dale weise

Flyers searching for a New Year's identity

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Flyers searching for a New Year's identity

New Year’s Day has long been that one day of self reflection while providing an opportunity to find the necessary improvements to bottle into a New Year’s resolution.  

Collectively, the Flyers are no different.

Identifying a team identity would serve as a good starting point. So what is that identity?

“That’s a tough question,” said goaltender Brian Elliott, who's playing on his third different team in three years. “I think we know that we can play with and beat any team. We’re right there in that wild-card race and we have to keep inching up. There’s going to be a lot of three-point games and you can’t just win one and lose one. That’s not going to do it in this league.

“I think we’re still trying to find what our identity is,” said forward Dale Weise. “One night when you see in Tampa that we can compete with anybody in the league, and then the next night, no disrespect to Buffalo, we can get dominated by some teams down in the standings. I think going forward we need to find what that identity is and find some consistency.”

More importantly, is that identity passed down from management and the coaching staff or is it developed internally from the leadership group to where it spreads throughout the entire organization?

“It’s probably a two-way street,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “I think everybody has to do their part in building that identity. This is a group that has success through its depth. That identity hasn’t wavered or changed. We went through a real tough stretch where we couldn’t get the results, but that still didn’t change the identity of our team.”

The Flyers may have a positive outlook for 2018, but to produce better outcomes, it’s essential to learn and correct the mistakes from 2017, which saw the Flyers finish the calendar year with a 35-33-14 record, or 84 points in 82 games. 

And now they embark on a pivotal four-game homestand vs. Pittsburgh, the New York Islanders, St. Louis and Buffalo where points will be at a premium. The Pens and Isles are both ahead of the Flyers in the wild-card hunt. The Sabres currently have the fewest points in the East. And while the Blues are a formidable foe, the Flyers shut them out earlier in the year out in St. Louis.

This is where some consistency would be a huge boost.

“First 38 games (this season) we’ve been very inconsistent. When you look at the winning and losing, that’s obvious. Even when you’re having a bad day, you have to find a way,” said forward Jake Voracek. “We know we can come back at any time. Obviously, we were short in Buffalo and we were short in Florida, but in some games when we're down 3-0 to get some of those points. So I’d say that identity is that we really never give up.” 

Flyers prefer the warmth
With the 10th anniversary of the Winter Classic outdoor game and the Flyers' upcoming game against the Penguins, it’s a reminder how those two factors will merge next season when the Flyers host the Pens at Lincoln Financial Field on Feb. 23, 2019.

Despite early morning temperatures in the single digits, it was still a balmy 16 degrees at puck drop between the Sabres and Rangers at Citi Field in NYC, making it the second coldest outdoor game in NHL history.

As a kid, Claude Giroux would skate outdoors on the pond in Northern Ontario in temperatures that were minus-30 to minus-40.

“When you’re a kid, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re cold or not, you just play through it. You’re just having so much fun, the weather’s not really an issue,” said Giroux.

As far as next season’s game against Pittsburgh?

“A little bit of cold. The wind makes a big difference. When you’re skating on one side, you’re going way faster from when you’re skating on the other side. I actually enjoy a little bit of snow,” Giroux said. “I think when we played in Pittsburgh there was a little bit of snow.” 

World Junior Championships snow?

“That was too much snow,” Giroux said followed by smile.

A better Provorov?
Prior to the Flyers’ New Year’s Day workout, Ivan Provorov’s younger brother, nine-year-old Vladimir, was going through a rigorous workout with father Vladimir, who was barking out instruction in Russian. Ivan’s brother was skating around cones while shooting through a small gap near the cross bar with one net lodged against the other.      

“He’s pretty good. I think he’s definitely ahead of where I was at 9 years old,” said Ivan. “He skates two or three times a day when he has a chance, watches highlights and just loves hockey.”

Ivan says the younger Vladimir has an advantage since his father was able to experiment with Ivan growing up in Yaroslavl, Russia before Ivan left to play in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania at age 13.

