Taylor Leier

Flyers-Islanders observations: Skid extends to 6 with tough OT loss

Flyers-Islanders observations: Skid extends to 6 with tough OT loss

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders extended the Flyers’ season-high losing streak to six games with a 4-3 overtime win Wednesday night at The Barclays Center.

Josh Bailey rammed home his own rebound just 32 seconds into the OT session as the Flyers fell to 1-5 in overtime this season.

The Flyers finally received some secondary scoring as Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl scored their first goals of the season.

Brian Elliott stopped 35 shots as his record dropped to at 6-6-3.

Once again, the Flyers were buried by their penalty kill as the Islanders converted 2 of 5 power-play opportunities. The Flyers have allowed seven PP goals in their last three games. 

• The Flyers turned it up in the final period of regulation as they outshot the Isles 14-8 with most of those shots coming in the final eight minutes.

• The Flyers penalty kill was considerably better in the opening minutes of the third period. The unit played more aggressively and did not allow the Isles to set up or have several cracks at Elliott. Ivan Provorov had a big block as the Flyers was forced to kill off back-to-back minors. Samuel Morin took a foolish interference penalty.

• There was some big-time pressure from the John Tavares line midway through the third period, but credit the Flyers’ defense as it kept the Islanders’ captain around the perimeter for most of the game. Tavares was one of two Isles player who didn’t have a shot on net.

• In undoubtedly his best game of the season, Raffl was all over the place with his early breakaways and his strong net presence. He led the Flyers with six shots on goal, three hits and even won 3 of 4 faceoffs.

• Elliott stifled a pair of 2-on-1 opportunities for the Islanders in the second period. He came up with a tremendous save when Tavares set up Josh Bailey with a one-timer that Elliott read perfectly and snatched with the glove. Elliott certainly kept the Flyers in this game with timely saves as he faced 29 shots in the first 40 minutes.

• The Flyers got a much-needed power play goal, set up by Wayne Simmonds with a nice and quick cross-ice pass from down low to Jake Voracek in the right circle. The attention Simmonds commands around the crease made that play possible.

• The Flyers lost a key faceoff in the defensive zone in the second, which allowed a pass from Adam Pelech to Josh Ho-Sang to get his stick up and deflect a puck past Elliott. These are the type of goals the Flyers have desperately needed but have failed to get against opposing goalies.

• There was good speed by the Flyers’ third line between Valtteri Filppula and Travis Konecny. However, Filppula was only able to put a weak backhand attempt on net, an easy save for Thomas Greiss. 

• Jordan Eberle picked Provorov’s pocket in the opening seconds of the second period. Sometimes his teammates assume Provy will just skate the puck out of danger or always come away with it when battling along the boards. Tough first six minutes for Provorov, who also took a cheap hooking penalty.

• After Morin flipped the puck into the stands for a delay of game, the Flyers’ PK let them down once again on a 5-on-3 Islanders’ opportunity as Johnny Boychuk found the space just under the crossbar. It was an open lane that doesn’t exist on a 5-on-4 PP, but give Boychuk credit for working his way into the open lane. That made it seven power-play goals surrendered by the Flyers in their last seven periods of action at that point.

• Raffl converted on his second breakaway as he made a move on Greiss just enough for his shot to hit the post and then kicked over the line off the goalie’s skate. The Flyers capitalized on the Islanders’ defensive breakdowns early with three clear breakaways in the first 23 minutes. 

• Dave Hakstol told me Morin was primarily a left-side defenseman, but in the first period we saw him play the right side in a few instances and look comfortable doing so. Morin had a big hit on Eberle late in the first period to dislodge his stick. The Islanders seemed to sense Morin’s length and were reluctant to challenge him in the offensive zone. Overall, it was a solid first period for Morin. 

• There was a very quick read-and-react play from Danick Martel with his takeaway at the point. He then displayed his breakaway speed as he came in on goaltender Greiss, who got enough of his blocker on the shot. Still, that’s precisely the type of offensive jolt the Flyers need from Martel, who said after the first period of his NHL debut, “There was a lot of emotion for sure. Hockey is a simple game and I wanted to keep it simple, play hard and that’s what I did and I had a couple of good scoring chances.”

