Nick Cousins scores, draws 5-minute major, stands out in Flyers' loss

Nick Cousins scores, draws 5-minute major, stands out in Flyers' loss

CALGARY, Alberta — The play was long since over when Alex Chiasson skated by Nick Cousins near the Flyers' bench and speared him.
Well, truth is, it seemed more a poke into the left side of his midsection.
Cousins, excellent at drawing penalties, sold it and Chiasson was tossed from the game barely eight minutes into play, setting up a five-minute power play for the Flyers. Unfortunately, the Flyers were simply dysfunctional in every respect.
While it’s true these two teams, who meet just twice a year, don’t like each other, there was no real reason why Chiasson did what he did.
“I’m not quite sure, it wasn’t even part of the play,” Cousins said. The play had stopped with a whistle on an icing call, and the Flyers were making a line change.

“I was trying to change and he comes up and spears me. I think the ref made the right call.”
Cousins had a very strong game, scoring the Flyers' lone goal in the team's 3-1 loss (see game story). He played 15:17 and had five shots. Only Jordan Weal, who also stood out, shot the puck more — six times.
Cousins also won 8 of 10 faceoffs.
“I thought we took it to them most of the game,” he said. “Their goalie (Brian Elliott) played well, but that’s been the excuse the last 10 to 15 games. We've got to make it harder on them. We've got to get more traffic. It’s the same excuse here it feels like after every game. We’ve got to score more goals — simple as that.”
The Flyers wasted that power play with two shots — both during a 5-on-3 portion that would come later — while Calgary cleared the zone an amazing 11 times.
The Flyers' first-unit power play was nothing short of awful.
“It wasn’t demoralizing,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We've just got to bear down and put the puck in the back of the net, guys. We’re playing good hockey here. We’re not scoring goals, but playing good hockey. Eventually, it’s gonna turn and when it turns, we’ll score in bunches.”
The power play went 0 for 4 and is 1 for 16 over the last five games.
Loose pucks
Brayden Schenn had six hits. ... There were 13 NHL scouts at this game, including representatives from the Rangers and Islanders in the Metro Division. ... This game marked the beginning of the 14th set of back-to-back games for the Flyers. They meet the Oilers on Thursday for the first time in their new digs. ... Former Flame and Flyer Joel Otto, an assistant coach with the WHL Calgary Hitmen, dropped by the Flyers' morning skate. He took a photo with fellow Bemidji State grad Matt Read.

It's time to recognize Flyers' other rock on D

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It's time to recognize Flyers' other rock on D

Take a second and guess which Flyer leads the team in plus/minus. Nope, it's not Ivan Provorov or Sean Couturier.

Give up? At plus-14, rookie defenseman Robert Hagg leads the team. And while plus/minus isn't an ideal depiction of a player's success, it's something the rookie takes pride in.

“Well, absolutely. It means I’m more on the ice when we score goals than against, so of course, I’m taking pride in that," Hagg said. "But at the same time, you can’t read too much into that because every game is different."

Every game is different, but Hagg's steady, solid play has largely remained the same across his first 31 NHL games. The 22-year-old is averaging 19:22 ice time a game — sixth most on the team and third among defensemen behind Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. He's also tied for third in the league with 101 hits this season. 

It's easy to forget about Hagg on a team full of young talent. But that's the way he likes it. 

"No, I love to go under the radar," Hagg said. "I don’t like the attention so much. It’s hard to disappear when you’re playing in the NHL, I guess."

On the ice, it's easy to miss Hagg. He doesn't have the flashy moves of Gostisbehere or the puck-moving skills of Provorov. He just goes out there and quietly gets the job done, at both ends of the ice. And for a rookie D-man, going relatively unnoticed at times can be a good thing. It mean's he's not making mistakes. 

While he may go unnoticed by fans, he has certainly stuck out in the mind of Dave Hakstol.

“He doesn’t fly under the radar in our dressing room," Hakstol said. "He’s been a good player and just by nature of some of the injuries and with [Radko Gudas'] suspension — with a couple veterans out of the lineup — he’s logged some minutes that maybe we didn’t predict quite this early, but by necessity, he’s been in these situations and he’s handled them well.

"Those are challenging minutes and assignments for a young defenseman. But Hagger has handled all of those things with pretty good poise. So he’s learning, he’s giving us good minutes and he keeps pushing to improve his game, so those are all positive things.”

With Andrew MacDonald's injury and Gudas' suspension, Hagg has been forced into playing more — and tougher — minutes than Hakstol originally anticipated for the rookie. But the coach has shown in the past — take Provorov's ascension to No. 1 D-man for example — that a player's age or experience will not limit minutes earned on the back end. 

Hagg has been a constant on the Flyers' blue line all season, and it's time to start appreciating his play as he continues to develop into a sturdy, top-four defenseman. 

Mr. 300
Michael Raffl will play in his 300th NHL game tonight and it's a special one for the 29-year-old. 

In 2012-13, Raffl was playing in Sweden when the Flyers took a chance on the Austrian.

Playing in the NHL at all seemed like a farfetched idea to him then, and 299 games later, it still doesn't feel real.

“If you asked me a couple years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of it," Raffl said. "It’s part of my life now. I think it’s awesome and I’m very proud of that."

This season — Raffl's fifth — had the appearance that it may have been his last. At least for the first 21 games. Playing mostly on the fourth line with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier, Raffl didn't record a single point in that span. 

“I was trying not to change my game too much, to be honest," Raffl said of his early struggles. "I know the points weren’t there the first 20 games and I was struggling offensively, but I thought I played very well. I was trying to help the team win one way or the other. Now it’s clicking and I’ll try to ride the wave. Yeah, it’s more fun like that, for sure."

Over his last 10 games, Raffl has eight points — five goals and three assists — including five points during the Flyers' four-game win streak. It's no coincidence that the two overlap. 

Raffl's resurgence came with Hakstol's decision to break up the team's top line of Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Now on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Voracek, Raffl has looked like the 2014-15 player that scored a career-high 21 goals. 

“It’s been a benefit for us," Hakstol said of Raffl's hot streak. "Raf is a guy that’s scored 20 goals in this league so we know that he can contribute and he can help offensively, and I think he was pretty frustrated early on by not being able to find the back of the net. His continued good play has obviously created different opportunities for him and with the line that he’s with, right now with Fil and Jake, he’s going to get some of those scoring opportunities and in the past couple weeks, he’s made good on them and it’s been a huge boost for our team."

The Flyers take on the worst team in the Eastern Conference Thursday night — the Buffalo Sabres. But with points in their last four games (2-0-2), the Flyers can't afford to take the Sabres lightly. 

“No, we can’t look past anyone and I think where we are at, we gotta bring everything we’ve got," Raffl said. "It’s going to take a lot and I think it’s way harder to play against teams that are down there."

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).