Flyers

Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

Success at home hasn’t come easy for the Flyers this season. They’ve mustered just 15 goals and have dropped seven of their first 10 games at the Wells Fargo Center.

The suddenly resurgent Flyers (7-10-2) will try to reverse that trend when they open a three-game homestand against the Ottawa Senators (8-8-4) on Tuesday night.

With puck drop set for 7 p.m., here are five things you need to know for the Flyers’ second meeting with Ottawa in the past week:

1. Familiar foe
These two clubs met last Tuesday, and the Flyers put together one of their best performances of the season in a 5-0 victory at Canadian Tire Centre.

Jakub Voracek netted a pair of goals for the Flyers and Steve Mason turned aside all 24 shots fired his way. Matt Read, Vinny Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn also scored, while Claude Giroux picked up two helpers.

The Flyers peppered Senators netminder Craig Anderson, who returned to the lineup after missing more than a week with a neck injury, throughout the game, firing 31 shots on net.

Nicklas Grossmann and Luke Schenn spearheaded a strong effort from the Flyers’ defensive corps. The two defensemen combined for six hits and three blocked shots. In all, the Flyers registered 30 hits and 13 blocks and also limited stars Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson to five combined shots.

Ottawa enters this rematch having lost its last two matchups with the Flyers. However, the Sens have collected wins in two of their last three visits to Philadelphia.

2. New-look Flyers
The Flyers, who will play their 20th game of the season on Tuesday, have looked like a completely different team over the past week. They’ve collected at least a point in four consecutive games and have potted 13 goals during that stretch.

More importantly, the Flyers aren’t making the same mistakes -- careless turnovers, dumb penalties etc. -- that plagued them in their 3-9-0 start to the season. They’re consistently winning battles and have shown a better awareness of where teammates are on the ice.

Now, it’s time for the Flyers to carry over the success from their road trip to the Wells Fargo Center ice. They’ve been outscored 29-15 at home this season and have heard far more boos than cheers from the Flyers faithful.  

3. Struggling special teams
The Flyers are on a bit of a hot streak while on the man advantage. They’ve collected power-play goals in four of their last eight opportunities. However, the orange and black still rank toward the bottom of the NHL at PP effectiveness (13.9 percent).

What’s more concerning is the Flyers’ recent struggles while shorthanded. They’ve yielded four goals over the last 13 times they’ve been a man down, including two in Friday’s shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

“The two [power-play] goals in Winnipeg should have been defended,” head coach Craig Berube admitted Monday (see story). “There was a line change, and they shouldn’t have changed. The puck wasn’t in deep enough to change. The other one, I think we have to do a better job of getting a stick on that shot.”

Ottawa hasn’t fared much better on special teams as of late, either. The Senators got a power-play marker from Karlsson in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but have gone just 2 for 21 on the man advantage over their last six games.

The Senators’ penalty kill is having problems, as well. They’ve allowed opponents to connect on 7 of 23 power-play attempts in six games.

4. Keep an eye on
The Flyers may have shut out the Senators in their last meeting, but that doesn’t mean Ottawa’s offensive attack should be taken lightly.

Ryan, a first-year Senator, has collected four goals and 11 points in his past nine games. The New Jersey native is tied with Karlsson for the team-lead in points with 20.

And don’t forget about Spezza. The Senators’ captain has registered eight goals and 16 assists in 28 career games against the Flyers.

5. This and that
• The last time Ottawa visited Philadelphia, Colin Grenning scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:36 remaining in a 3-1 victory for the Sens on April 11.

• Mason is 2-0-2 in his past four starts and has allowed two goals or fewer during that stretch.

• Erik Condra is the only Senator on the team’s injury report. He’s out with a pulled muscle in his right leg.

• Voracek has four goals over his last four games against Ottawa.

• Adam Hall’s faceoff percentage is 85.7 percent (30 for 35) over his past five games.

Flyers have clear path to postseason but ...

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AP Images

Flyers have clear path to postseason but ...

It’s about to get real for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Real serious and potentially really hard. The Flyers have played the fewest divisional games of any team in the NHL.

That might be beneficial if the team located about 40 minutes off the shores of the Atlantic Ocean actually played in the Atlantic Division. The Flyers have hammered Atlantic teams this season: an 8-4-0 record including a win in Tampa and their most recent three-game series sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Whereas the Atlantic houses a collection of domesticated poodles and Pomeranians, the Metropolitan Division is more a breeding ground for vicious Dobermans and pit bulls.

And the Flyers are about to enter the teeth of that beast.

Dave Hakstol’s club plays 19 of their remaining 37 games against the rock-solid Metropolitan, the only 8-team division in hockey without a legitimate doormat or two. 

“It’s good or bad depending on whether you’re winning or not,” general manager Ron Hextall said.“It’s great taking points from other teams and adding to your total. It does put a higher importance on those games for sure. Every game is important, but certain games are just a little more important. Your lows can’t be too low. That’s the bottom line.

“They’re divisional games. They’re huge games for us, especially with how tight it is with that wild card spot,” center Sean Couturier said. “We’ve got to step up and be ready for the challenge.”

