Flyers

There's more to Alex Lyon than just NHL dreams with Flyers

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

There's more to Alex Lyon than just NHL dreams with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — As the Flyers tee it up Tuesday during their annual tournament at Trump National Golf Club in Pine Hill, New Jersey, Alex Lyon may be the rare athlete who’s more interested in Trump’s plans for diplomacy than the layout of his golf courses.

The Flyers' netminder has two real passions in life moving forward: playing in the NHL and studying nuclear war. We’ll elaborate on the latter of those two topics in a moment.

As far as the hockey, Lyon enters Year 2 in the Flyers' organization with his head securely focused on playing the game, whereas this time last season, his mind was spinning in different directions.

“Last year, training camp was a novelty,” Lyon said last week. “This year, I know what to expect and I know where I can push the limits and I feel I’m coming in to do damage, rather than coming in to see what’s going on. It’s amazing the difference in mentality between Year 1 and Year 2. Honestly, the confidence level is so much better.”

Handling and maintaining his responsibilities as a professional were a big chunk of Lyon’s adjustment, as was trying to find answers to his own hypothetical questions.

“Where’s this guy at? What’s this guy doing? Who’s being drafted and all that nonsense,” Lyon said. “Now I’ve tried to change my mindset and say, ‘Let’s just focus on making Alex Lyon the best hockey player he can be and let the chips fall where they may.’ I think I’ve been improving more and more because I’ve been so happy. Once you cut out that other stuff, there’s not that much to worry about.”

An unknown commodity a year ago, Lyon exceeded expectations in his first year in Lehigh Valley working in tandem with Anthony Stolarz, who spent an early part of the season with the Flyers. Now that Stolarz has reinjured the meniscus in his left knee, Lyon now has less competition for the starting job in Lehigh Valley and one fewer obstacle on the organizational depth chart in the event Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth suffer an injury.     

“To see him build on his year last year, he did a real good job,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He wasn’t a guy that was talked about a whole lot, but he did have a real solid year last year in Lehigh Valley. He just has to improve on that and keep building. I know he’s had a good summer. He’s very dedicated in the way he works at his game. Now he’s got to carry that through to a good training camp up here, and I hope over the next few weeks he can have a real solid body of work.”

Indeed, Lyon also has the mentality to play the position. He left Yale University just six credit hours shy of finishing his degree in political science, and he can’t graduate until he returns to the New Haven, Connecticut campus to write his senior thesis on ... global nuclear war. Considering the state of current affairs with Kim Jong Un and North Korea, that thesis appears to be writing itself.

“Nuclear weapons really do interest me,” Lyon said. “It’s an interesting philosophy because nuclear weapons are the best deterrent for nuclear weapons. Mutually assured destruction — it’s a buzz phrase and you would use it in every single test you would write. Mutually assured destruction is: If Russia bombs us with a nuclear weapon, it's mutually assured that we’re going to bomb each other. It’s over!”

Now you have gained some insight into what runs through the mind of a goaltending Ivy Leaguer who wants to experience the world, as he puts it, “On his own terms” and as a “free spirit.” This past November, the free-spirited Lyon was eligible to vote in a Presidential election for just the second time in his life.

“It’s interesting, psychology and politics — those two things came together in the last election,” Lyon said. “It’s so interesting to see why people are doing what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and why they’re voting certain ways. I think that’s what it actually comes down to. There’s such an interesting mindset behind everything that’s going on. It’s just all intertwined for me.”

Questions one day Lyon will attempt to answer, but before he resumes his work of stopping global catastrophe, the Flyers have a much more narrow-minded focus for him: just stopping the puck.

Flyers Weekly Observations: Radko Gudas in spotlight for wrong reason … again

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Flyers Weekly Observations: Radko Gudas in spotlight for wrong reason … again

And so the losing and frustration slogs on for the Flyers.

Yet another week of no real progress is in the books as the Flyers endured another shutout loss, blew a two-goal lead in painful fashion and then let another one slip away through their fingers two days later.

The Flyers were shut out yet again by the Minnesota Wild, 3-0, on Tuesday, dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and suffered a 5-4 OT defeat to the Calgary Flames on Saturday afternoon.

We’ve got plenty to chat about here, gang, so let’s hop right into it.

And of course, we’re starting with the most-talked about moment of the week, not just with the Flyers, but around the league.

• Ah, Radko Gudas… the guy just can’t seem to keep his name out of the disciplinary spin cycle, can he? The repeat offender found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reason again on Thursday in Winnipeg when he viciously chopped Jets forward Mathieu Perrault in the back of the head with his stick.

Gudas was originally given a two-minute minor on the play, but after officials saw the play on the video board high above the ice (that’s another argument for another day), he was rightfully handed a game misconduct. It was just a completely reckless play that was incredibly dangerous in nature, and could have been way more dangerous in action.

Gudas is a vet who’s been through this before, he knows a target is on his back and that mercy, if any, will be slight from both the officials on the ice and those who dole out punishments in the league office. Do I think it was a totally intentional play? I don’t, but Gudas has to be smarter than that for both himself and his team. His first-period actions put the Flyers in a five-man defensive hole for a game that went 65 minutes.

The reality is that Gudas put himself in this situation and now the league has every right to throw the book at him. My guess: a firm 10 games. There’s no place for that sort of play in the league and the league has to start coming down harder on things like this. Gudas could be the example, unfortunately for the Flyers.