• Once again, the Flyers’ top line generated an outstanding scoring chance with Sean Couturier and Voracek working in tandem. Voracek’s shot created a big rebound and Couturier failed to elevate the puck or he may have scored his 13th goal of the season. Credit Greiss for being able to extend the right pad and keeping the puck out of the net.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill failed to get the job done once again in the first period as the Islanders’ quick puck movement really backed the PK down low. Matthew Barzal’s shot from the faceoff dot didn’t allow Elliott enough time to react. 

• Raffl, mired in a 42-game stretch without a point, had his best opportunity of the season with a breakaway chance and tried to slide the puck five-hole. I think if Raffl had some confidence in his game he would have made some sort of move on Greiss.

• The Flyers scored the first goal for the fourth straight game as Travis Sanheim unleashed a rocket that created a big rebound and Leier did exactly what the players and Coach Hakstol have been preaching: crash the net and work for those dirty goals. The shot inadvertently deflected off Leier’s skate for a 1-0 lead. I feel that Sanheim has been more active in the offensive zone over the past six to seven games.

• It hasn’t been talked about much, but Sanheim has a heavy shot. If taken from the top of the circles, it can create some second-chance opportunities. 

• Elliott has been solid with rebound control recently, but in the first period he gave some long ones that allowed the Islanders some second-chance opportunities.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Danick Martel-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jordan Weal

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim
Samuel Morin-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise and Radko Gudas.

Michael Raffl rejuvenated playing with Flyers' dynamic fourth line

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Michael Raffl rejuvenated playing with Flyers' dynamic fourth line

VOORHEES, N.J. — Don't think for one minute Michael Raffl isn't having fun.

The fifth-year Flyers forward is without a single point through 15 games and sees the shortest ice time on the team at 10:14 a night, a career low.

For a guy that scored 21 goals in 2014-15 and was at times featured in a top-line role alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, remaining his jovial self would seem like a challenge.

Raffl, though, has no reason to slouch. The good-humored Austrian is simply having a different type of fun. He's now on the highly praised, new-look fourth line with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier. At 28 years old, Raffl is an elder statesman of sorts among Laughton and Leier, both 23 years old.

"My back gets sore from carrying those two guys," Raffl said Tuesday as Laughton laughed sitting right next to his locker at Flyers Skate Zone. "It's been good with those four days off now."

Raffl and Laughton are tight off the ice, which makes for good chemistry on it.

"For sure, he's still a rookie," Raffl said. "I put him in his place. He's been a good helper."

What does Laughton like about playing with Raffl?

"Nothing," he said, still laughing with his locker buddy.

Yeah, Raffl is doing just fine — the new job hasn't squelched his enjoyment.

"I'm just joking, this is all fun," Raffl said. "It's been good. Stats haven't been there, but the team has been going very well. This is pretty much the best I've felt ever since I've been here, team-wise. There are not too many games this year where we absolutely had no chance in a game. I felt like we were there every single time and could have won every single game, so that has been fun."

Furthermore, Raffl finally has consistency in his role, even if the major stats portray it as a lesser one. Throughout his time with the Flyers, Raffl has bounced around from line to line and position to position.

This season, he's appeared in every game thus far and hasn't moved.

"I take pride in it," Raffl said. "I don't think I've ever played more than 50 games on a line, so it's been a good run so far."

Raffl, Laughton and Leier have become a fixture on the beloved fourth unit.

"I haven't played with anyone else yet, so I'm happy with it," Leier said. "The two linemates I have right now, they're both great players. Raf's got [284] games, and he's been with G and Voracek at times, so he's been through it, he knows what he's doing obviously. He's been a 20-goal scorer, and then Scotty, too, he's got over 100 games, and it's good to have a guy like that on your line."

