude through the first four games.

“A lot of it is mentality,” Hextall said. “We need to be stronger if a bump goes the other way. We need to be stronger and bounce back and create energy going back our way. The playoffs are a series of momentum (swings) — within a period and within a game. We need to do a better job of bringing the momentum back our way."

So where exactly does that start? The return of Sean Couturier would help considerably.

After sitting out Game 4’s 5-0 loss, the Selke Trophy finalist hasn’t ruled out playing in Game 5 after skating Wednesday and Thursday on his own. Hextall said Couturier would travel to Pittsburgh and nothing more than that.

“I’m feeling better every day, and we’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” Couturier said. “It’s really on me to see how I feel every day and hopefully, it keeps getting better. It’s really up to my body to see how it keeps progressing.”

Dave Hakstol switched up his lines once again Thursday, most notably installing Valtteri Filppula onto the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and breaking up the top defense pairing of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere.

Robert Hagg is also expected to make his series debut, playing alongside Andrew MacDonald as fellow rookie Travis Sanheim will serve as the healthy scratch.

“About time,” Hagg said. “I’m looking forward to it tomorrow. Hopefully, I can bring something to the team, some energy. I think it’s perfect and I can’t wait to go in and show what I can bring to the team.”

“He brings a different element than a couple of guys in the lineup if we’re so inclined to make that change,” Hakstol said. “We haven’t generated very much over the last five periods, but at the same time, we’ve given up quite a bit in some of the harder areas.”

Toward the end of Thursday’s 45-minute practice, Giroux gathered his teammates around and delivered a speech he hopes can galvanize the Flyers for Game 5 and bring the series back to Philadelphia for Game 6.

“I think it’s believing in ourselves," Giroux said. "All year we’ve done that, and we’ve talked about it before. You lose 10 in a row and find a way to make the playoffs. Tomorrow’s a big game for us, and if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down swinging.”

Quick hits
• Speaking on the collision with Radko Gudas, Couturier said, "We've done this drill all year. It was bad timing and a fluke accident. There's no one to really blame, and I should have maybe had my head up there."

• Hextall believes Couturier should be the Selke Trophy frontrunner based on his outstanding 2017-18 season.

"I think he should win it," Hextall said. "I know those other players fairly well, and yes, I watch Coots on a daily basis, but the two-way game that he brings to our team is in my mind, the best in the league this year."

• Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist will miss his second straight game.

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Michal Neuvirth stood by his locker Wednesday night dejected, like the rest of his teammates, after the Flyers’ latest blunder, an embarrassing 5-0 loss on home ice to the Penguins in Game 4.

The Flyers are on the brink of elimination to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, and Wednesday's defeat was the latest reminder of their current state of affairs.

"Definitely good to get in the mix," said Neuvirth, who replaced Brian Elliott in the second period for his first game action since March 28. "But tough outcome tonight. We lost it to a better team tonight."

With that, Neuvirth perfectly encapsulated exactly where the Flyers stand in this first-round playoff series with Pittsburgh. It's definitely good to be in the mix, and they lost to the better team.

We've heard that before and we'll hear it again, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. This Flyers team isn't quite there yet, to compete with the Penguins or in the playoffs.

There are encouraging signs. The postseason experience will pay off in the long run — it's better than not being there. Nolan Patrick, 19, has perhaps been the Flyers' most consistent forward in the series. He was the only player who competed Wednesday.

But goaltending remains an eyesore and rookie mistakes are consistently being made by veterans, and some appear immune to accountability. Game 4 was as ugly as it gets (see story), and that's counting a series that included a 7-0 loss in Game 1.

The Flyers were never really in Wednesday's game outside of about a two-minute stretch in the first period, when they were buzzing in the Pittsburgh zone until a Scott Laughton centering pass turned into a Penguins odd-man rush.

Bang, 2-0 Pittsburgh. Ballgame.

"From our standpoint," Dave Hakstol said, "we have to look from within. There's going to be momentum swings, there are going to be pushes, but we haven't been able to reestablish our game quick enough to give ourselves an opportunity."

Wednesday served as another grim reminder. This Flyers-Penguins rivalry, well, isn't much of a rivalry and hasn't been one in quite some time now.

Coming into this series, we heard the old storylines, about how much these two teams hate each other, how close games are, but the hate hasn't been there for a while and the games, they haven't been close, either.

The Penguins have dominated the Flyers, this season especially. With the 5-0 win Wednesday, the Pens have outscored the Flyers, 38-17, in eight total games and 20-4 in games played at the Wells Fargo Center.

The hype machine was on full blast and we all bought into it. It's the playoffs, different animal, but some things never change no matter the environment.

At some point, it's time to bury the hatchet.

It was fun while it lasted, but for now, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is no more.