Flyers

Wayne Simmonds: 'It's not funny when you don't make the playoffs'

Wayne Simmonds: 'It's not funny when you don't make the playoffs'

Twenty minutes had passed since the Rangers eliminated the Flyers on a Sunday night in Madison Square Garden.

Wayne Simmonds, who had been particularly sullen and hidden from the media the entire week, was unavailable.

A volatile guy who wears his heart on his sleeve like no other on this club -- a reason he earned the team MVP this season -- was purposely avoiding the media.

"It's been kinda frustrating and I didn't want to say anything stupid," Simmonds said a few days later. "I'm pretty upset and I might say something I don't mean or I don't want to take back at a later date."

This week marks the third time in five seasons the Flyers have missed the playoffs. And under three different coaches -- Peter Laviolette, Craig Berube and now Dave Hakstol.

Which tells you it's not really about the coaches. It's the players.

The Flyers are still in the midst of a long-term rebuild that is going to stretch into next season and beyond. There are no shortcuts in general manager Ron Hextall's patient approach to rebuild the organizational depth chart and re-earn the title Stanley Cup contender.

"It's not funny when you don't make the playoffs," Simmonds said. "We had aspirations and goals going into this year to make the playoffs. We can't look any further than ourselves in who to blame here. It was in our hands."

Hakstol's club played much better down the stretch, finishing 7-3-2 over its final 12 games.

"We got hot too late," Simmonds said. "I think it’s obviously not a positive, but if we had played the way we did the last 10 games of the year, I think we would have got in.

"Now it's over, there isn't much we can do about, all we can do now is focus on the summer and getting ready for next year."

Two months -- October and February -- killed the entire season. Hakstol's club accumulated just nine points in both months.

By then, the 10-game winning streak and all the safety margin the Flyers had built in the standings had evaporated.

What if the Flyers had won 7 of 11 in February instead of losing 7 of 11? They finished this season seven points out of the wild card.

"It's a completely different story and we're sitting in a playoff spot," Simmonds said of that month. "Or we're a point out and battling. It's frustrating, but we're all in this together. It is what it is now. You can't look back now and say, 'what if?' Now it's too late.

"It was about consistency. One game we'd be unbelievable. The next game a little lower. Going into next year, we have to find our consistency level. Whether we have our legs or not certain game we got to make sure we have our brains. We like our group in here. We're capable of more."

The Flyers final road record was horrendous -- 14-22-5 versus 25-11-5 at home. The 14 victories were the fewest for a Flyers team since winning 10 in 2014-15.

How far have the Flyers fallen on the road? Well, they won a club record 25 road games in consecutive seasons under Laviolette between 2010-2012.

"If you look at our road record, whatever we were trying to do, didn't work, so pretty much we had no choice but to simplify our game," Simmonds said. "When it comes to the road games, we have to become a team that is mentally stronger.

"If we let one goal in or we're down by two, it isn't the end of the world, we can come back and win, that's not how you want to start off, if the other team scores first it is what it is."

Much has to change next season: more consistency in the power play, a major overhaul of the penalty kill, which has been poor for three years now, far more 5-on-5 scoring, and better goaltending.

Theirs is no short-term fix for the Flyers, no one thing that will put this team over the top right away.

And there will be changes.

Right now, Sam Morin and Robert Hagg should both be on the blue line next season, depending upon how Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers play in training camp.

Oskar Lindblom will come over from Sweden and play left wing. Anthony Stolarz in goal or as a backup? Maybe.

More prospects will be coming over the next two seasons. This is far from a finished product in Hextall's eyes.

"We know we have a lot of young guys coming in and we think that will be a good thing," Simmonds said.

3 reasons why Flyers shut down 'best player in the world' Connor McDavid

3 reasons why Flyers shut down 'best player in the world' Connor McDavid

BOX SCORE

A stat line of 0 goals, 0 assists and 0 points has never looked so good.

That's how Connor McDavid will remember his 22:03 of ice time Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

In another tight-checking defensive battle, it was Wayne Simmonds who scored the game-winner with 2:15 remaining in the third period to give the Flyers a 2-1 victory over the Oilers (see observations).

"Pretty big emphasis," Simmonds said of McDavid. "He's probably the best player in the world right now, so you know, we just didn't want him getting the puck in full flight.

"We just wanted to keep him on the outside and kind of limit the touches he was getting."

Aside from the broken collarbone game during his rookie season, when he was forced to leave in the second period, this marked the first time the Flyers held the 20-year-old superstar without a single point.

Prior to Saturday, McDavid had registered six points against the Flyers with at least one point in three straight games.

So, how did the orange and black bottle up the Art Ross Trophy winner — the only NHL player to top 100 points last season?

1. Deploy a multitude of forward lines and defensive pairings
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol started the game matching McDavid's line with Scott Laughton's line. In the final two periods, the task of slowing down McDavid — for the most part — was left to Sean Couturier and the Flyers' top line.

McDavid had five extended shifts of 1:30 or longer, requiring the Flyers to use a combination of lines and bodies against McDavid. Last year, McDavid may have capitalized against a slower Flyers team but this season, there is more balance across the four lines.

"It's real important," Hakstol said. "And it's not just the extended shifts. He's got an ability to finish a long shift, take one off and come right back, and that can be challenging."

2. Ensure Ivan Provorov was on the ice
After the Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg pairing handled some of the first-period shifts against McDavid, it was Provorov who primarily handled those duties in the final 40 minutes. Paired mostly with Andrew MacDonald, Provorov also saw ice time with Hagg, Radko Gudas and even Gostisbehere in the third period.

