Flyers

Flyers-Capitals: 5 things you need to know

flyers-capitals-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Capitals: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (32-24-6) will wrap up their home-and-home series with the Washington Capitals (29-23-10) on Wednesday night.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center. The game will be televised on NBCSN.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. That’s all, folks
The Flyers and Capitals will clash for the fifth and final time this season on Wednesday. Washington won the first two contests before the Flyers reeled off back-to-back victories in the next two meetings.

Both clubs have 20 games remaining this season and are fighting for a playoff spot in the crowded Metropolitan Division. The Flyers currently hold the second-place position in the Metro with 70 points. The New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets are right behind them with 69 points apiece. The Capitals (68 points) and New Jersey Devils (67 points) are also within striking distance of the Flyers.

It’s at the point where every game the rest of the way will have Stanley Cup playoff implications. It’s important for the Flyers to make the most of their divisional games.

Sunday was a perfect example of that. The Flyers rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit and beat the Caps 5-4. Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux each tallied three points in the win and Vinny Lecavalier potted the game-winning marker at the 2:45 mark of overtime.

Voracek (four goals, two assists) and Giroux (three goals, three assists) have led the way for the Flyers in the team’s four games against the Caps this season. On the other end of the ice, Joel Ward (three goals, three assists) and Nicklas Backstrom (two goals, four assists) have given the Flyers headaches in the series.

2. Wheeling and dealing
NHL teams can make trades up until 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon but the Flyers and Capitals got a jumpstart on the deadline, both striking deals on Tuesday.

The Flyers bolstered their blueline by acquiring defenseman Andrew MacDonald from the New York Islanders in exchange for two draft picks and prospect Matt Mangene (see story).

“He’s a great addition for our team,” said Mark Streit, who played parts of three seasons with MacDonald on Long Island. “He’s a good, all-around defenseman. He plays well defensively, blocks a lot of shots and has a good first pass. It’s a really good mix.”

The Flyers now have nine defensemen on the active roster. What’s the next move? Will there be a next move? Anything can happen on deadline day. Stay tuned.

Washington, on the other hand, is likely done making moves. They sent a fourth-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for veteran forward Dustin Penner and shipped Martin Erat and John Mitchell to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Chris Brown, Rostislav Klesla and a draft pick on Tuesday.

Klesla and Brown are expected to join Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, but Penner will likely find himself on the Caps’ top line with Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

3. The Ovechkin factor
Speaking of Ovechkin, the Flyers did a fantastic job containing the Russian sniper in Sunday’s win at the Verizon Center.

Ovechkin, who is leading the NHL in goals with 43, finished the game with six shots in 20 minutes of ice time but did not register a point and was a minus-3 for the Caps.

It’s not often the Flyers can say they held Ovie off the scoresheet. The Caps’ captain has 26 goals and 16 assists in 32 career games against the orange and black.

Even scarier, Ovechkin always comes to play in Philadelphia. He has 16 markers and nine helpers in 18 career visits to Wells Fargo Center, including the playoffs.

The Flyers would be wise to stay out of the box. They gave the Capitals six power plays on Sunday and miraculously killed them all off. They won’t get away with giving Ovechkin and Washington’s prolific PP units that many opportunities again.

4. Injuries
Goalie Ray Emery (groin pull) isn’t ready to play just yet. Cal Heeter was recalled from the Adirondack Phantoms on Tuesday and will serve as Steve Mason’s backup.

For the Capitals, Jack Hillen (right tibia) and Mikhail Grabovski (left ankle) are listed as questionable for Wednesday’s tilt.

Aaron Volpatti is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury and won’t suit up.

5. This and that
• Giroux has seven goals and eight assists in his last 10 games.

• Dmitry Orlov, who was assessed a five-minute major for boarding Brayden Schenn on Sunday, will begin his two-game suspension.

• MacDonald had four goals and 20 assists while averaging over 25 minutes a game for the Islanders this season.

• Penner had 13 goals and 19 assists for the Ducks this season. He played on their top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

• Even with a win, the Caps can’t pass the Flyers in the standings. The Flyers hold the tiebreaker by having eight more regulation/overtime wins.

