Flyers

Claude Giroux's move to wing for Flyers keeps paying off in win

Claude Giroux's move to wing for Flyers keeps paying off in win

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What many believed was just crazy science is now a proven hypothesis. Dave Hakstol’s preseason lab experiment of putting Claude Giroux on left wing has encouraging test results. 

“That’s what we were looking for, and if you think back to it, those guys had a practice together and then we went away from it a bit,” Hakstol said. “There’s obviously some big changes there for ‘G’ and a different look with those three guys together. Give credit to those three guys. They’ve dug in and they’ve worked hard at it. Looking at it tonight, for sure, it’s an option.”

With one more preseason test run, the next true phase of the “G to the wing” project alongside Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek will begin Oct. 4 in San Jose. 

Thursday night’s 5-1 win over the Bruins was the proof the coaching staff and the front office needed to see against the most complete NHL level of competition the Flyers have played against during the preseason (see observations).

“I think today was our best game,” Giroux said. “We found each other a little bit better. We keep playing together, building on what we’re doing. Obviously, we’ve got some room for improvement, but we did a lot of good things out there.”

Giroux had a pair of assists in the victory. The trio of Giroux, Couturier and Voracek combined for six points and a plus-3 rating as each player turned in multi-point nights. If you were to chart the efficiency of this line over the course of this week's three games, the unit has continued to move in an upward trajectory.

“Yeah, I think we’ve gotten better every single game, especially on the turnovers,” Voracek said. “When we turn the puck over in the neutral zone, we go forward, which is really important. I think we can do it better.”

The move from center alleviates Giroux’s defensive responsibilities. In turn, Giroux can take more chances in the offensive zone while potentially increasing his shot production from the off wing.

“It’s different with ‘G’ on the left plank. I think he can risk a little bit more than when he was at center,” Voracek said. “For his advantage I think it’s real important that he can use the boards because he’s a very smart player. If you know how to use the boards, it’s a big advantage. I think we’ve been very good and we’ve just got to keep going.“ 

From that first day of the experiment, Giroux has seemed to embrace the change. Now he has the results to show for it with a pair of assists in each of his last two games at wing.

“When you play with two good players like that, and our D corps is playing great right now, it makes everybody’s job a lot easier,” Giroux said. “We like playing with each other, so hopefully we keep playing together.”

Welcome to the fight club
Picking on someone his own age is somewhat difficult to find for 19-year-old Nolan Patrick, so Thursday night he elected to go after a veteran 12 years his senior when he dropped the gloves with Boston center David Krejci (see video). Krejci had not fought in the regular season since 2011. 

“Not that old,” Patrick said jokingly when asked who was the oldest opponent he’s fought. “Kind of happened, I really wasn’t thinking too much. It kind of happens fast on the ice. Adrenaline kicks in. I’m not scared to do it if it happens, but it’s not a huge part of my game.”

“That wasn’t a necessity, but he did what he had to do in that situation,” Hakstol said. “There’s a couple other teammates that got in there and did a real good job, and for Nolan’s part, he did his part.”

Krejci even admitted he had some respect for the rookie for being willing to fight.

“Yeah, I don’t want to speak for him, but I felt like he was little over the line. He was willing to go, too,” Krejci said. “It wasn’t like I dropped and he was surprised. He was expecting that, so I kind of got to give him respect for that. First year in the league, so good for him. But at the same time, I thought he crossed the line a little bit. We fought and now it’s over with.”

When Patrick left the box approximately 4:30 into the third period, the home crowd gave the rookie a nice applause for the effort, and somewhere, Ed Snider was smiling.

In like a Lyon
Goalie Alex Lyon skated in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Thursday morning preparing as the backup for the Flyers’ game against Boston. Afterward, Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon informed Lyon that Michal Neuvirth was sick and he would be called on to start against the Bruins. So, Lyon and Phantoms backup Leland Irving carpooled from Allentown to Philadelphia during the afternoon.

Lyon responded by stopping 31 of 32 shots in earning the win, and perhaps leaving him with some confidence that he can fill in at a moment’s notice.

“Every minute I can get in here is big for confidence,” Lyon said. “It’s nice whenever you get up here to get that chemistry going with the guys, too. I felt good tonight, but the team was fabulous tonight. They played so well in front of me and made it easy.”

Lyon was expected to be back in the driver’s seat for the car ride back to Allentown since Irving is the projected starter for the Phantoms’ preseason game at the PPL Center against the Charlotte Checkers on Friday.

Seguin nets OT winner for Stars

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USA Today Images

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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AP Images

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.”