Unfortunately for the Flyers, their sore spot over their past two-plus seasons has been their play against the Metropolitan elites — the teams they’re typically chasing in the standings.

4-4-1 vs. Capitals
3-5-2 vs. Rangers
3-6-1 vs. Penguins
2-3-4 vs. Blue Jackets

Collectively, that’s a 12-18-8 record in the Dave Hakstol era with just a 4-9-6 mark on the road. Interestingly, defenseman Brandon Manning believes roster formation has been part of the reason behind the success of the Flyers' opponents.  

“Credit to them, I think they’ve done a good job of getting better every year,” Manning said. “You look at what Pittsburgh does with their turnover and still finding a way to win. Columbus is so much better and you look at Jersey, which hasn’t been the greatest team the past couple of years, but this year they have a really good hockey team. I think credit to those teams for finding a way to get better.” 

And if there’s a direct path to the postseason, then winning these crucial divisional games has to be the way to get there. Since the formation of the NHL’s current four-division alignment in 2013-14, the Metropolitan has sent 17 teams to the playoffs and only once has a team reached the postseason without a winning record within the division — the Pittsburgh Penguins finished 9-17-4 in the Metro in 2014-15. 

The Capitals, Rangers and Blue Jackets also have the luxury of rostering a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender in crucial divisional games, whereas, Hakstol will rely more on a platoon based on Elliott’s first-half workload and Neuvirth attempting to regain his early season form.  

“I haven’t studied the schedule that much in depth, but considering Moose started a stretch of 25 out of 30 games, that’s a real heavy workload,” Hakstol said. “I would expect the workload to be more spread out than that. We’ll find the best rhythm to be able and have both of them help our team.

“You need two goalies. I don’t care who you are,” Hextall said. “Look around the league. I said it before, there’s no Marty Brodeurs.”

Maybe not, but Saturday it all starts with Brodeur’s former team and with a back-to-back against the Devils and the Capitals this weekend. The Flyers' position within the division can change very drastically one direction or the other.

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

BOX SCORE

When asked what he thought about the current Flyers team prior to his retirement ceremony, Eric Lindros admitted he really didn’t know all that much regarding this year’s team. 

After Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Lindros’ hometown Maple Leafs (see observations), "Big E" and a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd learned something about the Flyers that no one in Philadelphia had been privy to.

The Flyers capped off their first win this season when trailing by two or more goals entering the third period. Interestingly, the only other third-period comeback that led to a victory was when they trailed this same Toronto team, 2-1, on Dec. 12. Prior to this game, the Flyers were 1-12-2 this season when trailing after two periods.

Certainly, the Flyers needed goal scoring, but more importantly, they also received a handful of momentum saves from goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

“Huge," Neuvirth said regarding his 29-save performance. “When we tied it, it was like, 'OK, here we go. You gotta be at your best right now.' So I was just focusing on the next shot. Just happy the way the guys responded in the third.”

Neuvirth had little, if any, margin of error after the Leafs scored twice in a 28-second span to grab a 2-0 advantage, but the Flyers' backup netminder provided a handful of momentum saves that allowed the Flyers to win in overtime.

• A minute after Wayne Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with a shorthanded goal, Neuvirth stopped Auston Matthews and Connor Brown on back-to-back shots, including an impressive blocker save on Brown from up close.

• With 2:48 remaining in regulation, Neuvirth made the save of the game with the Leafs coming down on a 2-on-1. Neuvirth expected Nazem Kadri to shoot. Instead, he passed it to his left, forcing Neuvirth to make a full extension on Patrick Marleau, turning aside the shot with the tip of his right pad (see highlights).

• Neuvirth denied Matthews from in tight with another pad save just 10 seconds into overtime. That save created a 2-on-1 scoring chance resulting in Sean Couturier’s game-winning score. 

“At least three 10-bell saves by Neuvy. He was tremendous,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We generated a lot in the third period, but when you give up those chances against, Neuvy stole the show in my opinion and you need those saves sometimes to win games. For me, he was first star.”

Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers needed an initial spark and 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick was surprisingly the one to provide it. After taking a shot that hit the side of the net and caromed behind it, Patrick chased down Mitch Marner, stole the puck and fired a quick shot on goaltender Frederik Andersen for his first goal in his last 25 games.

“I tried to forget how many games it was in a row without a goal and just keep playing,” Patrick said. “I thought I was playing some good hockey lately and I knew it would come.”

A minute and 52 seconds later, Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with the Flyers' second shorthanded goal of the season, extending his point streak to six games.

Struggling to find the right overtime combinations, Hakstol elected to go with the trio of Couturier, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to start the extra session. Couturier continued his magical run and now has 11 goals in his last 12 games, while also providing five game-winning goals in the Flyers' last 10 victories. 

“He’s hot. We keep calling him ‘Rocket,’" Simmonds said, referring to Hall of Famer Maurice “Rocket” Richard. “You just keep giving him the puck and he’s going to find the back of the net. When you’re hot, you want to keep giving it to a guy like that. Hopefully, he’s going to continue to score for us.”

More Couturier goals and more game-changing saves, and the Flyers will find themselves rocketing up the standings.