Flyers-Panthers observations: Goals continue to pile up in 5-1 win

Flyers-Panthers observations: Goals continue to pile up in 5-1 win

BOX SCORE

The second period has been the knockout round lately for the Flyers and that proved to be the case again on Tuesday night.

The Flyers won their second straight game at the Wells Fargo Center as they scored four goals in the second period to crush the Florida Panthers, 5-1. They proved once again that their four-line attack is simply too much for opponents. 

Going back to last Tuesday’s game in Nashville, Dave Hakstol’s team has now scored 10 second-period goals in its last three games.

Starting for the first time in 12 days, Michal Neuvirth was a well-oiled machine and showed no signs of rust as he stopped 40 shots for his first win of the season. The Panthers scored a power-play goal with 3:50 remaining to spoil Neuvirth’s chance at a shutout. 

• Neuvirth stymied the Panthers in spectacular fashion in the early stages. He denied Derek MacKenzie, Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov in the opening 20 minutes. It’s going to be hard for Hakstol not to reward Neuvirth with another start soon.

• The Flyers dominated mostly through their transitional game. One of the biggest differences in the opening month has been the Flyers’ ability to create quality scoring chances off the rush, and they dominated in that area Tuesday night.

• Shayne Gostisbehere scored his first goal of the season on a breakout after a nice give-and-go play with Wayne Simmonds. Jordan Weal deserved some sort of assist as he drove his defender Mark Pysyk into the shooting lane, blocking Roberto Luongo’s view. Instead, it was rookie Robert Hagg who picked up his first NHL point on the secondary assist that started the breakout. 

“We’re confident,” Gostisbehere said. “We’re riding high, but we have to keep an even keel and keep going.”

• Later in the second period, the Flyers’ power play went to work. After the Panthers’ shorthanded opportunity was thwarted, Valtteri Filppula fed a wide-open Claude Giroux, who beat Luongo through an exposed five-hole. Giroux pumped his fist in celebration, displaying some confidence that was lacking for most of last season.

• The prettiest scoring play of the night was reserved for the Flyers’ fourth goal. That play started when Travis Konecny outraced the defense for a breakaway that Luongo denied. A trailing Nolan Patrick fed a pass between his legs to Dale Weise, who slipped a wrist shot past Luongo. Patrick’s second career assist was proof of the hockey sense to know where his teammates are on the ice and a credit to his unselfish play (see video).

• Simmonds capped the entertainment value on this night when he roughed up the Panthers’ newest “enforcer” Michael Haley, dropping him to the ice following a series of rights. Haley joined the Panthers in the offseason after he was second in the NHL last season with 16 fights.

Simmonds was last on the ice around midway through the third period. He was taken out for precautionary reasons with a lower-body injury. A further update will be provided in the next two days.

• Sean Couturier’s office appears to be anywhere there’s blue paint. The Flyers’ top-line center opened the scoring from the seat of his pants as he was left alone in front, made a nice move and whacked away at a loose puck that just crossed the line behind Luongo. Of Couturier’s four goals, the puck has yet to leave the ice.

First-period observations
• If you’re going to get burned on a breakaway, better make it against a fourth-line center. Florida’s MacKenzie was denied a point-blank shot in the first period as Konency did an excellent job of racing back to get his stick on the puck from behind MacKenzie without committing a penalty.

• Looking for his first goal since the season opener in San Jose, Weal had two prime opportunities in a span of 15 seconds to score on the Flyers’ first power play. Playing his off wing, Weal misfired on one chance and missed the net on the other.  

• Panthers center Owen Tippett made his NHL debut Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center. Tippett was the 10th overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft, and he’s the fifth player from the most recent draft class to play in the league this season. Unlike Patrick, selected second overall, Tippet was a non-factor.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratched: Jori Lehtera and Travis Sanheim.

Travis Sanheim likely to sit again vs. Panthers

Travis Sanheim likely to sit again vs. Panthers

VOORHEES, N.J. — It looks as though Travis Sanheim will sit for the second straight game vs. the Panthers tonight (see Flyers-Panthers thoughts)

Now, before you get angry — and fire off a hot take about Andrew MacDonald or Brandon Manning — understand this isn’t a death sentence for Sanheim.