“I think it’s the same way, except now, he sort of knows what works and how and which way to push and in which direction,” said Ivan. “I think he knows right now which way to go.”

Vladimir currently plays forward and wants to follow in Ivan’s footsteps, but not for some time. He won’t be NHL draft eligible until 2026.

A milestone night for Flyers to end homestand

A milestone night for Flyers to end homestand

BOX SCORE

The Flyers closed out their five-game homestand Wednesday night with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Claude Giroux assisted on three of the Flyers’ goals. 

Rookie defenseman Robert Hagg scored his first NHL goal.

The Flyers held the Red Wings to one shot on net over the final 10:56 of the third period.

Making his ninth straight start, Brian Elliott turned aside 25 of 28 shots to improve his record to 13-7-6.

The Flyers finished with a 4-1-0 mark on the homestand and are 15-12-7 overall. They play back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Columbus on Friday and Saturday, respectively, as they head into the Christmas break. 

• The Flyers’ defense looked very leaky in the first five and a half minutes. Caught up in a line change, the Red Wings found the Flyers’ defense flat-footed at their own blue line as Gustav Nyquist got behind Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. Once again, Elliott was there and bailed out his teammates. 

• Midway through the first period, Anthony Mantha attempted a breakout pass from behind his net, but snapped his stick and the puck dribbled right to Sean Couturier in front of the crease. It was a heads-up play by Jimmy Howard to react as Couturier set up Giroux for a one-timer and that failed to connect as the Flyers had a prime opportunity to score the game’s first goal.

• There was another Flyers’ turnover that saw Hagg’s pass picked off by Andreas Athanasiou in the neutral zone. A few seconds later, Hagg pushed the puck along the boards and it popped out to Athanasiou, who fired a slap shot on Elliott.

• The Flyers had sloppy in the neutral zone again, as Athanasiou jumped on a loose puck. Shayne Gostisbehere jumped up to play his man, Athanasiou and his blazing speed raced past Hagg and broke in on Elliott. However, Athanasiou lost control of the puck and was unable to get off a good shot.  

• Giroux found the soft spot in the high slot and unleashed a one-timer that Howard snared. On the ensuing faceoff, Nolan Patrick won the draw as the puck came out to Gudas, who fired a shot that popped up and over the net. Dale Weise beat Jonathan Ericsson around the net and then wrapped it around for a goal as Howard was late to cover the post.

• Travis Sanheim coughed it up in the neutral zone as he tried to skate the puck over center ice. The Flyers’ neutral zone play was brutal in that opening period. At least a half-dozen turnovers. The Flyers were credited with just three giveaways in the first period, but it certainly felt like a lot more than that.

• The Flyers allowed a brutal goal in the final seconds of the opening period as Dylan Larkin sent a cross-ice saucer through the defense. Andrew MacDonald swiped at it, but came up empty. Martin Frk snapped off a perfectly-placed and timed shot over Elliott’s blocker side shoulder. One way or the other, MacDonald has to prevent that pass so the Flyers get out of the period without allowing goal.

• The Flyers have been very good over the past eight games of eliminating stick penalties. However, Jordan Weal was whistled for a double minor high-sticking penalty after he caught Frans Nielsen up around his face along the Flyers’ bench, and it proved costly. 

• The Red Wings converted on the four-minute power play as Mike Green half-cocked a slap shot and placed it perfectly to Elliott’s blocker side. Elliott was screened on the shot and failed to pick it up off Green’s stick.

• While I still think Travis Konecny tries to do way too much with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he drew a holding penalty on Ericsson along the boards that set up the Flyers with their first power-play opportunity of the game.

• The Flyers had some brilliant passing as Giroux sent a puck cross-ice to Jake Voracek, who in turn sent a touch pass down low to Wayne Simmonds for an easy tap-in goal. Howard simply couldn’t react fast enough and the Wings’ PK just couldn’t adjust that quickly.

• The Flyers failed to build any momentum off their game-tying goal, as just 40 seconds later the Wings forced them into another turnover when Valtteri Filppula turned the puck over behind the goal line. Henrik Zetterberg jumped all over it and sent a centering pass to a wide-open Nyquist on a play that Ivan Provorov should have covered.

