Flyers

Figuring out the Flyers: Forwards Part II

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Figuring out the Flyers: Forwards Part II

Note: This is the second installment of a series looking at the Flyers' offense. For Part I, click here.

The Flyers' defense got much of the attention, but the team's offense struggled in 2013, as well. What follows is an examination of the second group of Flyers forwards - and while most took steps back, not all did.

Keep in mind: some players such as Jason Akeson, Ben Holmstrom and Eric Wellwood didn’t play enough games to warrant review.
 
Also, pending free agents like Ruslan Fedotenko, Simon Gagne and Adam Hall were evaluated previously (see story).
 
Matt Read
Age: 26
Games played: 42
Stats: 11 goals, 13 assists
Plus/minus: plus-1
Average ice time: 18:01
Cap hit: $900,000 (last year)
 
Were it not for a rib cage injury that held him back in February, Read might have had better numbers than he did a year ago over a full 82-game slate.
 
He’s another guy that other clubs want to talk about when it comes to trades. Like Couturier, retains that value moving ahead. What hurts him here is UFA status next season when the Flyers have a number of players to re-sign.
 
Zac Rinaldo
Age: 22
Games played: 32
Stats: three goals, two assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 8:22
Cap hit: $750,000 (next two years)
 
For a guy who averages a little over eight minutes a night, Rinaldo packs quite a punch. Consider that he was second on the team in hits with 143 - better than four per game.
 
Coach Peter Laviolette loves the energy Rinaldo brings and the fact he is not afraid to fight. Rinaldo actually took his game to a new level this season in that he learned – quite effectively – how to draw penalties.
 
Coaches say they want to give him work on the penalty kill, but that has yet to happen for two seasons now. Maybe it needs to happen next fall.
 
Jay Rosehill
Age: 27
Games played: 11
Stats: one goal, no assists
Plus/minus: minus-4
Average ice time: 6:47
Cap hit: $675,000 (next two years)
 
No matter how you slice ‘n dice it, the Flyers needed a heavyweight enforcer. They had no healthy enforcer with genuine NHL experience in their system once Tommy Sestito was claimed off waivers by Vancouver.
 
Rosehill is young and gets a chance to grow in the role while also offering some offense, though not a ton. Like many heavies, he’s a pleasant chap off the ice, too.

Brayden Schenn
Age: 21
Games played: 47
Stats: eight goals, 18 assists
Plus/minus: minus-8
Ice time: 15:31
Cap hit: $3.11 million (final year)
 
Schenn took steps backwards in 2013. It remains to be seen whether he can ever really be an effective centerman as opposed to playing on the wing.
 
Though he’s moved throughout the lineup these past two seasons, Wayne Simmonds has been a near constant on his line. Like his brother, Luke, you see a development curve. He needs to improve defensively.
 
When the Flyers traded for his brother, it gave Schenn a certain amount of protection he would not be dealt if other clubs came calling. After this season, however, no forwards other than Giroux and Jakub Voracek, remain untouchable this summer.
         
Wayne Simmonds
Age: 24
Games played: 45
Stats: 15 goals, 17 assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 15:38
Cap hit: $3.975 million over the next six years
 
The man with the skinny lamb-chop legs, is a tough hombre in front of the net and might have surpassed his career goal output (28) if this had been a full 82-game season.
 
He’s been linked to Schenn most of his time here with a rotating winger on the other side. He's willing to engage and play through pain. He’s a fun player to watch but needs to cut back on penalty minutes – had 82 this season.
 
Max Talbot
Age: 29
Games played: 35
Stats: five goals, five assists
Plus/minus: plus-2
Average ice time: 15:25
Cap hit: $1.75 million the next three years
 
When he slumped badly at the start – 21 games without a goal – Talbot's crutch was that scoring wasn’t his thing but strong defensive play and penalty killing were. While that may be true, the Flyers expect more and need offense from Talbot next season.
 
Talbot had 19 goals in 2011-12 and should have gotten 9 or 10 this season. He missed the final 13 games with a broken left leg. He needs to think of himself differently: like, remember Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2009 against Detroit?
 
Jakub Voracek
Age: 23
Games played: 48
Stats: 22 goals, 24 assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 17:14
Cap hit: $4.25 million next three years
 
Voracek was Jaromir Jagr’s prized student who simply blossomed on a bad team coming out of the lockout. He led the Flyers in goals and was second only to Giroux in shots (129). He won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.
 
And there’s the difference: shots. A year ago, all Voracek did was look to pass the puck, constantly passing up scoring opportunities. The coaches drilled into his head that he had to think "shot" before passing, and survey the ice. His chemistry with Claude Giroux is undeniable.
 
The Flyers think they have untapped the potential Voracek had in him. Every indication is that there is more yet to be gained, but not at the expense of defense.

Flyers-Oilers thoughts: Welcoming the best player in the world to Philly

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USA Today Images/NBCSP

Flyers-Oilers thoughts: Welcoming the best player in the world to Philly

Flyers (4-3-0) vs. Oilers (2-4-0)
1 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 12:30

The best player in the world comes to South Philly today. Get your popcorn ready.

