Flyers

Sean Couturier proving he belongs in Selke Trophy conversation

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Sean Couturier proving he belongs in Selke Trophy conversation

VOORHEES, N.J. — By definition, the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy is awarded to the NHL forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.

Since the day Sean Couturier arrived in the league as an 18-year-old rookie straight out of the June draft in 2011, the defensive element has always been part of his game. He was tasked with shutting down one of the league’s premier centers in Evgeni Malkin as a teenager and a fourth-line center. His commitment to defense was the primary reason the Flyers drafted Couturier eighth overall in 2011.

Of all the NHL’s major postseason awards presented in Las Vegas next summer, the Selke may be the one piece of hardware the Flyers have the greatest chance at claiming, as Couturier has refined his all-around game. The paradox of the award is how winners typically need respectable offensive numbers to receive serious consideration for what’s regarded as a defensive accolade.

The last 21 winners have all scored at least 20 goals, while 11 of the last 12 winners have racked up 50 or more points. Couturier has never reached either scoring plateau, which probably explains why he’s never finished higher than eighth in the voting. He’s currently on pace this season for 41 goals and 82 points.

“It would be a nice recognition,” Couturier said Wednesday. “Obviously, just getting your name thrown out there with those guys that are there every year, it’s kind of nice. It gives you that extra boost to kind of push yourself and try to be as good as you can.” 

This season, Couturier has proven he belongs in that elite conversation. Tuesday’s game against the Maple Leafs was a vintage Selke effort: winning faceoffs, including draws that led to goals, staying committed defensively while playing 1:35 of the final 2:12, preserving a one-goal lead.

Over his last 50 games dating back to last season, Couturier also owns an impressive plus-32 rating.

“I know some people don’t like the plus/minus. Five-on-five, if you’re in the plus, it's usually a good thing and you’re helping your team win," Couturier said. "My mentality is still the same: being solid, taking care of details and like I said, if you take care of details defensively, the offense will come and that’s always the thought process I’ve had.”

Another Selke measurable is faceoffs — an area in which Couturier has improved greatly over the past two years from a 48 percent success rate to winning 55 percent from the beginning of last season.

“It’s the one area of his game that he’s taken a lot of pride in,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think if you look at the numbers in both faceoff dots, he’s done a real good job, as well as the neutral zone."

For an award voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, there’s almost no way to accurately assess the defensive play of 300-plus forwards without extensive video review, as most writers are solely covering the team in their city. So faceoffs, plus/minus, consistency on the penalty kill coupled with shorthanded goals can be areas that separate Selke candidates.

Currently, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron is the Selke gold standard as a four-time winner, and he’s finished first or second in voting in each of the past six seasons. Fair or not, Bergeron’s reputation alone will likely land him in the top three once again barring injury.

“When you look at (Anze) Kopitar, Bergeron and (Jonathan) Toews, I think Coots is up there with those guys,” Jakub Voracek said. “Without a doubt [Couturier is a Selke candidate]. He’s got 15 goals in 30 games. His stick is very good and he’s always one step ahead defensively. He doesn’t over-backcheck. He just knows what kind of responsibility that he has. You can see it on the PK, it’s really hard to get a puck through him. Those kind of players are very hard to find.”

Just ask the Flyers' organization. They haven’t had a Selke winner since Dave Poulin 30 years ago. 

Seguin nets OT winner for Stars

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Seguin nets OT winner for Stars

BOSTON — Tyler Seguin made a move at the left circle to get past one defender, then skated into the slot as the other two Bruins went to the ice.

He swooped wide to Anton Khudobin's glove side, inducing the goalie to leave his skates as well, and then flipped the puck into the net for the game-winner.

"I feel like everyone was just sliding at me, and the whole time I wanted to pass," Seguin said after his goal with a delayed penalty man-advantage gave the Dallas Stars a 3-2 victory over Boston on Monday.

"I was just kind of looking for the right play and just kept holding it," the former Bruins first-round draft pick said. "I just kind of shot it, and luckily, it went in."

Stephen Johns and Alexander Radulov also scored for Dallas, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 shots (see full recap).

Tavares' 2nd goal lifts Islanders past Canadiens in OT
MONTREAL — John Tavares scored his second goal of the game 1:51 into overtime to lift the New York Islanders to a 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Mathew Barzal, coming off his second five-point game of the season, had a goal and two assists to keep up his scoring binge for New York. Anthony Beauvillier and Adam Pelech also scored to help the Islanders win their third straight after a season-high five-game losing streak, and Thomas Greiss finished with a career-high 52 saves.

Nicolas Deslauriers, Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, which twice tied the scored after falling behind by two goals. Carey Price stopped 19 shots.

