Flyers

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

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If only every game for the Flyers down the stretch could serve up the Colorado Avalanche. Were that to transpire, Dave Hakstol's club would be a lock to make the playoffs.
 
Tuesday was the final time the Flyers will see Colorado this season. Too bad for the Flyers because they threw snowballs at the Avs to the tune of a 4-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
 
The Flyers finished February with just four wins in 11 games. Now the team gets set for the post-trade deadline portion of its schedule, which features 20 games in 40 days to end the regular season.
 
How the Flyers fare will determine their playoff fate.
 
Amid this rout, general manager Ron Hextall was spending a lot of time on the phone while assistant GM Barry Hanrahan, his capologist, was on his computer much of the night as the deadline hits Wednesday.
 
According to a report by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Flyers had contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent Michal Neuvirth. Sources said Neuvirth did not agree to a contract. His agent, Patrik Stefan, did not comment.

Hextall is apparently trying to work a deal, and you would have to think it was something larger (see story).
 
The opening period was all Wayne Simmonds on Tuesday, who briefly appeared to have a natural hat trick midway into the first period before it was determined the Flyers' third goal went off an Avs player and was credited to Jakub Voracek (see feature highlight).
 
"I hope it's the first and last time I get booed for scoring a goal," Voracek said after it was taken away from Simmonds.
 
The Avs are the worst team in the NHL. This win was certainly welcome news for the Flyers, who played a fast and energetic game in which they seemed relaxed.
 
"Twenty games left … a good step but the thing is not to get too high," said goalie Steve Mason, who picked up his first win this month. "It's one win, but we have a lot of work to do."
 
It gets harder immediately with Florida and Washington up next.
 
"We had the same type of start tonight we had the last couple nights and tonight we had some reward for it," coach Dave Hakstol said. 
 
Simmonds came into this game with one of the club's two shorthanded goals this season. He now has two himself after Matt Duchene coughed up a puck to Andrew MacDonald to start a rush that ended with Simmonds scoring on goalie Jeremy Smith.
 
His next goal was a redirect on the power play off a point blast from Shayne Gostisbehere. Voracek's goal was actually a pass intended for Simmonds on the power play when it glanced off of Francois Beauchemin to make it 3-0 at 10:35.
 
"It was good for us. We need that," Simmonds said. "It was a good win. I thought we played well. We didn't play perfect but well enough to get the win."
 
Asked about losing a natural hat trick, Simmonds didn't want any part of taking credit for the goal. 

"No, not a chance," he said. "I knew it was Jake's goal."
 
All those hats on the ice went to no good, too. Feel any responsibility to return them to their rightful owners?
 
"What am I supposed to do?" Simmonds said. "Go give every single one their hat back? It's not my fault, sorry."
 
Simmonds is on pace to score 35 goals this season. Of his 27 so far -- most of which have come in the crease -- he has 13 on the power play, which places him second behind Brayden Schenn (14) for the NHL lead.
 
"I'm lucky, I'm getting some bounces right now," Simmonds said. "But the whole idea is to try to disrupt the goalie's flow and to take his eyes away and get some rebounds.
 
"Whether I am scoring goals or not scoring goals, I am doing the same thing. I got a good bounce on the first one and G (Claude Giroux) and Ghost made a great play on top of the second one."
 
Now Mason, who sat six straight games, certainly wasn't going to be in game shape. Yet he had several good stops and finished with 33 saves. His last win, Jan. 25, was a shutout, as well.
 
He also had to handle a penalty shot from Mikko Rantanen, who was hooked from behind by Radko Gudas early in the second period. Mason knocked Rantanen's penalty shot away into the corner with his stick. 

This was Mason's 216th game played, third most of any Flyers goalie all-time.
 
"It's been a tough month, a lot of practice," he said of being benched in favor of Neuvirth. "When you're practicing, you're not getting game action and practices become tedious. … Pretty much every game now is must-win.
 
"It's hard to make up ground with three- and four-point games and people playing each other. For us, we have to focus on one game at a time and understand the importance of each."
 
