Flyers

As Flyers' season ends, questions remain on Jordan Weal, Anthony Stolarz's future

As Flyers' season ends, questions remain on Jordan Weal, Anthony Stolarz's future

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The look toward next season for the Flyers officially began Sunday night following their 4-3 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Among those who played in the season finale who will remain high on the radar are goalie Anthony Stolarz and winger Jordan Weal.

Weal is intriguing because he's unsigned for next season and general manager Ron Hextall hasn't indicated whether he will re-up Weal before the expansion draft.

An unknown commodity when he arrived in Philadelphia as part of the Vinny Lecavalier trade over a year ago, Weal now appears fully vested in the Flyers.

Weal never played left wing before and yet he seemed to fit like a glove on Valtteri Filppula's line with Wayne Simmonds.

He picked up one final assist Sunday and finished the season with eight goals and 12 points in 23 games.

"A lot of hockey is the belief you can play at certain levels," Weal said. "I think having some success up here in the last part of the season really gave me that belief I can play here and have an impact and help the team win hockey games.

"I feel like I'm part of the team, for sure. When you get in, it's a great group of guys. For myself, I can take positives out of it."

Weal is a snail-darter-kind-of-player barely standing 5-foot-9 and said he wants to remain a Flyer (see 10 observations).

"I'd love to stay here," Weal said. "This is an organization that gave me a chance to show my stuff. When I came up this year, I was in a position to have success and I'm very thankful and would like to stay here. When you get the players I was able to play with, it's a treat out there."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol threw his support behind Weal.

"He's been a good player for us and it's been a fairly small sample size," Hakstol said. "Training camp probably didn't go as scripted as he would have liked. At the end of camp, we went down to Lehigh Valley and there was no real bump for him."

Weal went down to the minors, proved himself as an AHLer -- again -- and then returned as an NHL player.

"He did a good job for us," Hakstol said. "He was a good player for us playing in a position he hasn't spent a lot of time at -- most of the time playing left wing. I thought Jordan acquitted himself very well and at a tough time of the year."

Stolarz may or may not be the Flyers' long-time goalie. He may or may not even be the backup next season. He sometimes appears a bit awkward in the net and seven games isn't a lot to go on, but there is no rational reason for the Flyers not to give him a long look in training camp.

In retrospect, those 19 games he sat here while Michal Neuvirth was injured could have been better used playing him more than the two starts he actually had, both of which he won. Stolarz went into the season finale with a 1.93 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

What did he learn?

"It's a lot faster than the American League," Stolarz said. "It's a lot of fun being here and I've just gotta keep working hard, working on my game and take everything that I've seen on video and just bring it back to Allentown."

There is one thing Stolarz will bring into training camp next fall that he didn't necessarily have last fall.

"Definitely confidence," Stolarz said. "Obviously coming up here and being able to play at this level and kind of show I can hold my own, kind of makes me want to go out there and just work that much harder and continue to work on my game and just continue working hard so I can try to earn a spot here next year."

There's a decent line of prospects waiting for the crease that includes Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom. Can Stolarz rise to the Flyers' next No. 1?

"In a few, down the road, I think," Stolarz said. "Of course I need to get some experience. It's not going to just be given to me, so I have to continue to work hard and work on aspects of my game.

"It's obviously a lot different than the American League. I just have to continue to work on little things. Things happen quicker and guys are smarter, so I just have to try to keep up with that."

He didn't earn Hakstol's full trust during Neuvirth's absence, as the Flyers rode Steve Mason night after night.

"There were a couple times where he showed good presence," Hakstol said. "I go back to the game in San Jose coming in after one [in relief] there and he did an excellent job. So I think that showed a little bit about where he was in terms of his mental process.

"He was ready to go, he was confident that night. He went in and he did a good job and his team played hard in front of  him, and I think we've seen a continuation of that every time he's been in that regardless of the situation, whether it was in relief or tonight like he did in a start."

That said, Hakstol wasn't ready to commit on Stolarz. Put it this way, Weal has more of a foothold on a roster spot, whereas Stolarz is going to have to turn his limited experience from this season into a platform to elevate himself above others in training camp.

When asked if he were ready for full-time duty in the NHL, Hakstol gave pause.

"I think it's a small sample size," Hakstol said of Stolarz. "I've seen enough of him to think that he's really making nice progress. In terms of answering your question, I think that's one that needs to be answered over time."

For both of these guys -- and a few others -- it starts in five months.

Ivan the Great
In his final game this season, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov logged 25:11. Nineteen times this season he was over 24 minutes.

Provorov's season average of 21:58 set a new ice time record for a Flyers rookie regardless of position.

