Shayne Gostisbehere

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Strong 3rd periods helping team finish

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Strong 3rd periods helping team finish

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Finishing up strong is a message NHL coaches typically preach on the final game of an extended road trip.

You’re tired of living out of a suitcase. Ready to sleep in your own bed. All while acclimating your body to a change in time zones.

Essentially, the Flyers have taken that approach into their game-to-game preparation as they’ve been the stronger team over the final 20-plus minutes in each contest so far.

Even though they’ve been outscored 3-2 in the third period of their first three games, they have outshot their opponent by a wide margin (a 49-20 total). Here’s the breakdown: 17-11 in San Jose, 17-5 in Los Angeles and 15-4 in Anaheim.

So what can this disparity be attributed to for the orange and black? The Flyers on Monday had a number of reasons for being a considerably stronger third-period team early in the season.

1. “Guys came into camp in really good shape,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “We’ve got lots of speed. Guys can skate. When you have fast forwards and you get in on the forecheck hard, you can wear teams down and create more opportunities for yourself.”

2. “I think the depth is a huge part of our team,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “When you take over third periods like that, it’s obviously a team effort, not just a couple lines and a couple of guys. I think it’s huge for us as a team — to come out there and be ready for those third periods and come with a good start.”

3. “I think we’re in really good shape, the whole team,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “We’re well-conditioned and we stick with it. We had a really good, hard camp — two hard weeks of battling and competing, and I think that prepared us for the season.”

General manager Ron Hextall believes it’s a product of all of those factors.

“I think rolling four lines certainly helps,” Hextall said. “The commitment our players made in the summer to coming to camp in great shape. We had a difficult training camp in terms of the workload, and I think that’s played into our third periods.”

The most impressive of those performances was the effort the Flyers exuded in the game in Los Angeles when they were on the second leg of a back-to-back after flying in from San Jose 24 hours prior.

“Mostly, it’s the players in the dressing room in between periods — just continuing to stay with the game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Having a real mentality to build our game. All three of those games were tight hockey games in the third, so we needed a push in order to get the result we wanted. Hopefully that can become a real characteristic of our team.”

There’s a new goalie in town
The Flyers acquired goaltender Dustin Tokarski, 28, from the Anaheim Ducks on Monday in exchange for future considerations. 

Hextall finally found a depth goalie he’d been searching for after losing Anthony Stolarz, who had meniscus surgery in September.

“We just wanted to upgrade our depth. We feel like Dustin has experience in the regular season, the playoffs, and felt like it's an upgrade,” Hextall said. “Number one is he’s competitive, he works hard. He’s a little bit of an undersized goalie (6-foot, 205 pounds). He’s quick, agile, does a good job and we think he’s going to be a good fit.”

In a corresponding deal, the Flyers sent Leland Irving, 29, to the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. Irving was on an AHL-only contract, which made it necessary to complete a deal with two separate transactions.

With Alex Lyon penciled in at No. 3 on the organizational depth chart, it’s worth noting the last time the Flyers utilized four goaltenders in a single season came in 2012-13 (Ilya Bryzgalov, Brian Boucher, Steve Mason and Michael Leighton).

Banner night in Nashville
The Nashville Predators will delay the start of Tuesday night’s game with their home opener festivities that will include a banner raising ceremony as Western Conference champions.

“There will be a ton of energy in the building come tomorrow night, so I’m excited for that,” Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said.

The Predators hope Tuesday night’s game against the Flyers will give them a much-needed boost after dropping their first two games on the road (4-3 in Boston and 4-0 in Pittsburgh).

“They’re a good hockey team,” Hakstol said. “They play with a lot of pace. Their defense presents a pretty good challenge, not only up ice but in the zone. 

“They had a hell of a playoff run last year. It’s their home and I’m sure they’ll have a lot of intensity flowing through the building, and we’ll have to be ready to match that.”

Wayne Simmonds, power play lift Flyers to season-opening win

Wayne Simmonds, power play lift Flyers to season-opening win

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Not only do the Flyers finally know the way to San Jose, but they now also know the best mode of transportation to get here and to get the job done.

By train.

The "Wayne Train" delivered the cargo as he became the first Flyer in franchise history to score a hat trick on opening night. Two of those were vintage Simmonds parking the caboose in front of the goaltender and redirecting shots from the point. He capped his second career hat trick with an empty-netter that secured a 5-3 opening night victory Wednesday over the Sharks, just the Flyers’ second win in San Jose since the turn of the century (see observations).

It was Simmonds’ hand-eye coordination, coupled with an ability to screen a goaltender, that placed him in a very elite category.

“That’s pretty good,” Simmonds said. “I thought we started really well. I think we’ve got a lot more speed. I think if you watched the game, we just kept skating, skating and skating. I think it was because of our legs that we came away with the two points. The good thing about the young guys is they have a ton of energy and a ton of legs, so that’s good.”

“He’s the best in the business at that (working down low),” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “They always tell me if I get the puck through on net, don’t get it blocked. You’re going to get a point because it’s either going to go in or Simmer is going to tip it. It’s a good presence to have. It’s a weapon that we obviously have, and he showed it tonight.”

The Flyers utilized Simmonds and their power-play units to full potential. Not only did the Flyers’ power play complete a hat trick of its own, but collectively, the team’s two units also needed just 1:09 to accomplish the feat. 

First, Jordan Weal got the Flyers on the board on the PP before Simmonds followed suit with his pair.  

“Jokingly, we said we were saving them for the season,” Gostisbehere, who tied a career-high with three assists, said. “It was huge for us.”