Fronted by Provorov, McDavid failed to register a single shot on Brian Elliott in the third period. Not surprisingly, Provorov played a season-high 25:54.

"His skating ability and his positioning on the ice is so good he's able to slow guys down to kind of put him on his back, just kind of angle them into parts of the ice they don't want to go into," MacDonald said. "It makes it a lot easier when you're playing with a guy who's capable of doing that so well and covering so much ground. It's great to see and he just keeps getting better."

3. Flyers took away his world-class speed
McDavid may be the fastest player in the world with the puck on his stick in the open ice. In fact, McDavid's glide has more speed to it than most players' stride. If you didn't know that prior to the Flyers-Oilers game, you certainly didn't walk away with the belief that McDavid possesses the acceleration of an Italian-engineered sports car. There wasn't one time Saturday you could recall McDavid flying into the offensive zone with the puck on his stick.

"You can't let him get speed because if he does, he's gone," Laughton said. "I think that's the biggest thing. Take away his speed early, so he can't get that puck and take it away down low too. I thought we did a good job."

For Hakstol and Co., bottle up this game plan for the future. It will come in handy when the Flyers take on the Oilers on Dec. 6 in Edmonton.

The Guy
Guy Lanzi has been the Flyers' oral surgeon since 1993. In that time, Lanzi has pulled, repaired or replaced hundreds of chiclets and Friday afternoon was no different.

Simmonds sat in Lanzi's dentist chair for nearly four hours to have some extensive dental work after taking a puck to the mouth while sitting on the bench Thursday against the Predators.

"No surgery — just a lot of work," Simmonds said Saturday. "I was in the doctor's office for a while there. Couple of root canals, couple of pulled teeth replaced, couple teeth bridged. Work is not done yet. I got to go back soon."

Because of that, Simmonds was forced to wear the protective face guard to ensure a puck or stick doesn't do any more damage.

“I can't be getting hit in the mouth again or the rest of my teeth are going to fall out,” Simmonds said.

The reward for Simmonds' mouth-numbing procedure was his fist-pumping, crowd-roaring game-winner and his team-leading sixth goal and fourth game-winner of the season.

“I don’t know how many people would want to go through that and then come back and play a hockey game," Hakstol said, "but he did it, and he scored the game-winner.”

“I think just getting two points satisfies me," Simmonds said. "I’m in a lot better spirits today.”

Flyers-Oilers observations: Red-hot Wayne Simmonds plays hero in win

Flyers-Oilers observations: Red-hot Wayne Simmonds plays hero in win

BOX SCORE

For the second straight game, the Flyers were forced to get defensive, and this time, they found a way to come out on top Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Wayne Simmonds produced the game-winner after taking a pass from Valtteri Filppula and snapping it past Cam Talbot with 2:15 remaining in the third period.

It was a tight-checking game that played out similar to what we saw Thursday against the Predators, as the Flyers held the Oilers to 24 shots on net. Connor McDavid registered four shots on net but wasn’t much of a factor offensively.

• The Flyers jumped on the board first with the help of their first power play when Shayne Gostisbehere’s blast from the point was deflected out front by Wayne Simmonds right to Claude Giroux, who corralled the loose puck and punched it into a wide-open net for his fifth goal of the season. 

Following an 0 for 5 effort against Nashville, the Flyers needed to capitalize on the man advantage chances.  

“We just have a lot of different looks this year,” Gostisbehere said to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Chris Therien during the first intermission. “We have so many plays out there. It’s harder for other teams to prepare for us. We’re getting pucks to the net and our guys are doing what they're supposed to do.”

• Former Phantom Patrick Maroon finally got the Oilers on the board with 4:23 remaining in the second period when he outmuscled rookie Nolan Patrick along the corner boards, coming away with the puck and making a move past Ivan Provorov, before putting a shot between Brian Elliott’s pads. 

Patrick appeared to have been distracted by a broken stick along the boards that made him hesitate with the puck. The Flyers' rookie center could have elevated the puck with his backhand, but by holding onto to it for a split second too long, he allowed Maroon to come up with the takeaway.

• The Flyers got careless defensively in the opening 10 minutes of the second period as defensive breakdowns led to some quality scoring chances for the Oilers.

• The Flyers did a solid job of containing last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner McDavid, primarily deploying Scott Laughton’s line along with the Sean Couturier line sometimes during the same shift. McDavid had some extended shifts — three even-strength shifts over 1:30 — requiring the Flyers to use a multitude of forwards and defense pairs.

• McDavid left the game briefly in the first period and returned midway through.

• Jori Lehtera produced his best scoring chance of the season when he took Radko Gudas’ outlet pass and attempted to squeeze through a pair of defenders. The plodding Lehtera was unable to gain enough speed for an uncontested shot, but with his strong forearms and hands, he was able to draw a slashing penalty and still put a shot on net. 

• Last season, Giroux didn’t score his fifth goal until Nov. 29th. 

• Both Taylor Leier and Jordan Weal missed Saturday’s game with upper-body injuries. According to general manager Ron Hextall, both forwards are day-to-day. 

• Referee Ian Walsh was honored prior to the game for officiating his 1,000th career game. Flyers captain Claude Giroux presented Walsh with a framed autographed jersey signed by the team with the No. 1,000 on the back.

Lines, pairings and scratches
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jori Lehtera-Valterri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Matt Read-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jordan Weal, Taylor Leier and Brandon Manning