Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: Debuts and possible Philly swan songs

Flyers Weekly Observations: Debuts and possible Philly swan songs

This is it -- the final Flyers Weekly Observations column of the season.

Queue the sad intro music.

But this last go-round does leave us with plenty to chat about, as the Flyers played three eventful games this past week. They fell to the New York Rangers, 4-3, last Sunday at MSG, dropped a 1-0 overtime decision to the New Jersey Devils in Newark on Tuesday and rebounded with a strong 4-2 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon.

Let's take a closer look at the week that was for the Flyers.

• Everybody loves talking about the prospects, especially now that the playoff hunt is over, so let's start there. I thought Sam Morin was very solid Tuesday in New Jersey during his debut. He was just getting his feet wet in the first period and it showed, as he was forced to rush a few plays and then absorbed a couple hits. And that's what you would expect early on from a 21-year-old rookie in his debut. During his first intermission interview with Chris Therien, he readily admitted the game was way faster than anything he experienced at the AHL level. But Morin settled in nicely. You have to like the way he used his size to deny puck carriers and rushes at the blue line. To me, the best play he made was when he denied Taylor Hall a clean breakaway in the second period. Hall can turn on the burners with the best of them, but Morin used his speed to get back and disrupt Hall, not allowing the Devils' star to get off a clean shot. Quite impressive. He almost scored himself when he ripped a one-timer from the slot in the second period, but Jersey goalie Keith Kinkaid had the answer. All in all, a nice showing from Morin to whet the appetite of Flyers fans.

• Say what you want about Steve Mason, but you can't deny these numbers -- 103 wins in 230 games as a Flyer, both third-most in team history in the respective categories behind just Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall. Saturday marked his 200th NHL win, a pretty impressive milestone. Yes, consistency has been an issue over the years, but he's been a pretty damn good goalie in a city that's been starved for one. Remember when he carried the Flyers on his back to the playoffs at the end of last season? That may have been the best stretch of his 10-year career. His honesty in the locker room after games is always refreshing, too. If Saturday's win was indeed his swan song in Philadelphia, Mason left his mark here. Of course, the Flyers' goalie situation is still very much unsettled heading into the summer.

• Another week, another Travis Konecny benching to talk about. After taking a bad tripping penalty in the first period Tuesday against New Jersey, the 20-year-old rookie was benched by Dave Hakstol for the entire second period. I get the need to teach lessons in development, but what is this proving anymore? These are important minutes for Konecny as he continues to grow into a possible prime scoring role next year. It's only natural for a kid to keep thinking about this kind of stuff. I like what CSNPhilly.com Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio said last week when he wrote about Konecny: "Both Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere were Hakstol's poster boys for discipline this season while certain veterans, who committed far more egregious errors, or simply disappeared for games on end, skated off without discipline. No benchings, no cut in ice time." Straight to the point.

• What is it about Kinkaid that makes him like kryptonite to the Flyers? This year against the Flyers, Kinkaid is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average, a .967 save percentage and a shutout. Against everyone else, he's got a 5-13-3 record. He's been a red-and-black brick wall against the Flyers this year.

• Valtteri Filppula's shuffle with the puck to end Sunday's playoff-eliminating loss to the Rangers definitely looked odd. But his explanation afterward did make some sense. The Rangers had a wall set up in front of him and he didn't want to just fire into it and have the rejected puck bounce right back to him. That would have been useless and would have wasted even more time. He was just trying to make a play rather than waste time or turn it over. Another thing about that deflating loss at The Garden -- give the Flyers some credit there. They were down 4-1 and could have just rolled over. They fought to the bitter end and brought the house. The Rangers were just better.

• Good to see the refs overturn the goalie interference call on Sean Couturier Saturday after a video review and rightfully give Michael Del Zotto his goal. That one would have been just brutal to not have. Seth Jones, not Couturier, clipped Sergei Bobrovsky. Earlier in the year, the Flyers had a similar goal taken away in Columbus when it was determined Michael Raffl clipped Bobrovsky and it proved costly in that game.

• See the way Ivan Provorov delayed slightly, repositioned the puck to change the angle and then fired away on that second-period goal Saturday against the Jackets? It may not seem like a lot, but that is such a skillful move that can totally throw off both defenders and goaltenders. And the 20-year-old Barry Ashbee Trophy winner makes it look so easy. The goal was eventually given to Couturier Sunday as the puck nicked off Couturier's sweater before going in, but the point stands.

• One final observation -- thanks for reading these all season. The goal with these isn't to force you to agree or disagree with me or shove my viewpoint down your throat. And the goal isn't to just regurgitate stats as anyone can read a stat sheet and do that. The goal is twofold -- to generate compelling conversation about the Flyers and to try and give context and perspective to the things you see and why they're happening. So that's what I try to do here and I appreciate you reading along. There's no more Flyers hockey this season, but, hey, at least the weather is nicer out.

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

BOX SCORE

Jakub Voracek had dead aim, at least that’s what the score sheet confirmed Tuesday following the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens (see observations).

Two shots on net. Two shots that found a way past Carey Price.

Even though the NHL’s assist leader has more shots on net than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Voracek hears the voices that say he passes up on quality scoring opportunities. 

One prime example came with 30 seconds remaining in the second period. Claude Giroux forced a takeaway and fed Voracek on a 2-on-0 prime scoring chance, but it resulted in Voracek sending a pass back to Giroux when perhaps he should have shot.