And while Raffl doesn't get to boast goals and assists, he's done a lot in the smaller areas. The winger has been a plus player, his 21 hits are second among all Flyers forwards, and he's committed just two giveaways and one penalty.

"That's what your job is on the fourth line," Raffl said. "It's still nice to score goals and get points, don't get me wrong, but yeah, it is what it is.

"You've got to adjust your game if you play a role like that.

"Leiersy and Laughts, they're extremely simple to play with, there's no magic to it. You go out there and work hard, be hard on pucks. If you turn it over or lose it, those guys are so fast, they can backcheck and get the puck back. All three of us have been doing that, so it gives you confidence in the offensive zone to try different stuff. Honestly, it's been a lot of fun so far."

Much to the delight of head coach Dave Hakstol.

"He just fits the mold of that line," Hakstol said of Raffl. "All of those guys have worked well together. The other two guys kill penalties together, so that kind of inherently builds a little bit more chemistry. Right from Day 1 of camp, Raf and Laughts have shown that they've had pretty good chemistry together. They've spent a lot of time together and very little time apart since Day 1 of camp."

Meanwhile, Raffl will eventually score a goal again.

It'll just add to his new fun.

"I actually forgot how to celebrate," Raffl said.

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Taylor Leier expected back tonight against Ducks

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USA Today Images

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Taylor Leier expected back tonight against Ducks

VOORHEES, N.J. -- A big part of the Flyers' early-season success is the upgrade in their fourth line.

Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier have formed a fast, skilled and tenacious bottom three. Leier credits time spent at Lehigh Valley with the former first-round pick Laughton for much of the unit's chemistry early on.

"It's very comforting playing with Scott and Raff," Leier said after Tuesday's morning skate. "Me and Laughts grew up together in the AHL and now we're here together and that's a very comforting feeling. Being with a familiar face and familiar centerman."

While Leier and Laughton developed together with the Phantoms, Raffl was going through a tough, injury-riddled season with the big club. The 28-year-old forward's style of play has fit in nicely with his young linemates.

"Raf is so good down low," Leier said. "He's fast and he's strong. That complements me and Scott and we complement his game very well because we're fast and shifty and can hound pucks and be tenacious in the O-zone and retrieve pucks. He's so good in the corners and holding on to the puck and I think that's really good for me and Scott when we're buzzing around in the O-zone, trying to disrupt [the other team]. Overall, it's been fun to play with those two."

Leier missed Saturday's win over Edmonton with an upper-body injury suffered against Nashville last week, but it appears likely the 23-year-old will draw back into the lineup. The Flyers didn't do line rushes during the morning skate, but Matt Read and Jordan Weal were the last two Flyers on the ice. Weal will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

"It feels good to be back," Leier said. "For any player, being injured is not a good feeling. It's good to be back."

Moose call
Brian Elliott will get the nod tonight against the Ducks, despite the recent success of Michal Neuvirth and the fact Elliott just started Saturday afternoon's win over the Oilers.

Neuvirth has just one win on the young season but has a microscopic 1.36 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage in three starts. 

It's not to say Elliott has played poorly. Since allowing six goals in the team's heartbreaking 6-5 loss in Nashville back on Oct. 10, Elliott has been solid in his last two starts. He's turned away 44 of the 47 shots he's faced and led the Flyers to two victories.

"I think both guys are playing well and both guys have contributed over the last week," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "We're happy with both of them. Like I said, both guys have done a real nice job for our team."

Fly Eagles Fly
Hakstol coached at the University of North Dakota for 11 years before accepting the head job with the Flyers.

He knows all about Eagles quarterback and NFL MVP candidate Carson Wentz, who spent his college days at North Dakota State.

Monday Night Football color analyst Jon Gruden, known for his superlatives, referred to Wentz as "North Dakota tough" during the team's 34-24 win over Washington.

What does "North Dakota tough" mean?

"You saw it in Carson Wentz last night. It's that simple," Hakstol said of Wentz. "Things get heated, things get tight, he seems to get calmer and more focused on the job at hand."