The Flyers didn’t start working on their power play until a week into the preseason. They were never too distracted with their September struggles, especially in the game at Boston in which they finished 0 for 9.  

“The last three games of the preseason, things were clicking pretty well,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Tonight, the puck went into the net. We had a real good shooting mentality. We scored a couple early by having great net-front presence. One or two passes and putting it to the net, and it was effective for us tonight.”

Brian Elliott earned the season-opening assignment in net and despite surrendering a 2-0 lead in the first period and a 3-2 lead earlier in the third period, he shut the door over the final 16:48 to earn his first win in orange and black.

“The first game of the season, you’re always figuring things out,” Elliott said. “But that was a good one for us to spoil a home opener.”

Rookie report
Making his NHL debut, Nolan Patrick played 13:30 and had three shots on goal. Patrick also won 56 percent of his faceoffs.

While he wasn’t noticeable on the offensive end, he played a responsible defensive game. 

“I thought he played really well,” Simmonds said. “I asked him if he was nervous before the game and he said no. I think it was [Jakub Voracek] who said, ‘Ah, you better be nervous.’”

Robert Hagg, paired with Gostisbehere, was on the ice for 16:13 with two shots on goal. He saw time in all situations, including nearly two minutes on the penalty kill. 

“You’d think he’d be nervous, but he was so calm,” Gostisbehere said. “He’s a cool, calm and collected guy. He just sees the game so well. He’s a good calming presence back there. I think he played really well out there tonight.”

Taylor Leier, playing right winger on the Flyers’ fourth line, saw significant ice time with 12:30 of action (4:35 shorthanded). Leier was not on the ice when the Sharks scored their two power-play goals.  

For the stat junkies
• Hakstol is now 2-0-1 in season openers.

• Claude Giroux’s first-period goal marked the fourth time he’s scored a goal in a season opener. With his first assist this season, Giroux will pass Mark Recchi for fourth place on the Flyers’ all-time list.

• With his three goals, Simmonds surpassed the 400-point mark for his career (401).

• Wednesday’s game was the third time in franchise history the Flyers started their season in California. Last season, the Flyers began in Los Angeles with a 4-2 win over the Kings. Their first season opener in the Golden State came in their inaugural season of 1966-67 when they lost to the California Seals, 5-1, at Oracle Arena, home to the NBA world champion Golden State Warriors.

Flyers-Sharks thoughts: The Nolan Patrick-led youth movement begins tonight

Flyers-Sharks thoughts: The Nolan Patrick-led youth movement begins tonight

Flyers at Sharks
10:30 p.m. on NBCSN, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 10
 
Ready for the real thing?
 
The Flyers' 2017-18 regular season gets underway tonight with a visit to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center, opening up a four-game road trip to commence the new campaign.
 
Thanks to a Nolan Patrick-led youth movement and a current core starting to fight the proverbial clock, this Flyers' season brings a fascinating dynamic to the table (see Fearless Forecast).
 
How it all unfolds begins now (see predictions).
 
So, without further ado, here are some thoughts for the season opener:
 
• Let's enjoy Patrick's NHL debut, regardless of how he fares tonight. The fact he's here is still sort of hard to comprehend. Remember when the No. 2 overall pick in the June entry draft just fell into the Flyers' lap courtesy of immense lottery luck? A little over five months ago, the chances of Patrick wearing orange and black were slim to none.
 
Now it's actually here.
 
It sure will be a treat to watch the 19-year-old center night in and night out. He's expected to center the second line between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. One quote that encapsulates Patrick comes from his uncle, James, in June. "If he's playing with some skilled guys, he will get them the puck, he will make plays," James said. "Put the best players on the ice with him and they will get chances, and chances all night. I think that's what his offensive upside is."
 
• Claude Giroux to the left wing will always be worth watching, and especially now when the games start to matter. It looks like the Flyers' captain will start the season in the new spot, next to Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Giroux put up four assists but no goals in four preseason games of playing left winger. Still, there were tons of positives and it will be interesting to see how long this change sticks. A quick start certainly won't hurt.
 
“It's different with ‘G’ on the left plank. I think he can risk a little bit more than when he was at center,” Voracek said last week. “For his advantage, I think it’s real important that he can use the boards because he’s a very smart player. If you know how to use the boards, it’s a big advantage. I think we’ve been very good and we’ve just got to keep going."
 
• The Flyers are carrying eight defensemen, including three rookies. Two very well may be healthy scratches in the opener, before one of them could be sent back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley soon. Robert Hagg is the only rookie defenseman playing tonight, while Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim will serve as extras provided Shayne Gostisbehere (upper-body injury) is able to go. Hagg will be paired with Gostisbehere. Nonetheless, the defense will be key in both ends. The Flyers are hoping a lot of their offense can come from the blueliners joining the rush and making plays.
 
• Last season, the Sharks surrendered the fourth-fewest goals at 2.44 per game, which helped outweigh them scoring just 2.67 per game, only two spots ahead of the Flyers. Goalie Martin Jones was strong at 35-23-6 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. San Jose, which was just in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, is top heavy with formidable names in Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.
 
• The Sharks went 26-11-4 at home last season, while the Flyers went 14-22-5 on the road. The Flyers have lost four of their last five season openers and 17 of their last 21 matchups to San Jose.
 
• Keep an eye on the power play, which never found great rhythm or consistency during the preseason and is under new instruction from first-year assistant coach Kris Knoblauch. The man advantage wasn't of great emphasis early in training camp, so some patience may be required.
 
• Brian Elliott will make his Flyers debut tonight. Elliott was 26-18-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 49 games last season with the Flames.