• Kudos to rookie Hagg, who scored his first NHL goal on a big slap shot that beat blocker side.

"It feels pretty good,” Hagg said after the second period, “I had a few chances earlier this season, so to see that one go in feels pretty damn good."

• The Flyers opened up the scoring in the third period with a play that looked somewhat similar to their power-play goal earlier. It was all set up by Giroux’s thread-the-needle pass to Simmonds, who fed it over to Couturier. Couturier needed a second whack to push it past Howard for the goal. Giroux’s passing in this game was some of the best I’ve seen from any player all season. It was Couturier's 16th goal of the season, a new career-high.

• Aside from Giroux, Dylan Larkin may have been the second-best player in this game. The Wings’ top center was all over the ice, as he forced turnovers and created plays. He nearly made the Flyers pay for their sloppiness in their own end, but Hagg was there to block Larkin’s shot.

• The Flyers had some great pressure late in the third period started by the top line and then continued by the second line. In all, the Flyers spent about 1:15 in the Red Wings’ zone.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Jori Lehtera-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny

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

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Taylor Leier (upper body, day to day) and Mark Alt (healthy).

Flyers look to avoid another holiday hangover

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Flyers look to avoid another holiday hangover

It was at this exact point in the schedule a year ago when the wheels started to fall off the Flyers' season.

Coming out of their 10-game winning streak, the Flyers had positioned themselves nicely for the playoff push over the final 46 games of the regular season. The had a similar stretch of three games over four days — where they finished 1-1-1 — heading into the holiday shutdown period. At that time, they occupied one of the three automatic playoff spots in the Metropolitan Division.

And then something happened.

“Reflecting on last year, you want to learn from your mistakes,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said Wednesday. “I think we maybe got a little complacent after those 10 games. We kinda got away from the things that were making us successful. Sometimes when it comes off the rails, it’s tough to put it back on. We found that out the hard way last year, and we certainly don’t want that to happen again.”

Coming out of the Christmas break, the Flyers performed as if they were trying to burn off the extra calories of holiday eggnog. As they slumped into the New Year, they proceeded to win just two of their next 11 games and finished with a 19-21-6 record.

The Flyers believe they can learn from last season’s mistakes, and that includes bearing down on the final three games this week, including another back-to-back on the road against the Sabres and Blue Jackets.

“We know it’s the last push before we get a break. Everything, your mind, has got to be on hockey. Everything’s dialed in. You barely practice. You just play the game. That’s my favorite part of it,” forward Michael Raffl said.

“Now it ramps up. It’s a push toward the playoffs. Most of them are four-point games now, so it’s getting more and more important. It’s intense. You can feel it around here right now.”

Despite a 10-game losing streak that started in mid-November this season, the Flyers can pull within two points of the Eastern Conference's final wild-card position with a win Wednesday against Detroit. They don’t want to be slumping.

“At the end of December, you’re six or seven points out, it’s extremely hard to get into the playoffs," forward Dale Weise said. “I think we’re very fortunate where we’re at right now. Obviously, that six-game winning streak put us in a good spot, and we obviously have to find a way to string wins together.”

After this weekend, the Flyers' schedule will come to a grinding halt. While the team is currently in the midst of a seven-game, 12-day grind, the Flyers' next seven games coming out of the Christmas break will stretch out over a 23-day period.

“No, I don’t think there’s a balance there,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “The breaks — that’s part of our schedule. That’s the complete 180-degree different animal to what we’re dealing with when you’re in a real busy stretch.”  

More importantly, how the rookies and younger players adapt to this fluctuating part of the schedule, checking becomes tighter and the intensity grows with more intra-conference games, that will ultimately define how the Flyers' season plays out.

“I think it’s part of learning,” MacDonald said. “I think you have to find out what it takes game in and game out. You really got to find out what works for you. Collectively, as a team, we have to stay focused and committed, whether that’s in the video room or looking out for yourself.”