Flyers

Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

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USA Today Images

Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Wayne Simmonds would make a pretty good salesman.

He speaks with conviction and knows how to convey a point.

On Monday, he was selling the 2017-18 Flyers.

None of it was fluff. In fact, the sales pitch was completely valid.

Many clamored for the Flyers to become younger, and they did. Nolan Patrick, 19, is just getting healthy again after missing nine straight games. The fourth line features two 23-year-olds (Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier) that developed last season in the AHL. And half of the current defense is made up of rookies.

That's not to mention Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are only 20 years old, while Jordan Weal is in his first full NHL season.

After losing four straight games, the Flyers are 8-8-4 and still only five points out of first place despite sitting in last in the Metropolitan Division.

Things could be worse. Really, they're not all that bad.

"The season's not even close to being over," Simmonds said after practice at Flyers Skate Zone. "That's the way I'm thinking about it, guys. There's no need to be worried, we're a .500 hockey team right now, we've played 20 games, we have 62 games left, we've got a really young team and we're growing every single day. Yeah, we're going to have our struggles, but we're also going to have points in the season where we make huge strides. We've got to stick with it and we've got to keep going and going."

The Flyers were 9-8-3 after 20 games last season. Two games later, they were starting a 10-game winning streak. The run didn't accomplish much by season's end, but it's an example of how quickly trends can turn in the NHL.

Simmonds is experiencing his own negative trend of 12 straight games without a goal after scoring six in eight games to start the season.

"Sometimes you score 10 goals, then you don't score again for 20 games or something like that," Simmonds said. "Like I said, it's a long year, you keep going, you keep grinding, you guys want to jump to conclusions, that's your job. You guys have got to make decisions on a game-to-game basis, but for us, we just have to make sure we're coming to the rink and doing our job every single day and continuing to try and get better."

Throughout much of his drought, Simmonds has not looked himself, likely banged up from the style in which he plays and excels.

With time and patience, Simmonds is building himself up again physically.

"You think you can do some things and sometimes your body just tells you no," Simmonds said.

"I've been feeling better the last little bit. I feel like I've started to play better, things aren't coming offensively for me. I think as an individual, I've just got to keep working hard. The only way to break yourself out of a bad streak is to continue to work hard and hopefully things eventually go your way."

When does he know his game is coming to him?

"When I'm aggressive," Simmonds said. "When I'm battling in the corners, I'm hitting — I think earlier this year, I wasn't fully engaging in battles and stuff like that, and that's not me, that's not my game. I think the last little bit here, I've felt a lot better, I've been doing a lot more battling, a lot more hitting, a lot more physical things. It's nice and we've got to continue that. As a team, we've got to continue to do the same thing, to get to the front of the net and continue to put pucks in."

Aside from the first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, scoring struggles have permeated the middle six and secondary options. Konecny and Weal, two players the Flyers expected jumps from in production, have combined for four goals and nine assists. Konecny is without a goal over his previous 10 games, while Weal has scored one in his last 12.

"It's been a lot of hard work and not much to show for it," Weal said. "No matter what line we've been on, it seems like we've been getting three or four chances every game to put something in and nothing right now seems to be going in. It's one of those things that happens during a season.

"When it breaks open, hopefully it'll break wide open.

"When we have all four lines scoring, we're a really dangerous team."

Both Konecny and Weal are frequently the last two players off the practice ice.

Monday was no different.

"I just need to make sure I'm battling and creating more offense," Konecny said. "I feel like the opportunities are there, I'm not worried about that."

Nor is Simmonds worried about the Flyers with 62 games to go, the next coming Tuesday night at home against the Canucks.

Similar to building up strength and good health, patience is important to a season, especially with the makeup of this Flyers team.

Simmonds believes you'll buy in … just give it some time.

"You can look at the standings, you can do whatever you want, but we've played 20 games," Simmonds said. "There's still a long time to go in the season. We've got work to do.

"I'm definitely feeling better. It's up to me to get going."

When he does, the Flyers hope the rest follow.

Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

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AP Images

Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

From the upbeat music blaring when you first walk in the locker room to the jovial tones the players on the team speak with, it's clear times have changed drastically from a few weeks ago for the Flyers.

Just over two weeks ago, the music would have been shut off and a straight-laced attitude of needing to play better would have been blatantly evident during the 10-game skid.