He also became the first Flyers' rookie to appear in all 82 games during a season longer than 80 games. Four other players achieved that during the 80-game schedules of yesteryear: Mel Bridgman (1975-76), Behn Wilson (1978-79), Brian Propp (1979-80), and Jeff Chychrun (1988-89). Chris Therien appeared in all 48 games during the shortened 1994-95 season.
 
In addition to Provorov, Jake Voracek, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare each appeared in all 82 games this season. Chris VandeVelde missed his first game of the season as a healthy scratch Sunday.

Selfish, undisciplined play dooms Flyers in OT loss to Flames

Selfish, undisciplined play dooms Flyers in OT loss to Flames

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The Flyers' emotions got the best of them Saturday afternoon, and in turn, they got the best from Sean Monahan.

Monahan's second-period power-play hat trick was the result of the Flyers' selfish, undisciplined penalties, which allowed the Calgary Flames to erase a two-goal deficit and take down the Flyers, 5-4, at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Michael Frolik capped the Flames' comeback, converting on a 2-on-1 chance just 1:18 into overtime.

"It's not deflating — it pisses you off," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said, "when things are a little bit within our control at that point in time. They're penalties that could have been within our control. That obviously turned and changed the hockey game drastically."

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was the primary culprit behind the Flyers' lack of discipline.

After a fracas in front of the Flyers' bench that saw Michael Raffl take a stick up high, Gostisbehere was the recipient of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for yelling at referee Tim Peel. The Flyers successfully killed that two-minute minor and then Gostisbehere was sent back to the box 65 seconds later for elbowing Flames forward Micheal Ferland against the boards.

"I think I was upset overall," Gostisbehere said. "I took it out on the wrong guy. Just wasn't a good team player in that sense on that play — heat of the moment. Obviously, there are no excuses for something like that to happen. I wasn't thinking about my team there. I really let my team down."

"It varies from ref to ref," Brandon Manning said. "In Ghost's case, it was a point to where he was fed up. It wasn't what Ghost said directly. I think it was just a matter of things building up and the time and situation of it."

Monahan didn't score on Gostisbehere's unsportsmanlike penalty, but he did convert on the elbowing call, which completed his first career hat trick. He scored his first goal with Dale Weise in the box for high-sticking and then scored his second goal just three minutes and 44 seconds later, with Manning in the box for slashing and snapping Matt Stajan's stick.

"It's something I've been bad for lately and (what) I've tried to work on is keeping my stick down instead of going after the stick," Manning said. "I was a little surprised he pulled up and kind of backed off and I was just trying to get around him. That's the way it is. They're calling that a penalty now."

While the Flyers' top line has been a three-man show recently, it was the Flyers' No. 1 line that took center stage, as Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Ferland combined for four goals on 22 attempted shots, many of which were high-quality scoring chances.

The Flyers, now 8-8-4 and losers of four straight, jumped all over the Flyers with three first-period goals and taking a 3-1 lead after the opening 20 minutes. It also marked the second straight game the Flyers wasted a two-goal lead. Thursday, the Flyers scored two early goals, led for nearly 57 minutes and then watched it vanish in the final minute of regulation in Winnipeg.

"We were outshooting them pretty badly at one point and then the penalties gave them a chance to get back in the game," Sean Couturier said. "We got to be better on the PK, but at the same time, we've got to be more disciplined."

"We kind of just lost our heads there," Wayne Simmonds said. "I think groaning and moaning at the refs, but some of those penalties are penalties. We got to get better. We got to keep our heads and we just got to focus on the play because we had the game and then we let it go."

Radko a no-go
Radko Gudas was unavailable for Saturday's game against Calgary after he elected to have a phone hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety following his slashing penalty to the back of Mathieu Perreault's head Thursday in Winnipeg.

Gudas was ruled ineligible and sitting out Saturday's game will be applied to his suspension. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, “no decision to issue supplemental discipline is made before the player has the opportunity to explain his actions.”

With Andrew MacDonald still not ready for game action, Mark Alt replaced Gudas in the lineup and played 13 minutes and five seconds.

Another Johnny Hockey homecoming
South Jersey's Gaudreau had a successful trip back home establishing a new career-high nine-game point streak. Gaudreau scored Calgary's first goal on a breakaway, which was his fourth straight game with a goal.

Gaudreau also assisted on a pair of Monahan's power-play goals, giving him a three-point night.

"Yeah, this is a big win for us," Gaudreau said, "especially after the last game we had (an 8-2 loss to Detroit last Wednesday). Some big performers tonight, power play looked good, had a huge kill at the end there in the third and a big goal Frolik, so it was a good team win there."

Flyers-Flames observations: Funk continues despite four goals

Flyers-Flames observations: Funk continues despite four goals

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Thursday night, the Flyers couldn’t hold on to a third-period lead.

Saturday afternoon against the Flames, they Flyers coughed up a two-goal second-period lead, and Calgary won, 5-4, in overtime. Michael Frolik scored the game-winner from Micael Backlund.

