Flyers

Wayne Simmonds on 2016-17 season: 'I think I've become more of a leader'

Wayne Simmonds on 2016-17 season: 'I think I've become more of a leader'

As Wayne Simmonds sat at the podium Tuesday afternoon for his presser with the media, it had the appearance of one of his CURE Auto commercials.

Except this was the Flyers' breakup day. And it was real, not a TV spot.

Simmonds spoke about how his role changed this year, becoming the bad cop to captain Claude Giroux's good cop in the locker room.

"I think I've become more of a leader, myself," Simmonds said. "Claude's our captain, but I'm here to help him. We're here to help our younger guys and get this thing going in the right direction and not only get into the playoffs.

"I think he's getting better and he's being a leader. I think I'd probably be the bad cop for the most part. G's the nice guy; I'm the man that's yelling. I'm probably more all over guys for some things."

While both Simmonds and Giroux progressed on the leadership side of things, the team struggled as a whole despite the duo trying to lead by example on the ice.

"I think that's our job," Simmonds said. "Everybody's got to be pulled into the battle. I think I'm the guy who can do that. Go out and try to give your max effort and hope everyone follows. 

"We were a little too inconsistent this year and we've got to get that figured out. We're a good team, we've got to make a push and get more consistency. Everyone's got to be on the same page and we've just got to be better."

Simmonds was one of 11 players who met with the media during breakup day in which the players clean out their lockers, take an end-of-season physical and meet with coach Dave Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall.

At the height of their 10-game winning streak in December, the Flyers were second in the NHL in 5-on-5 offense. They finished the season 27th in that department with just 128 goals scored (2.58). Defensively, they finished 18th, allowing 154 goals against (2.82).

The dramatic drop offensively in goals for is inexplicable, as is the fact the entire team pretty much collapsed offensively in the second half simultaneously.

"The well went dry," Simmonds said. "I don't know how to explain it. I felt like we were getting opportunities, good scoring chances in good areas and we just couldn't put the puck in the net. Eventually, that was our downfall.

"We couldn't score for that little bit of time and the streak was prolonged. I think towards the end of the year we started getting it back, we started putting more pucks in the back of the net, and I think that's more indicative of our team. We started getting more contributions from other guys and we picked it up but it was too late."

A number of players -- Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere, Claude Giroux -- said they played ill or injured over long stretches because it's the mantra for this sport. They didn't want to let teammates down.

Couturier missed 16 games with a left knee injury and admitted he still wasn't healthy when he returned.

"When I came back, I wasn't probably 100 percent," he said. "I thought I could do enough to help the team win, whether it was defensively, offensively, whatever -- it was frustrating at times and took a few weeks to really start not feeling it anymore, and getting it out of my head."

Whether multiple guys playing hurt is beneficial to the team is a tough question to answer.

"I don't know if it did more harm than good," Simmonds said. "What are you going to do? You're not going to play and let the boys down? You know a hockey player's mentality.

"We're going to play unless we're dead. No matter what, you're banged up, you're injured, you better get out there. You do it for the boys, you do it for yourself, for the organization. You've got to play.

"G's a great player. This year I don't know what it was. I think his hip, I don't know what it was. Maybe there was something there. Maybe he wasn't 100 percent, but he's a warrior.

"He's going to battle for the guys, he's our captain, he's our leader. He's not going to leave us to hang no matter how he feels. He's going to show up and he's going to put his best effort forth no matter what."

Giroux and Simmonds, among others, want to play in the IIHF World Championships in France and Germany this spring. Hextall is the GM for Team Canada while Hakstol is one of his assistant coaches.

"Ideally, I would hope to be playing in the playoffs [right now]," Simmonds said. "It's something that I'm thinking about, going over there and having a good time and playing for a winning team. It's a thought, definitely."

Like it or not, boring is working for Flyers

usa-shayne-gostisbehere-flyers-leafs.jpg
USA Today Images

Like it or not, boring is working for Flyers

We are deep into the season of giving and the Flyers just keep giving fans exactly what they want: wins.

OK, sorry for that seasonal yet corny intro, but the fact remains the Flyers are on a tear right now, and it continued this past week with three more sound wins to push their winning streak past a handful to six games.

This week got off to the right skate with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory Tuesday over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. The good vibes kept coming Thursday with a grind-it-out 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. And the week ended on the highest of notes Saturday night with a 2-1 OT win at home over the Dallas Stars.

Well, well, well … they’re back, aren’t they?

And before the Flyers push for seven straight Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings, let’s look back at the successful week that was, shall we?

• The Flyers' three wins this week were good, solid wins over the Leafs, Sabres, and Stars. When you’re still trying to claw out of the hole a 10-game losing streak put you in, all wins are good, solid wins right now. But these three Flyers wins this past week weren’t of the most exciting variety. Let’s be blunt, all three wins were mostly boring.

Tuesday’s triumph over the Leafs was sleepy until Travis Konecny’s tying seeing-eye shot in the third and then Claude Giroux’s fantastic through-the-legs pass that led to Sean Couturier’s wicked wrister of a winner. Thursday’s win over Buffalo was a snoozer for the better part of 50 minutes. And Saturday’s victory over Dallas, while chippy, didn’t have much action to it outside of Shayne Gostisbehere’s heroics.

But the Flyers aren’t caring about being exciting and neither should you right now because it’s working for them. Jake Voracek’s quote after the Buffalo game says it all.

“I thought this was a boring game,” 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.”

Yes, they can play better. But two points are two points right now, no matter how boring. Simply put, boring is working.

• So why the sudden turnaround for the Flyers? There’s a multitude of reasons — timely scoring, better defensive efforts and Brian Elliott playing like a rock in net, just to name a few.