Wins cure all, don't they?

And the Flyers will be going for their seventh consecutive win when they host the Los Angeles Kings Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Beside the music and the attitude, what has changed over the last few weeks to ignite this stretch of success? The Flyers feel a massive key has been their play in tight games, specifically in the third period. Where they would have crumbled weeks ago, they are excelling now.

"We've come to the conclusion that, obviously, we have to be on the same page to win games," Wayne Simmonds said Monday after morning skate. "We've done the exact same thing every single third period. To win games, you have to be consistent and do the same things every night.

"[Saturday vs. Dallas] in the third period, I think everyone thought we were actually winning the game 2-1 instead of being tied. That sets our expectations high. That's what we expect of ourselves. It was a good feeling and we kind of knew we were going to win that game, whether it was going to take 65 minutes or a shootout. ... We've kept it simple. I think that's the main thing for our team - we've kept it simple and everyone is on the exact same page."

The proof is in the pudding of Simmonds' words.

During the miserable 10-game losing streak, the Flyers were outscored 10-2 in third periods. Five of those games wound up as one-goal defeats decided in either OT or a shootout. Leads were held at one point or another in six of those contests. 

Moral of the story? Points were there for the taking and the Flyers left them dangling on the table for the opponent to grab.

Now, during this six-game win streak, the Flyers are outscoring the opposition 7-1 in third periods.

"We've been going into the third period and we've been on the same page," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We're excited to go out there and win that game. I think we're doing a lot of good things. We were doing a lot of good things when we weren't winning. But now it's more good things, doing the right things. 

"We go into the third period and it's a tight game or we're up a goal, we feel confident. If we play our game, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win. But we have to keep that mindset."

Much like Giroux, head coach Dave Hakstol feels the Flyers were doing good things during the skid, but now they're putting them all together and the wins are the result of just that.

"We obviously went through a stretch where we didn't have good third periods and at times we were our own worst enemy," Hakstol said. "Yet even within those periods we were playing pretty good hockey. But we had a tendency to try a little hard or look for a play that wasn't there that comes back to haunt you pretty quickly. 

"I think that's probably the biggest thing that has been different for us here over the last short stretch - just staying with the game."

Facing a defensively sound and structured Kings team that has a plus-22 goal differential and features a world-class goalie in Jonathan Quick, it likely means the Flyers are in for another close game Monday night.

And unlike two weeks ago, that's a welcomed situation. Because it's never too close for comfort now.

Twisted history
The Flyers on Monday can tie a weird, crazy, bizarre and whatever else you want to call it NHL record. They can tie the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs for the longest winning streak immediately after losing 10 games in a row. Those Leafs lost 11 in a row before storming back to win seven straight. Those Leafs also went on to win the Stanley Cup. 

Hey, who knows anything anymore, right?

More honors for Elliott
Flyers netminder Brian Elliott was honored by the NHL for the second straight week. This time, he was named the league's second star of the week after posting a 3-0-0 record, 1.31 goals-against average and .943 save percentage as the Flyers extended their win streak. His best performance last week came Saturday against the Stars when he stopped 27 shots in the 2-1 OT victory. Elliott, who will start Monday vs. the Kings and sports a 12-6-6 record, 2.61 goals-against average and .915 save percentage this season, was the third star the previous week.

Lineup
No lineup changes are expected for the Flyers Monday. Injured goalie Michal Neuvirth, whose missed the last almost two weeks with a lower-body injury, took part in morning skate again, but still isn't ready to go. Alex Lyon will again backup Elliott.

Giroux-Couturier-Simmonds
Raffl-Filppula-Voracek
Weal-Patrick-Weise
Konecny-Laughton-Leier

Provorov-MacDonald
Hagg-Gostisbehere
Gudas-Sanheim

Elliott
Lyon

Amid WJCs snub, Flyers prospect Morgan Frost still dominating OHL

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Photo: Aaron Bell/CHL Images

Amid WJCs snub, Flyers prospect Morgan Frost still dominating OHL

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The Greyhounds won their 20th straight game Saturday afternoon and now haven’t lost a game since Oct. 27, and Frost has been at the forefront of Sault Ste. Marie’s winning stream. Frost is averaging two points per game, collecting 40 points during the Greyhounds’ 20-game winning streak. Last week, Frost had eight points in three games.