• Yes, Brian Elliott gave up five goals to the Flames on Saturday afternoon, but he still had a solid week in net for the Flyers and, in my eyes, continued to cement his grip on the No. 1 goalie job.

While he had only 17 saves, he was superb against the Wild on Tuesday and gave the Flyers a chance to win, but, alas, no help. He then backed his claim to the top job up again with 31 saves in a hard-luck loss at Winnipeg on Thursday when he had to take on prolific snipers Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine in the shootout (that didn’t end well).

Everybody could have been better against Calgary, including Elliott, who stopped 26 of 31 shots, but also had to face 10 power-play shots as the Flyers couldn’t stop heading to the penalty box.

What the Flyers need right now is stability in all phases, not just from the top line (more on that shortly). Elliott is giving the Flyers a chance to win on a nightly basis and they’re not producing in front of him. The last thing they need right now is to be playing the goalie flip-flop game in net. Elliott is giving them chances to win and that’s what matters right now. But knowing how Dave Hakstol is so fickle with his netminders, don’t be surprised to see Michal Neuvirth in net Tuesday vs. Vancouver after a five-goal game.

• I could sit here and write this point over and over again week after week after week, because until it changes, it will dramatically plague the Flyers – players not named Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek need to score and score consistently.  Couturier (two) and Voracek (one) scored three of the Flyers’ seven goals this week.

No need to keep harping on, it’s gotta change, plain and simple.

What could help? The return of Nolan Patrick certainly is a boost. Patrick returned to the ice in his native Winnipeg on Thursday. And while he eased his way back into the swing of things that night with just over 7 minutes of ice time, he made a major impact against the Flames in his over 13 minutes as he fired four shots on goal and collected his second tally of his young career, a nifty backhander past Calgary netminder Mike Smith off a rebound. The return of the talented 19-year-old is no doubt a lift.

• My colleague John Boruk soundly encompassed the Flyers’ frustrations with themselves Saturday after their undisciplined play, specifically that of Shayne Gostisbehere, in the second period was a major turning point in the eventual OT loss to the Flames.

The postgame quotes say it all. And Hakstol, usually as steady and collected as can be, was as visibly and verbally frustrated as I’ve seen him in his three seasons here in Philadelphia – “It pisses you off,” he said no-so-politely after the game.

It’s those kinds of self-inflicted wounds that just cost the Flyers way too much. So the frustration from the coach is more than understandable.

• Dear NHL, no more Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, please and thank you. With love, the Flyers.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Vancouver (7:00 p.m./NBCSP), Wednesday at New York Islanders (7:00 p.m./NBCSP+), Friday vs. New York Islanders (4:00 p.m./NBCSP).

Best of NHL: Anthony Duclair scores hat trick, Coyotes beat Senators in OT

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Best of NHL: Anthony Duclair scores hat trick, Coyotes beat Senators in OT

OTTAWA, Ontario — Anthony Duclair gave the lowly Arizona Coyotes another two points.

Duclair scored in overtime to complete a hat trick and the Coyotes beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Saturday for their second straight victory.

Antti Raanta made 30 saves to help the Coyotes improve to 4-15-3. On Thursday night in Montreal, they rallied to beat the Canadiens 5-4 for their first regulation victory of the season.

"I think it was a well-earned win to be honest," Duclair said. "We carried that momentum from the Montreal game and all four lines were rolling and we just played a solid 60 minutes."

Duclair scored at 1:23 of overtime, his shot trickling through Condon's pads and over the goal line (see full recap). 

Anisimov's third-period goal leads Blackhawks past Pens
PITTSBURGH — Artem Anisimov scored a power-play goal in the third period, and the Chicago Blackhawks continued their winning streak against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 2-1 victory on Saturday night.

Anisimov scored his 10th goal of the season just 21 seconds after Pittsburgh tied the game. Gustav Forsling scored his second for the Blackhawks, who won their eighth straight against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

The Blackhawks have won three of their last four games after taking two of their previous seven.

Corey Crawford made 35 saves for Chicago, including a right-pad stop on Phil Kessel in the final 20 seconds (see full recap). 

Lee scores 2 goals, Islanders beat Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. — New York Islanders coach Doug Weight had a simple message after a big lead was slipping away: Stay calm.

Anders Lee scored twice and the Islanders held on after nearly blowing a four-goal lead, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 Saturday night.

"He was just telling us what we needed to hear," New York right wing Josh Bailey said of Weight's message on the bench midway through the third. "He was just getting his point across. We just needed to calm down a little bit, realize we're in a good position. We've still got the lead in the third period on the road against the top team in the league." (see full recap). 

Ovechkin returns after puck to face, Caps snap Wild's streak
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin returned from taking a puck to the face, T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals snapped the Minnesota Wild's winning streak at four with a 3-1 victory Saturday night.

Behind goals from Oshie, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov and 30 saves by goaltender Braden Holtby, the Capitals stopped their skid at two and won their fifth consecutive game at home.

Ovechkin was bloodied in the second period when a puck ramped off his stick and into his face, but Washington's captain got some repairs and was back on the ice for the start of the third. He set up Kuznetsov's goal late in the period.

Nino Niederreiter scored for Minnesota, which lost for the first time since Nov. 8. Backup Alex Stalock stopped 40 of 43 shots in his first career start against the Capitals (see full recap.)