Jordan Weal's first NHL goal early in the second made it 4-0. The Flyers had not scored four goals since Jan. 12 when they came from behind to stun Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout.
 
"It felt really good," Weal said. "It was a long time coming. I'm just trying to work as hard as I can and create as many chances when I'm out there."
 
He again played on the top line with Giroux and Simmonds.
 
"It's awesome when you get to play with guys like that," Weal said. "First couple games, I was playing with Coots (Sean Couturier) and Jake and when you play with guys like that, you play your own game and work with them.
 
"If you can get your give and go and cycle game going with them, you'll create a lot of offense. When you get to play with guys like G and Simmer, you just have to get open and good things will happen."

3 reasons why Flyers shut down 'best player in the world' Connor McDavid

3 reasons why Flyers shut down 'best player in the world' Connor McDavid

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A stat line of 0 goals, 0 assists and 0 points has never looked so good.

That's how Connor McDavid will remember his 22:03 of ice time Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

In another tight-checking defensive battle, it was Wayne Simmonds who scored the game-winner with 2:15 remaining in the third period to give the Flyers a 2-1 victory over the Oilers (see observations).

"Pretty big emphasis," Simmonds said of McDavid. "He's probably the best player in the world right now, so you know, we just didn't want him getting the puck in full flight.

"We just wanted to keep him on the outside and kind of limit the touches he was getting."

Aside from the broken collarbone game during his rookie season, when he was forced to leave in the second period, this marked the first time the Flyers held the 20-year-old superstar without a single point.

Prior to Saturday, McDavid had registered six points against the Flyers with at least one point in three straight games.

So, how did the orange and black bottle up the Art Ross Trophy winner — the only NHL player to top 100 points last season?

1. Deploy a multitude of forward lines and defensive pairings
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol started the game matching McDavid's line with Scott Laughton's line. In the final two periods, the task of slowing down McDavid — for the most part — was left to Sean Couturier and the Flyers' top line.

McDavid had five extended shifts of 1:30 or longer, requiring the Flyers to use a combination of lines and bodies against McDavid. Last year, McDavid may have capitalized against a slower Flyers team but this season, there is more balance across the four lines.

"It's real important," Hakstol said. "And it's not just the extended shifts. He's got an ability to finish a long shift, take one off and come right back, and that can be challenging."

2. Ensure Ivan Provorov was on the ice
After the Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg pairing handled some of the first-period shifts against McDavid, it was Provorov who primarily handled those duties in the final 40 minutes. Paired mostly with Andrew MacDonald, Provorov also saw ice time with Hagg, Radko Gudas and even Gostisbehere in the third period.

Fronted by Provorov, McDavid failed to register a single shot on Brian Elliott in the third period. Not surprisingly, Provorov played a season-high 25:54.

"His skating ability and his positioning on the ice is so good he's able to slow guys down to kind of put him on his back, just kind of angle them into parts of the ice they don't want to go into," MacDonald said. "It makes it a lot easier when you're playing with a guy who's capable of doing that so well and covering so much ground. It's great to see and he just keeps getting better."

3. Flyers took away his world-class speed
McDavid may be the fastest player in the world with the puck on his stick in the open ice. In fact, McDavid's glide has more speed to it than most players' stride. If you didn't know that prior to the Flyers-Oilers game, you certainly didn't walk away with the belief that McDavid possesses the acceleration of an Italian-engineered sports car. There wasn't one time Saturday you could recall McDavid flying into the offensive zone with the puck on his stick.

"You can't let him get speed because if he does, he's gone," Laughton said. "I think that's the biggest thing. Take away his speed early, so he can't get that puck and take it away down low too. I thought we did a good job."

For Hakstol and Co., bottle up this game plan for the future. It will come in handy when the Flyers take on the Oilers on Dec. 6 in Edmonton.

The Guy
Guy Lanzi has been the Flyers' oral surgeon since 1993. In that time, Lanzi has pulled, repaired or replaced hundreds of chiclets and Friday afternoon was no different.