Frost capped off the week with a two goal, two assist effort in Sault Ste. Marie’s 7-1 blowout win over Guelph. He also had a two-goal game Wednesday in the Greyhounds’ 4-1 win over the Flint Firebirds. Frost is now second in the OHL in scoring, with 55 points, second in assists with 36 and leads the OHL with a plus-42 rating. He’s averaging 1.67 points, third in the OHL and winning 50.1 percent of his faceoffs.

As The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor pointed out, Frost is scoring comparable to what Travis Konecny was during his after-drafted season. Konecny spent one more season in the OHL after the Flyers drafted him in 2015 and then made the team in 2016-17. While it’s easy to look at Carter Hart in awe, Frost is the one prospect who’s breaking out.

We knew what Hart was — and what he’s doing in Everett is astonishing. We’ll see Hart plenty next week in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships. Frost wasn’t invited to Team Canada’s selection camp this year, but it’s a safe bet he’ll be there next year. We continue to see panic over the Brayden Schenn trade, but that’s misguided. Frost is turning out to be an intriguing prospect, and remember, the Flyers have another first-rounder from St. Louis. Frost is most certainly trending upward. Sound familiar?

Pascal Laberge, C, 19, 6-1/162, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Laberge has played his final game for Victoriaville, as the forward will be traded Monday to the Quebec Remparts, according to La Nouvelle’s Matthew Vachon. After a brief period to start the season, Laberge cooled off considerably and has since been inconsistent. In his final week as a Tigre, Laberge had a three-assist game last Friday night in Victoriaville’s 7-2 win over Shawinigan but was pointless in his two other games.

When evaluating Laberge, it’s hard to root against the versatile forward because of his backstory. The 19-year-old faced adversity throughout his draft year and then dealt with concussions during his first season as Flyers property. He’s a kid you want to succeed, and so far, he hasn’t been able to get back to his draft-year production. He has just six goals and 20 points in 31 games this year. He will get a fresh start with the Remparts.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
We’re starting to see Lindblom come into his own with the Phantoms. The Swedish forward continues to adjust to the North American game, and we’re seeing more consistency from him in the AHL. Last week was no different. Lindblom saw his point streak hit four games before coming to an end Sunday against Bridgeport. Lindblom scored his seventh goal of the season last Wednesday, which capped off a three-goal in a four-game stretch. Then he picked up an assist on Friday against Charlotte and another Saturday against Syracuse. When we look at the advanced metrics, with many thanks to Broad Street Hockey’s Brad Keffer, you can see Lindblom’s Corsi numbers consistently improving, which is an indicator that he’s becoming more comfortable here.

Carsen Twarynski, LW, 19, 6-2/201, Kelowna (WHL)
We don’t talk a lot about Twarynski, the Flyers’ 2016 third-round pick, but let’s check in on the defenseman-turned-left-winger. Twarynski, who the Rockets acquired last season from the Calgary Hitmen, is producing above a point-per-game in Kelowna. Twarynski had six points in four games last week. He has 24 goals — seven on the power play — and 39 points in 31 games. What exactly kind of future does Twarynski have? It’s tough to get a read on him because he’s a streaky player. Twarynski projects to be a serviceable AHL player, but whether he’ll be an NHLer is up in the air. His WHL numbers are respectable, but he doesn’t seem to have the consistency to excite.

Quick Hits
• As expected, German Rubtsov made Team Russia for the World Junior Championships. Last week, Rubtsov had a goal in two games for Acadie-Bathurst.

• Sarnia’s Anthony Salinitri has a three-game point streak after picking up two goals and an assist in three games last week. Salinitri has 33 points in 35 games this season.

Matthew Strome, of the Hamilton Bulldogs, extended his point streak to five games. Strome has three goals and six points during his streak. He has 17 goals in 32 games.

• Kitchener’s Connor Bunnaman’s point streak reached five games with a goal Friday and an assist Sunday. Bunnaman has seven points during his current point streak.

Samuel Morin returned to action last Tuesday for the Phantoms but sat out Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. He’s been dealing with lower-body injuries.

• Without any official declarations, it appears Mike Vecchione is dealing with some sort of injury with the Phantoms. Vecchione hasn’t played since Dec. 9.

• The offense has picked up for Nicolas Aube-Kubel in his second pro season. He had two goals and two assists in four games last week. He now has 21 points in 30 games.