But one major reason: discipline. In the three games this past week, the Flyers took three penalties total, on in each game. Dating back to Dec. 4 when this six-game win streak began in Calgary, the Flyers have faced just nine power plays against. Compare that to the 22 power plays the Flyers have had in the same span.

That’s a gigantic boost for a team that, as of Sunday morning, is still 29th in the league with a 76.7 percent success rate on the PK.

How do you cure something that ails you? Don’t put yourself in the situation.

• When Gostisbehere is at his very best, he can just dominate a game with his elusiveness, booming shot and dynamic offensive ability. And that’s just what we saw Saturday night against the Stars as Gostisbehere was a dangerous entity all over the ice and controlled the game when the puck was on his stick.

He brought the Wells Fargo Center to life with his second-period power-play goal that saw him dive a lift a rebound past Dallas goalie Ben Bishop. And then he unglued the place with his game-winner in OT on the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“Ghost” is such a key piece for the Flyers as so much of the offense tends to be filtered through him when he’s on the ice, and especially so on the power play. We saw what happened when he wasn’t playing up to his abilities during the 10-game skid. But the Gostisbehere we saw against the Stars is just what the doctor ordered for the Flyers. And it shows just why.

• Good for Travis Sanheim getting the monkey off his back and potting the first goal of his NHL career during Thursday’s victory over Buffalo.     

During the first period, Sanheim took a feed from Dale Weise and deposited home a one-timer from the circle to knot the game at 1-1. Sure, he got a little help from Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner, who lounged wildly at the shot. But still, Sanheim made no mistake as he went top shelf with it. And he got the puck and the Ric Flair robe after the game to boot.

It’s just a slight taste of what the 21-year-old offensive-minded blueliner can do. In three junior seasons with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Sanheim scored 35 goals. He potted 10 in 76 games with the Phantoms last season.

He can score, and as he gets more and more comfortable at the NHL level, don’t be surprised to see him light the lamp more often.

• Here’s your obvious observation of the week: What a difference two weeks makes.

When the Flyers were shut out by the Bruins 15 days ago, morale was as low as it had been in a long time. Nothing was going right. No breaks went their way. No bounces even came close. The list of misfortunes could go on and on and on. On the morning of Dec. 3, the Flyers had just 22 points, fifth-fewest in the league. They were nine points behind the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Here we are two weeks and change (and six wins in a row) later and the Flyers have 35 points and are just four points behind the New York Islanders for the final wild-card spot in the East.

Hope you guys like roller coasters.

Coming up this week: Monday vs. Los Angeles (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Wednesday vs. Detroit (8 p.m. on NBCSN), Friday at. Buffalo (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday at Columbus (7 p.m. on NBCSP).

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

BOX SCORE

The Flyers developed a Muhammad Ali-type mentality Saturday night.

It was hockey’s version of the rope-a-dope, where the Flyers took the Dallas Stars' best punches early on before going the distance, eventually wearing down an opponent that was playing their third game in four nights.

The end result was a 2-1 Flyers victory, extending their season-high winning streak to six games (see observations).

In fact, the Stars attempted to set the tone on the opening shift when Stars captain Jamie Benn tried to rattle the cage of Claude Giroux. They tangled on their way back to the bench with Benn extending his glove underneath Giroux’s chin.

“We knew they were going to have a good push at the start of the game,” Brian Elliott, who has started all six games of the winning streak, said. "We knew they wouldn't be able to keep it up playing a back-to-back. I thought our guys did a really good job of sticking to that game plan and staying patiently persistent."

The Flyers also knew the Stars would come out of the gates flying after a disappointing 5-2 loss at New Jersey the night before.

“We’ve been on the other side of it,” Giroux said. “Playing a back-to-back, it’s not easy, especially when you’re traveling and we really wanted to take advantage of that. Other teams took advantage of us before.”

The Flyers started to turn up the heat in the opening minutes of the second period when they controlled play with extended shifts in the Stars' end of the ice, coupled with a pair of breakaway opportunities from Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek.

“That (second) period was the one for me where we pushed the game in our direction,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It was during the second period we were able to use everybody. Everybody was going and that allowed us to raise the pace of play a little bit.”

The Flyers were also propelled by their power play that finished the game 2 for 6 and a whopping 12 shots on net. After scoring on a rebound that deflected off the backboards, Shayne Gostisbehere landed the knockout blow with 1:10 remaining in overtime when "Ghost" blasted an overtime slapper during the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“A lot of that power play was going rover," Gostisbehere, who scored his fifth career overtime winner, said, "but you could tell we were feeding off each other, finding lanes and we were just relentless and a goal at the end just showed we weren't giving up there."

Stars coach and former Flyers bench boss Ken Hitchcock was attempting, for the second time, to become the third coach in NHL history to win 800 career games. Much of the reason he didn’t achieve the milestone was the careless penalties of forward Alexander Radulov, which led to both of the Flyers' power-play goals.

“It’s not team discipline, it’s individual,” Hitchcock said. “It’s disappointing to fight like we fought and battle. Come off, playing hard like this off a back-to-back, it’s really disappointing to take those two penalties at the end of the game.”

The Flyers also snapped a seven-game losing streak in contests that extended after regulation. The Flyers had dropped five of those in overtime and another two in the shootout.

“I thought we had a really positive attitude,” Elliott said. “I think everyone thought we would go out there for overtime and win. I didn’t think anybody had any doubts or anything. That’s all you can ask for going into those situations.” 

“I liked the way we approached overtime,” Hakstol said. “I didn’t think we pressed or pushed anything. We weren’t taking any long shifts, no high risk plays. I thought guys just went out and did their job and did it the right way.”

Right now, it’s a Flyers team that may not be floating like a butterfly, but they can certainly sting like a bee.