Pelech gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead 2:37 into the second period as he pounced on a loose puck after Barzal's shot was blocked and swept it in fromt eh slot for his first of the season (see full recap).

MacKinnon helps Avs beat Ducks for 7th straight win
DENVER — The save by Jonathan Bernier that sticks out the most was the one where he simply stuck out his stick.

Out of sheer desperation, no less. To thwart what looked to be a sure goal, too. It's just another sign of how well things have been going for the Colorado Avalanche in recent weeks.

Nathan MacKinnon kept up his torrid home scoring with a goal, Bernier turned back 33 shots and the Avalanche beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 on Monday for their seventh straight win.

Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson also scored for the Avs, who are outscoring opponents 29-10 during their longest win streak since the 2005-06 season (see full recap).

Old wounds have healed for Eric Lindros

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Old wounds have healed for Eric Lindros

You could say the life of “88” has completed a lifelong figure 8, where you ultimately come back to the point where it all started.  

That starting point for Eric Lindros was sometime at an early age when life was simple, friendships were forming and the game of hockey wasn’t tugging him in a hundred different directions. Not that Lindros feels like a kid now, but clearly he views life rather buoyantly.

He smiles, he laughs, he tells stories and enjoys living essentially burden-free. 

“I’m seeing things from a different perspective,” said Lindros during my visit with him at his new home in the Toronto suburbs. “I think when you’re playing, and for good reason, you’re focused on your game. You live, eat, breathe the sport and the game. You have the blinders on. You might not be aware of what’s going on politically. You might not be aware of what’s going on with some of your friends back home.

“Now, I have no blinders. I’m not restricted. If I choose to look left or choose to look right, I can. It’s a different mindset. It’s a different way of going about it. It’s a whole new world.”

Lindros left Philadelphia unceremoniously sitting out an entire season before he was eventually traded to the New York Rangers in August 2001, and even after he stopped playing six years later, a lot of those old wounds still hadn’t healed and the relationship between himself and the organization was scarred. A once tight relationship with former Flyers GM Bobby Clarke was seemingly frayed beyond repair.

The 2012 Winter Classic alumni game at Citizens Bank Park was the first step in the rehabilitation between a stubbornly proud organization and its franchise center the city once cherished. Then came Lindros’ induction into the Flyers Wall of Fame in 2014, his 2016 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame and now, the latest culmination is the retirement of his legendary No. 88 along with other events surrounding the former superstar. 

There’s now a renewed sense that Philadelphia will always be Lindros’ hockey home.  

“Listen, hockey was great for a long time and where I could give the most was in Philly. From start to finish, I never played as well anywhere else. I really enjoyed it. There’s ups and downs with everything that you do, but overall I truly enjoyed playing there,” Lindros said.

“Eric doesn’t have a home,” Clarke told me in 2011 prior to the Winter Classic alumni game. “Eric needs a home and the Flyers are his home.”
 
Of course, it’s not exactly a home surrounded by a white picket fence, but rather one that had a fence that needed to be mended. Retirement for Lindros and Clarke, who both coincidentally stepped down as player and executive in 2007, helped gain perspective and patch some damaged feelings. 

“We see each other at all these events and Bob’s been very nice," Lindros said. “We can joke around. What’s happened, happened. Let’s move forward and go on.”

Eric has done that while also discovering why the present should be cherished so much more than what has transpired in the past. Whenever Lindros spends time at alumni functions, he’s easily immersed in the aura surrounding Bernie Parent and how it can easily rub off on him. 
   
“What a fun-loving spirit. He gets it,” Lindros said of Parent. “You know where some people have that vibe and you want to be in the room with him. He’s got a gift. Bernie’s a terrific, terrific man. He’s got to get me out on the boat.” 

After Thursday's ceremony prior to the Flyers' game against Lindros' hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, Lindros and Parent can hang together all they want, at least, in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.

However, Lindros doesn’t need those types of reminders. Nowhere in his brand-new home will you find any connection between himself and his playing days — no photos on the wall, no replica of the Hart Trophy he won in 1995 and no sign of his Olympic gold medal. Nor does Lindros believe his career was any more distinguishable from that of his wife Kina Lamarche, who was a very successful businesswoman.  

As you enter the basement, there’s a painting of Jackie Robinson sliding into home plate. Turn the corner and down the hall you’ll find a newly-installed locker room and a synthetic ice surface that currently serves as a playroom for his three kids: Carl Pierre, Sophie and Ryan. This is Eric Lindros now, a man with a greater purpose in life.   

“Same way my dad was with me,” Lindros said. “My dad took a lot of heat for looking out for me and representing me and my brother. People would be lucky to have my dad as a representative. I’m very lucky to come from where I did. I got big shoes to fill. I’m around the house quite a bit now. I got lucky. I really did. I don’t think it could have worked out better.”