Radko Gudas maintaining physical presence for Flyers after learning from past mistakes

Radko Gudas maintaining physical presence for Flyers after learning from past mistakes

You don’t have to work at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to realize Flyers blueliner Radko Gudas has toned down his act.
That the league hasn’t had to review any of his hits — legal or suspicious — is positive reinforcement that it’s finally beginning to sink in with the 6-foot, 204-pound defenseman what he can and can’t get away with on the ice.
“In general, he’s kinda gone back to the adjustment he made in his game last couple months of last season,” coach Dave Hakstol said after the Flyers' 3-0 loss to Tampa on Saturday. “He’s most effective when he is playing good, solid defensive hockey and letting plays come to him .”
Both Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall sat Gudas down prior to the start of the season after he was hit with a six-game suspension to begin 2016-17 for a preseason incident.
Gudas has also been watching video of what is clean, borderline and illegal in terms of hits.
“One of those things, having to figure out because guys are smaller than they used to be,” Gudas said. “Four years ago, when I came into the league, guys were 6-foot plus and 220-plus and now it’s slowly going back to smaller, lighter guys. You have to learn how to hit these guys, too.
“I’m still trying to be as physical as I can. If you hit them hard enough, he’s going to get hurt or stay down. I don’t want to say it’s a lot different, but there are some changes to be made, that’s for sure.”
During Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa, Gudas had a tremendous legal check off the boards on the Senators’ Mark Stone. He simply waited for Stone to come into the Flyers' end moving directly at him, turned his body and drove a hard shoulder into Stone without touching any part of the neck or head.
“The biggest thing is letting the play come to him,” Hakstol said. "The hits, the physical side of the game. He is a physical presence for us and we need that. He’s done a very good job of just letting the physical game that is naturally there come to him.” 
On Saturday, he had a tough clean hit on Ryan Callahan in the second period and J.T. Brown took exception and went after him. Gudas tuned him up in his first fight of the season.
Gudas leads the Flyers with 53 hits despite missing the first six games of the season. He came into Saturday’s game 20th overall in the NHL. 
Toronto’s Matt Martin, who has been the league’s leading hitter five years in succession, is the current leader this year, too, with 76.
Imagine where Gudas would rank now if he had not begun the season suspended for six games after a preseason hit on Boston’s Austin Czarnik.  He avoided a previous suspension for a hit on the Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey.
“I didn’t want to change a lot in my game,” Gudas said. “Just be smarter with those hits. There is nothing I can do about the suspension now except be the best I can for my team.”
Brandon Manning is second on the Flyers in hits with 42 and has played 17 of 18 games.  
Gudas does, however, lead the Flyers with 36 blocked shots and is 24th overall in the NHL in that department. Rookie Ivan Provorov is next with 30.
“I am trying to do the best possible,” Gudas said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody out there either, but still play that hard, physical game. It’s part of my hockey. For me, staying physical was an important thing. I’ve got to learn from my own mistakes.”
For now, he certainly seems to be doing that.
Power play
The Flyers are 0 for 10 in the last three games. It’s the first time this season they’ve gone three games without scoring on the power play.
The Flyers were shut out by the Lightning for only the fifth time since Tampa Bay came into the NHL in 1992. One of those previous shutouts was a 0-0 tie on Feb. 24, 2001. 
Four of the five shutouts have been witnessed in South Philly. The last time the Lightning shut out the Flyers was Feb. 1, 2011, in Tampa (4-0 loss). The last time it happened at the Wells Fargo Center was Jan. 28, 2006, (6-0 loss). The next day, the Flyers named Derian Hatcher their 13th captain.

It was also the Flyers' first shutout loss of the season.
Chris VandeVelde took a high hit from Braydon Coburn early in the game that resulted in a boarding penalty. VandeVelde did not return.
Review coming? 
Brayden Schenn had a legal shoulder hit on Jonathan Drouin in the final 4:40 of the opening period that caught the Lightning forward with his head down. Schenn’s shoulder appeared to make contact into Drouin’s chest. 
Initially, Drouin looked hurt going to the bench but did not go through the concussion protocol until the spotter alerted Tampa before the start of the second period. Drouin went to the quiet room but did return to play later in the period. 
Regardless, you can expect the Department of Player Safety to review the hit Sunday, as Drouin was concussed earlier this season.
The Flyers Alumni Association will make a Thanksgiving food donation to the St. Francis Inn in Kensington on Monday. This is the 11th consecutive year the association has performed this charity event. On hand will be Brian Boucher, Danny Briere, Terry Carkner, Doug Crossman, Todd Fedoruk, Bob Kelly, Brian Propp, and Brad Marsh.