The Flyers, coming off a 1-0 loss to the Predators, host the Oilers in their first matinee of the season at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s Game 4 of the Flyers’ five-game homestand.

Let’s dive into some pregame thoughts before puck drop.

• Move over, Sidney Crosby. There’s a new sheriff in town. It’s time to anoint Connor McDavid as the best player in the world. Many already have. I’m fully on board now.

This kid is special, and each game he does something that blows your mind. On Thursday night, it was a ridiculous spin-o-rama assist against the Chicago Blackhawks.

What made the play exceptional was who he did it against, Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Between the two are seven All-Star Game appearances, two Norris Trophies and one Conn Smythe Trophy, so that’s no joke.

McDavid has three goals and five assists in six games this season. He has 156 points in 133 career games. He’s 20 years old. He should be the face of the league yesterday.

Market him better. I don’t care that he plays in Canada.

• It’s time to put the Brandon Manning-McDavid storyline to bed. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s overplayed (see story). If Manning is in McDavid’s head, it’s not for the better.

McDavid scored a goal and an assist last season in Philadelphia in his first game against the Flyers since Manning broke McDavid’s collarbone with a clean hockey play.

Then, in Edmonton, McDavid had a goal and two assists. Manning played both games. So if anything, it’s adding extra motivation for the best player in the world.

• It appears Travis Sanheim will remain in the lineup, a positive for two reasons:

1. Thursday against Nashville was Sanheim’s best game.

2. Sanheim’s speed and skating is a plus when having to defend McDavid.

Will Sanheim see much ice time against McDavid? I sure hope not. But the Oilers are a decent skating team, and McDavid’s speed is insane. You want as much speed against them as possible.

• You sure hope Jordan Weal can return after missing Thursday with an injury to part of his body. Weal is an important piece for the Flyers, and without him, Dave Hakstol will have to shuffle up his lines. Simply can’t replace Weal with Jori Lehtera on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

That unit against the Predators was a disaster. If Weal is out again, I’d insert Matt Read into the lineup. He’s better suited for what the Flyers are doing now than Lehtera.

The good news is Weal practiced Friday. He’s expected to play.

• Three random Flyers stats:

1. Jakub Voracek needs two more points to reach 500 in his career. He will become the 23rd Czech player with 500 career points.

2. Shayne Gostisbehere’s 10 points are the most by a Flyers defenseman through the team’s first seven games dating back to the 1987-88 season.

3. Michal Neuvirth leads NHL goaltenders with a .957 save percentage. He was the worst qualified goalie last season in that category.

• The Oilers again will be without center Leon Draisaitl because of a concussion. Draisaitl practiced Friday but is still feeling symptoms. He hasn’t played since Oct. 9.

• Kailer Yamamoto, the Oilers’ 2017 first-round pick, has seen an increased role with Draisaitl injured. Edmonton has four more games to decide whether it’ll keep Yamamoto or send him back to junior. Yamamoto enters today on a three-game assist streak.

Here is the Flyers' projected lineup:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Jori Lehtera and Matt Read, and defenseman Brandon Manning.

Best of NHL: Ovechkin wins it for Caps in OT over Red Wings

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AP Images

Best of NHL: Ovechkin wins it for Caps in OT over Red Wings

DETROIT — Alex Ovechkin’s power-play goal at 1:56 of overtime gave the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

T.J. Oshie forced the extra session for the Capitals, tying it with 1:01 left in regulation with a power-play goal of his own. Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty on Trevor Daley in overtime, then won it with his 10th goal of the season - a familiar slap shot from the left circle that beat Petr Mrazek to the glove side.

Tomas Tatar scored twice in the third period for Detroit. His second goal came on the power play after John Carlson was called for delay of game. But Dylan Larkin was whistled for the same penalty toward the end of the period, and Oshie was able to tie it at 3 with Caps goalie Braden Holtby pulled.

Darren Helm scored a short-handed goal for the Red Wings in the second. Andre Burakovsky tied it for the Capitals in the final minute of that period, and Jay Beagle added a short-handed goal of his own in the third for Washington (see full recap). 

Conor Sheary lifts Penguins past Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. — Conor Sheary scored a power-play goal with 2:53 left to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.

Sheary backhanded the puck past James Reimer.

Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist, and Sidney Crosby and Carter Rowney also scored for the Penguins. Matthew Murray stopped 28 shots, and Phil Kessell had two assists.

MacKenzie Weegar scored his first NHL goal and Aleksander Barkov and Jamie McGinn also scored for the Panthers. Reimer, who came in to relieve an injured Robert Luongo with 15:14 left in the third, made 11 stops.

Luongo made 33 saves before he left with a hand injury. He was hurt when Sheary backed into him, forcing his right hand hard against the post.

The Panthers tied it at 3 on Weegar's goal with 10:41 left. Weegar shot from the point and beat Murray (see full recap). 

Martin Jones makes 28 saves, Sharks beat Devils 3-0
NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun  had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl (see full recap).