“It’s always easier to say we’re over-passing things,” Voracek said. “If you’re on the ice, the actual situation looks completely different. I hear ‘shoot the puck’ every single time I touch it. If I listened to all the people who say shoot the puck, I’d have 500 shots at the end of the season.”

However, Voracek shot the puck when it mattered most. With the Flyers trailing, 2-1, Dave Hakstol pulled goaltender Alex Lyon for the extra attacker Voracek, who took a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off the stick of Max Pacioretty and past Price for the game-tying goal, and then buried the game-winner 1:26 into overtime (see highlights).

When asked if he caught Price by surprise on the equalizer, Voracek responded: “Me shooting? 100 percent. I just tried to hide behind the D and I got lucky and it went in.”

“It’s one of those nights when you had a lot of really good scoring opportunities and we weren’t able to cash in on them,” Hakstol said. “It’s nice to get a bounce like that with a minute and a half to go to tie it up.”

For the game, the Flyers had 79 shot attempts to Montreal’s 55. Thankfully for the Flyers, No. 79 was Voracek’s game-winner, which came at the end of his 56-second shift. Had he missed the net and been forced to play defense at the other end of the ice, there may not have been much left in the tank.     

“I was pretty tired,” Voracek said. “I’d rather have it like that. If I had missed the net, I’d have to stay on the ice and try to backcheck after, so I got lucky.”

Voracek became the second player in franchise history to score a game-tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation, and then follow it up with an overtime game-winner. Moving forward, the Flyers may need Voracek to shoot and score more with the recent injury to Wayne Simmonds, who will miss the next two to three weeks with an upper-body injury (see story).

To make matters worse, Flyers top-line winger Travis Konecny may have suffered a foot injury after taking a shot off his skate in the opening period (see video). Konecny never left the game but labored playing short, limited shifts, and wasn’t on the ice with Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov to begin the overtime session.

“He obviously got hit with the puck there, but he finished the game and that’s part of the game,” Hakstol said. “He was obviously sore through the rest of the game, but I give him credit, he continued to battle through to do everything that he could.”

Less than 24 hours after the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings to solidify the goaltending position, Alex Lyon turned in another solid effort with 25 saves on 27 shots, beating perennial All-Stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price in back-to-back victories.

“Yeah, it’s cool obviously to play against those guys,” Lyon said. “You watch them and you try to model your game after them. Obviously, they’re fantastic. In the same breath, you've got to go out there and say, ‘I’m coming out here to be better than you today.’”  

“It’s always nice to have some clarity,” Hakstol said. “I think Alex said it best after the game in New York the other day — it’s an ever-changing business. You just have to be ready and prepared for what the next day brings. He pretty much lived by his words.”

Notables
• Simmonds' streak of 223 consecutive games played ended Tuesday night. It marked the first game Simmonds has missed dating back to April 11, 2015.

• For the third straight game, the Flyers weren’t forced to utilize their penalty kill at any point, becoming the second team in NHL history to go three games without allowing a power-play opportunity.

• Forward Oskar Lindblom made his NHL debut Tuesday night, replacing the injured Simmonds in the Flyers' lineup. Lindblom finished the game with 15:11 of ice time and one shot on net.  

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

uspresswire-bluejackets-team-celebrate.jpg
USA Today Images

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defenseman Scott Harrington broke a second-period tie with his second goal of the season, and the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the New Jersey Devils' four-game winning streak with a 2-1 decision on Tuesday night.

Boone Jenner also scored as the Blue Jackets moved into the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, one ahead of Carolina and the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in helping the Blue Jackets win for the fifth time in 15 games (5-9-2).

Taylor Hall scored for the Devils to extend his point-scoring streak to 12 games, tying David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the league-high this season. He also pushed his personal point-scoring streak to 19 games. He missed three games with a thumb injury, so the league does not consider that to be part of his current streak.

Keith Kinkaid had 17 saves for New Jersey, which holds the first wild-card spot in the conference (see full recap).

Point helps Lightning beat Capitals in showdown
WASHINGTON -- Brayden Point scored two first-period goals, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots to earn his NHL-leading 35th victory and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 Tuesday night in a matchup between division leaders.

Chris Kunitz also scored in the opening period, which ended with Tampa Bay up 3-0. That was enough of a cushion for Vasilevskiy, an All-Star who came in with a 2.34 goals-against average.

After Alex Ovechkin notched his NHL-high 36th goal for Washington to make it 3-2 at 11:02 of the third period, Nikita Kucherov clinched it with a breakaway goal with 7:02 remaining.

The victory improved Tampa Bay's NHL-best record to 40-17-3 and kept the Lightning ahead of surging Boston in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

Lars Eller scored a power-play goal for the Capitals, who lead Pittsburgh by one point in the Metropolitan Division (see full recap).

Andersen makes 40 saves in Maple Leafs’ shutout
TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 40 saves and James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal as the surging Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 1-0 on Tuesday night.

The shutout was Andersen's career-best fifth of the season. The 28-year-old goalie has reached 30 wins for the third time.

Toronto (37-20-5) has won 11 of 12 and improved to 14-4-2 since Jan. 4.

The Panthers (26-25-6) have dropped back-to-back games after opening their five-game road trip with three straight wins. Florida entered the night six points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Florida threatened in the third with goaltender Roberto Luongo pulled for an extra attacker, but Andersen managed to thwart the Panthers' best chance -- a point shot from Keith Yandle with 23 seconds remaining.

Luongo stopped 30 shots in the loss (see full recap).