Get in the holiday spirit with the Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

Get in the holiday spirit with the Flyers

Before the Flyers get in the spirit for a sixth straight win on Saturday night, they’ll get you in the holiday spirit, too.

Prior to puck drop against the Stars on NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Flyers will put on a unique holiday-themed light show, which will illuminate the Wells Fargo Center and its ice.

The “Holiday Light Spectacular,” which is presented by the Rothman Institute at Jefferson, will be a 10-minute show starting at 7 p.m., as all fans will be given light-up bracelets to complement a fun Flyers holiday video featured on the ice.

“This show is a new, can’t-miss holiday attraction in Philadelphia and one that we hope becomes an annual tradition for us,” Shawn Tilger, the Flyers’ executive vice president, chief operating officer, alternate governor, said in a release by the team. “This show is in line with the holiday staples of the region, and we’re excited to bring entertainment of this caliber to Flyers fans here on Saturday night.”

For fans with youngsters, Santa Claus will also be in attendance, taking free photos on the main concourse.

Flyers grind for ugly win over Sabres to push streak to 5

Flyers grind for ugly win over Sabres to push streak to 5


It was a Flyers’ win with a capital “U.” 

That’s “U” as in ugly.

However, it was still good enough to beat the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres, as the Flyers skated away with a 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night (see observations).

It’s the type of game the Flyers lost earlier in the season during their previous homestead when they came out sloppy against the lowly Arizona Coyotes in an eventual 4-3 loss in overtime.  

“I thought this was a boring game,” Jakub Voracek said. “Honestly, I don’t think we played good today, but we got the win, which is really important. You’re not going to play great every night. We played well when we needed to, but we can play a lot better, which is positive.”

Nothing was uglier than the game’s first goal when Brian Elliott attempted to play the puck behind his net. Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons intercepted Elliott’s pass and fed the puck to Ryan O’Reilly, who had a wide-open, unattended net in front of him.

“They came hard and a little miscommunication,” Elliott said. “Bad play on my part and we did a heck of a job of coming back and tying that up. That can go sideways in a hurry. We sorted it out, but our first period was kind of sloppy.”

After Elliott nearly made the same mistake again in the opening period, the Flyers rebounded to the tie game at 1-1 as Travis Sanheim scored his first NHL goal off a feed from Dale Weise (see highlights). However, even Sanheim admitted, the goal was a silver lining from a dark cloud that was looming over him defensively with failed clears and breakdowns in coverage.  

“I don’t think we were very happy with our first period, especially me,” Sanheim said. “Minus the goal, I thought that might have been my worst period of the season, but I think we bounced back and battled hard in the final 40 and came through with the win.”

“He’s been pressing for a little while, so I was so happy to see him get a smile on his face,” Weise said of Sanheim’s goal. “That’s going to do wonders for his game. You see a shift after he gets another chance there. I’m so happy for him.”

Sanheim’s season in some ways has mirrored that of the Flyers’ schedule — a yo-yo performance with bouts of inconsistency. Coming off a 10-game winless stretch, the Flyers have now won five straight. Throughout both streaks, head coach Dave Hakstol has stuck with Sanheim when some coaches may have wavered. 

“There’s always lessons along the way, especially for a young defenseman,” Hakstol said. “He’s had some bumps in the road that every defenseman is going to go through. Tonight’s maybe a little indicative of that. Travis is always honest with himself and the evaluation of his own play, and for me, that always helps keep his feet on the ground and move on to the next challenge.”

“I want to make hard plays and I’ve got to make sure the puck gets over our blue line,” Sanheim said. “It’s easier to sit back and say I could have done this, I could have done that. Going forward, I’ve just got to try and limit those mistakes and try and play a harder game.” 

The Flyers eventually produced the breakthrough goal late in the second period on a tic-tac-toe play started by Michael Raffl, who fed a pass to Voracek and then onto Valtteri Filppula for the one-time goal.

“Those are the best wins,” said Raffl, who played in his 300th career game. “You’re pretty happy when you win 4-1 and you play your best game. It’s easy to laugh, but that was a war out there and the last period, especially, but we came together as a group.”

Of the 14 one-goal games the Flyers have played this season, this was just the third time they earned a victory. Many of those games when they failed to earn a winning decision came after regulation.

“It’s all about confidence,” Voracek said. “Two or three weeks ago when we went into the third period, we would lose that game. Now it’s about making sure those loose pucks get out of the zone and don’t make any dumb decisions.”

“I think it’s huge. When we were in that streak, we blew a lot of leads late in games,” Weise said. “Minus the last two minutes where I think we sat back a little, I thought we did a good job of moving the puck forward, forechecking and not sitting back too much. It’s more of a mental thing to win those type of games.”