The Flyers have played all of five games this season. Sanheim has played in three, and after a bumpy NHL debut vs. the Kings, the talented rookie showed growth to round out the Flyers’ season-opening road trip (see Flyers Rookie Report)

“I think that the L.A. game was a bit of a wash, with it being my first game and it not going the way I wanted it to,” Sanheim said Tuesday after morning skate. “But I thought the other two games, you started to see some more of the way I want to play. I thought even into the Nashville game, I got better that night, as well. I think that’s what you want to see with a young guy, is getting better every night and I’ll continue to do that.”

And after watching from the press box during Saturday’s blowout win vs. the Capitals, the Flyers’ top defensive prospect will get his chances ... at some point. 

“I don’t have a number for you there,” Hakstol said of when we could see Sanheim crack the lineup. “But your players have to play. That doesn’t mean they have to play every game, but certainly they have to learn, both off the ice, on the ice, practice, game-wise and continue to grow.”

So Sanheim — who is a minus-two with zero points — has to learn the NHL game. It’s not uncommon for rookie defensemen to struggle with the speed and skill of the NHL in the early parts of their careers.

“The position is a hard position to make the adjustment to and to learn,” Hakstol said. “That being said, I think your players can be successful in making the jump and making the transition.”

If Sanheim needs any inspiration, he simply needs to look a few lockers down at Ivan Provorov. 

Provorov made the jump straight from the WHL (junior hockey) to the NHL last season, and early on, it wasn’t a particularly smooth transition. The then 19-year-old bottomed out at a minus-5 in an October loss to Chicago but blossomed into the team’s No. 1 defenseman in the second half of the season.

Sure, Sanheim has taken his lumps this season, but he hasn’t necessarily been bad. Hakstol even went as far as to say that he’s been happy with the 21-year-old’s play.

“I’ve been very happy with him," Hakstol said. “I’ve been happy with Travis’ play. We want him to keep growing. He’s going to continue to be a big part of our group. He’s got a great attitude and a great perspective in terms of being able to handle all the different situations that come his way.”

Sanheim said the coaching staff hasn’t ordered him to focus on any one aspect of his game, but after Tuesday’s optional morning skate, the rookie stayed on the ice for an extra 30 minutes with the staff and Jori Lehtera — who has been a healthy scratch for all five games this season — working on clearing the crease. 

It all comes down to the numbers. And right now, the Flyers have seven solid defensemen. 

“The other night (Saturday vs. Capitals), obviously I wanted to be in the lineup, but we've got seven good [defensemen] right now and obviously there’s going to be a guy sitting, and it just happened to be me the other night,” Sanheim said. “It was a learning experience. I think I can gain a lot from watching and seeing some of those guys, how they handle themselves in certain situations and I thought I gained a lot from it the other night."

Not convinced? Last season, rookie winger Travis Konecny and second-year D-man Shayne Gostisbehere both served multiple stints in Hakstol’s doghouse — the press box — and have seemingly turned things around to begin this season. This year, Gostisbehere is second on the team in points with eight, while, more importantly, he and Konecny are both a plus-2 on the year — good enough for a tie for third on the team. So, like it or not, maybe there is some good to sitting a young player for a few games. 

“Ultimately, as a young guy, I think there’s a lot of things you need to work on and for me, it's just working hard in practice and getting better every day,” Sanheim said. “I just want to try and establish myself as an everyday player. 

“I’ve been through this before. My first year of junior, I didn’t play right away and I was a healthy scratch for five games there, so I’ve been through the process before and I understand the situation that I’m in and ultimately, it’s up to me whether I want to play every night and I've got to show them that I’m deserving of that and obviously, it's going to maybe take some time but I’m willing to put in the work.”

Projected lines
With only 11 players skating, there was no line rushes or defensive pairings, but coming off an 8-2 win, it’s hard to imagine Hakstol making any changes to the lineup. However, it looks as though Michal Neuvirth will get the start in net. 

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
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches
Forward Jori Lehtera and defenseman Travis Sanheim