The Flyers have dropped four straight, three by one goal. 

Flames center Sean Monahan scored a second-period power-play hat trick in a span of 7 minutes and 49 seconds.

• Nolan Patrick had a prime opportunity to pick up his second goal of the game in the third period — the rookie got his second tally of the season in the second period — when he collected a loose puck cutting across the crease, he just fired it over the net. This was Patrick’s best game in a Flyers sweater, as he was very active in the offensive zone.

• The Flames' top line had so many quality chances. Right wing Micheal Ferland had a shot from close range that Brian Elliott snared. That top line had 12 shots on net through the first two periods, and for the most part, they were from close range. 

• Travis Konecny had some excellent chances, but his shot has been all over the place the past few games. He had an opportunity to give the Flyers a 5-4 lead, but he shot over the net (again) and hit the glass.

• Patrick looked a lot better than what we saw in the game in Winnipeg, as expected. In the second period, he had a nice backhand feed from his knees to Wayne Simmonds coming down the slot, as Simmonds had his best scoring opportunity in a long time. The Wayne Train’s shot hit Mike Smith right in the midsection.  

• An unfortunate sequence at the 13:45 mark of the second period during 4-on-4 play. The Flyers had a 3-on-2 opportunity when Provorov sent a pass that was a little too far for Patrick. Provorov could have taken the shot himself.

• Johnny Gaudreau almost scored his second goal of the game — the South Jersey native scored on a first-period breakaway — as he read the puck and made a break toward center ice. Ferland recognized it and tried to send a two-line backhand pass to Gaudreau put the pass was behind him and it slid all the way to Elliott. You almost need a free safety back there keeping an eye on the always sneaky Gaudreau.

• The slashing penalty on Brandon Manning was ridiculous. Manning was simply trying to use his stick against Matt Stajan’s to win a puck battle, and Stajan’s stick wound up snapping in two.  

• Elliott made a terrific glove save on Gaudreau, who tried to pick the upper left corner with a wide-open wrist shot. That led to a rebound and no Flyer was there to clean it up. It all started up top when T.J. Brodie faked a shot, forcing Sean Couturier to go to the ice, and from there, the Flyers were all out of position. 

• Not a memorable game for Shayne Gositisbehere. Aside from the first period mishaps described below, he was sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct after saying something to the officials, and then went back to the box 65 seconds later when he got his elbow up on Ferland. Two bad mistakes that cost the Flyers two goals. 

• Monahan scored a second-period (power play) hat trick, with his third goal coming on a one-timer from the left circle. Monahan's absolute bomb beat Elliott glove-side high. 

• The Flyers scored on their first shot of the game, as Manning sent a somewhat harmless shot on goal that hit Smith’s shoulder, off the post, off Smith’s back and over the line. Michael Raffl provided the takeaway, creating the turnover and keeping the puck in the zone.  

• Two mistakes by Gostisbehere on one sequence. His outlet pass was picked off by Gaudreau, which led to Monahan’s shot and then "Ghost" failed to pick up Ferland on the back end. Gostisbehere doesn’t appear to be playing with much confidence right now. He had a clear opportunity to skate up the ice with the pick and hesitated, looking for someone to pass to. When he’s playing with confidence, you can see it with the puck on his stick.

• Wonder why 31-year-old Kris Versteeg has played for eight teams and can’t seem to stick around? Dumb, selfish plays like we saw in the first period when he takes an unsportsmanlike penalty on Taylor Leier after the linesman blew the whistle for offsides. Versteeg, obviously upset from a previous incident, took a run at Leier, and it cost the Flames a goal. 

• On the Flyers' power play, they did exactly what they’ve been trying to do over their last five games. Get shots in from the point and hope for rebound opportunities. Smith gave up a bad one on Jakub Voracek’s wrist shot and Couturier continued doing what he’s done all season, camping out in front of the net looking for leftovers. This time, he actually put the puck airborne. 

• Subtle but nice move from Jori Lehtera, who stepped into the faceoff circle and kicked the puck out to Ivan Provorov. Provorov then perfectly placed a shot over Smith’s glove-side shoulder and gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

• Couturier almost scored a second goal by nearly converting a backhand on a shorthanded breakaway as he came across the slot he tried to go between Smith’s pads. There was a slight opening, but Smith caught it short side with his right pad and kept it from going in. 

• As he’s been throughout the past four games, Elliott was splendid on a 4-on-3 penalty kill, as he was target practice from Gaudreau, Monahan, Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano. Elliott made four saves in a 40-second span.

Lines, pairings and scratches 

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny

Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds

Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg

Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere

Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Brian Elliott

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Radko Gudas (awaiting disciplinary hearing), Jordan Weal (upper body), Andrew MacDonald (IR)