Flyers

Instant Replay: Rangers 4, Flyers 1

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Instant Replay: Rangers 4, Flyers 1

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- It looked like the planets were all in alignment for the Flyers early against the Rangers.

They scored on their first shot against Henrik Lundqvist and had a lead at Madison Square Garden with Ray Emery playing well.

All signs pointed to the Flyers breaking their MSG curse -- having not won in the building in three seasons -- but the Rangers, who owned large portions of ice all night long scored four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 rout of the Flyers in Game 1 of the playoffs.

Two third-period power-play goals 47 seconds apart sank the Flyers.

You can't score goals if you don't get shots on net and that was a critical problem for Craig Berube's club.

The Flyers had no forecheck, which meant they had no puck possession and in turn, no shots.

The Flyers' top line finished with two shots on net, both belonging to Scott Hartnell. Neither Claude Giroux or Jakub Voracek recorded a shot.

They were beaten badly to every puck they played deep, too, while the Rangers seemed to have numbers on the Flyers in the corner the entire second period in which the Flyers were badly outplayed.

Emery held the Flyers in the game as long as he could.

Penalties
Jason Akeson's double-minor for high sticking at 7:35 in the third period resulted in two Rangers goals. The Flyers had three bad penalties in the period that cost them the game.

No shots
The Flyers went more than seven minutes into the first period without recording a single shot. It was 4-0 in shots when the Flyers opened the scoring.

First shot
Andrew MacDonald's left-point drive that touched nothing but net at 7:28 for a 1-0 lead was the game's first goal and MacDonald's first as a Flyer. Hartnell set it up with a crushing hit on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, forcing a turnover and Hartnell got it back to MacDonald on the blue line. McDonagh jabbed his stick in Giroux's back just as the puck was going past Lundqvist.

Breakdown goal
The Rangers tied it at 10:53 when Emery left a high rebound off Mats Zuccarello into the high slot where he snuck past Sean Couturier for a second chance and scored into the far side off a backhander. Play began with Braydon Coburn losing a puck battle behind the goal.

Good chance
Voracek had a nice wraparound attempt near the end of the first period, then had Dan Girardi pin him to the ice for several seconds without a whistle. The two briefly looked at each other as if they were going to drop the gloves then skated away.

Seven
Through the first 27 minutes of the game, the Flyers had just seven shots on goal. They were outplayed badly in the second, as New York had far too many quality chances between the dots.

Second period
Emery kept the Flyers in the game with a number of quality saves, several on Brian Boyle and Rick Nash, who had nine of the Rangers' 23 shots through two periods.

Special Teams
The Flyers were 0 for 1 on the power play, while the Rangers were 2 for 6.

Penalty kill
The Flyers' PK units had to kill off a four-minute high-sticking call on Akeson. Marty St. Louis' shot rebounded off Kimmo Timonen directly to Richards in the right circle for a goal that broke a 1-1 tie at 8:22. The Rangers got another from Derek Stepan right after to ice it.

Scratches
Goalie Steve Mason (whiplash/concussion); forwards Jay Rosehill, Tye McGinn, Steve Downie, Chris VandeVelde and defenseman Hal Gill and Erik Gustfasson were all healthy scratches. 

Loose pucks
Mason wasn't supposed to join the club until Friday, but showed up for the game. … Couturier had one-on-four shorthanded rush in the first period without a shot. … The Rangers outshot the Flyers, 14-6, in the first period. … Through two periods, Vinny Lecavalier and Timonen were also held without a shot.

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

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How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.

Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

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Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

On the first day he was officially a member of the Flyers, Jori Lehtera was literally pumped. So much so, the weight room warrior hit the gym that morning and slapped on a few extra plates on each side of the barbell.

“My wife woke me up and said, ‘Do you know we’re going to Philadelphia?’” Lehtera said Sept. 11, after the first day he skated with his new teammates in Voorhees, New Jersey.

"I said, 'That's good.' I went to the gym and had a little bit bigger weights than normal. It was good. I needed some change because my game wasn't that good there."

Lehtera was acquired by the Flyers from the Blues at the 2017 NHL draft in the Brayden Schenn trade. In the span of one year, Lehtera’s status has plunged from a top-line center on a playoff team to the 13th forward on a non-playoff team.

That’s not to say the Flyers have failed to recognize Lehtera’s skill set and utilize him effectively, he just didn’t show enough in the preseason to warrant playing time.

The fourth-highest paid forward on the Flyers’ roster has started the first six games of the season as a healthy scratch. Dave Hakstol has opted for the speedier Dale Weise, who’s earning roughly half of Lehtera, who has a $4.7 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

Lehtera's opportunity could come as early as Thursday against the Predators. Wayne Simmonds left Tuesday's game for precautionary reasons with a lower-body injury.

If Simmonds can't go — the Flyers will have an update on Simmonds Thursday — Lehtera is the next guy up as Hakstol would have to shuffle his lines.

“I’m still excited,” Lehtera said recently. “Camp wasn’t good. I wouldn’t say terrible, it was OK. I’m kind of still looking to find my spot. When I get my opportunity, I’m going to take my spot. Where it is, I don’t know.”

Lehtera bolted St. Louis, the city he spent his first NHL seasons, in a cloud of dust. His "Spirit of St. Louis" was completely sucked dry during his time there, as he finished the 2016-17 season with just seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.

“The whole season was a struggle,” Lehtera said. “I just couldn’t get everything out of myself. It wasn’t just a couple of things. It was a lot of big things, and a lot of small things together.”

Playing for Ken Hitchcock, who just passed Al Arbour for third on the NHL’s all-time wins list, has a way of wearing down a player’s psyche.

According to Hitchcock, who rejoined the Dallas Stars this summer after he was fired by the Blues back in February, Lehtera’s struggles were partly a result of centering the team’s top line with superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

“First couple of years there was no attention being paid [to Lehtera]," Hitchcock said in the summer, "and last year, there was a lot of attention of being paid. He lost his confidence because he was in and out of the lineup, so the line wasn’t that effective. The line got special attention for the first time. Because of the way our lineup was built, we were really able to take advantage of matchups.”

Lehtera and Tarasenko developed a lethal chemistry as teammates for Novosibirsk in the KHL, but it didn’t translate to the smaller NHL rink, where time and space to operate with the puck are at a premium. Tarasenko’s reputation quickly earned the attention of the NHL opposition and its top defensive players.

“You saw that chemistry right away,” said Brian Elliott, a teammate of Lehtera’s for two seasons in St. Louis. “They were a dynamic duo and then they were split up, and I think he was looking for that guy to pass to and things like that.”

Compounding Lehtera’s struggles was a concussion he suffered that knocked him out of the lineup for several weeks in February. Once Lehtera returned, he was never quite the same, as he struggled with the speed of the game.

“We played him at wing after he came back from being injured, but his natural position is at center, and that’s where he played his best hockey,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a guy strong on the puck, good down-low player, he protects the puck well.” 

Interestingly for a guy listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and lacking quickness, Lehtera would appear to be more suited at the wing position.

And the potential opportunity Thursday alone may have Lehtera pounding out a few more extra reps in the gym.