Simmonds sat in Lanzi's dentist chair for nearly four hours to have some extensive dental work after taking a puck to the mouth while sitting on the bench Thursday against the Predators.

"No surgery — just a lot of work," Simmonds said Saturday. "I was in the doctor's office for a while there. Couple of root canals, couple of pulled teeth replaced, couple teeth bridged. Work is not done yet. I got to go back soon."

Because of that, Simmonds was forced to wear the protective face guard to ensure a puck or stick doesn't do any more damage.

“I can't be getting hit in the mouth again or the rest of my teeth are going to fall out,” Simmonds said.

The reward for Simmonds' mouth-numbing procedure was his fist-pumping, crowd-roaring game-winner and his team-leading sixth goal and fourth game-winner of the season.

“I don’t know how many people would want to go through that and then come back and play a hockey game," Hakstol said, "but he did it, and he scored the game-winner.”

“I think just getting two points satisfies me," Simmonds said. "I’m in a lot better spirits today.”

Flyers-Oilers observations: Red-hot Wayne Simmonds plays hero in win

Flyers-Oilers observations: Red-hot Wayne Simmonds plays hero in win

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For the second straight game, the Flyers were forced to get defensive, and this time, they found a way to come out on top Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Wayne Simmonds produced the game-winner after taking a pass from Valtteri Filppula and snapping it past Cam Talbot with 2:15 remaining in the third period.

It was a tight-checking game that played out similar to what we saw Thursday against the Predators, as the Flyers held the Oilers to 24 shots on net. Connor McDavid registered four shots on net but wasn’t much of a factor offensively.

• The Flyers jumped on the board first with the help of their first power play when Shayne Gostisbehere’s blast from the point was deflected out front by Wayne Simmonds right to Claude Giroux, who corralled the loose puck and punched it into a wide-open net for his fifth goal of the season. 

Following an 0 for 5 effort against Nashville, the Flyers needed to capitalize on the man advantage chances.  

“We just have a lot of different looks this year,” Gostisbehere said to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Chris Therien during the first intermission. “We have so many plays out there. It’s harder for other teams to prepare for us. We’re getting pucks to the net and our guys are doing what they're supposed to do.”

• Former Phantom Patrick Maroon finally got the Oilers on the board with 4:23 remaining in the second period when he outmuscled rookie Nolan Patrick along the corner boards, coming away with the puck and making a move past Ivan Provorov, before putting a shot between Brian Elliott’s pads. 

Patrick appeared to have been distracted by a broken stick along the boards that made him hesitate with the puck. The Flyers' rookie center could have elevated the puck with his backhand, but by holding onto to it for a split second too long, he allowed Maroon to come up with the takeaway.

• The Flyers got careless defensively in the opening 10 minutes of the second period as defensive breakdowns led to some quality scoring chances for the Oilers.

• The Flyers did a solid job of containing last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner McDavid, primarily deploying Scott Laughton’s line along with the Sean Couturier line sometimes during the same shift. McDavid had some extended shifts — three even-strength shifts over 1:30 — requiring the Flyers to use a multitude of forwards and defense pairs.

• McDavid left the game briefly in the first period and returned midway through.

• Jori Lehtera produced his best scoring chance of the season when he took Radko Gudas’ outlet pass and attempted to squeeze through a pair of defenders. The plodding Lehtera was unable to gain enough speed for an uncontested shot, but with his strong forearms and hands, he was able to draw a slashing penalty and still put a shot on net. 

• Last season, Giroux didn’t score his fifth goal until Nov. 29th. 

• Both Taylor Leier and Jordan Weal missed Saturday’s game with upper-body injuries. According to general manager Ron Hextall, both forwards are day-to-day. 

• Referee Ian Walsh was honored prior to the game for officiating his 1,000th career game. Flyers captain Claude Giroux presented Walsh with a framed autographed jersey signed by the team with the No. 1,000 on the back.

Lines, pairings and scratches
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jori Lehtera-Valterri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Matt Read-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jordan Weal, Taylor Leier and Brandon Manning