Devan Dubnyk

Flyers' scoreless streak extended with another Wild shutout

Flyers' scoreless streak extended with another Wild shutout

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. — If you despised the original, then you certainly gave the sequel two thumbs down in the Flyers’ home-and-home series with the Minnesota Wild.

In a matchup of last-place teams in their respective divisions, the Flyers were jumped on from the game’s opening shift in a 3-0 loss to the Wild on Tuesday night (see observations). Minnesota scored 12 seconds into the game and added a pair of empty-netters to seal the shutout at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota netminder Devan Dubnyk was a perfect 62 of 62 in save opportunities in the past two games against the Flyers. Meanwhile, the orange and black’s scoreless streak stretched back to last Thursday’s game against the Blackhawks when Sean Couturier scored the Flyers’ last goal at 3:51 of the second period. 

When the Flyers hit the ice Thursday in Winnipeg, they’ll be staring at a scoring drought of 156 minutes, nine seconds … and ticking. 

“Sometimes when it rains it pours when you can’t score, and it’s pouring on us a little bit right now,” goaltender Brian Elliott said.

Sure, the Flyers are outplaying the opposition. They limited the Wild to just 18 shots prior to the two empty-net goals. However, they’ve also squandered some excellent goaltending from Elliott, who hasn’t allowed more than two goals in each of his last four starts. Elliott’s only hiccup came in the first 12 seconds of the game when Nino Niederreiter one-timed a shot over the goalie on a pass from Eric Staal. 

“We can’t get scored on like that early, first shift of the game. Caught us a little asleep to start,” Elliott said. “First forecheck they create a chance like that, and then we’re fighting from behind and you don’t want to do that ever. Luckily, we have a game in a couple of nights and a chance to redeem ourselves.”

Finding the back of the net right now appears to be a monumental challenge. Dale Weise had arguably the best opportunity of the night with 12 minutes remaining in regulation when he snuck in behind Minnesota’s defense for a clear breakaway on Dubnyk. Weise attempted a quick wrist shot in an attempt to sneak one between Dubnyk’s legs but he was denied (see highlights).

“Yeah, I was just trying a quick shot,” Weise said. “He’s such a big guy. There’s a little more room five-hole on a big guy like that. He was quite a ways out of the net, so I was just trying to freeze him.”

Coming into the game, the Flyers expressed a desire to create more traffic in front of Dubnyk and the officials allowed both teams to bang away down in the trenches. The teams were whistled for a combined three penalties with the Flyers’ only minor being handed to Wayne Simmonds for an early hooking call.

“They do such a good job of defending. They box out so well,” Weise said. “You really can’t get second chances. It’s kind of like 1997 all over again with the obstruction in front of their net. There’s just no penalties called. It’s frustrating where you can’t get any second whacks there. I’ve had three penalties where I haven’t touched the guy, and [tonight] it’s World War III in front of their net.” 

“You’ve got to keep a real strong mental mindset,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “For us, you’ve got to look at yourself and look at little ways where you can stay that extra second in your real estate at the top of the blue paint, take the goaltenders eyes away a little bit more. That’s not to say our guys weren’t working hard at it tonight.” 

The Flyers have also had some major issues against Western Conference opponents. In their last 25 games dating back to Dec. 30 of last year, the Flyers are 9-12-4 against the West and have been shut out in eight of those contests.

The Flyers also can’t rely on their power play. Over the last 12 games, that unit collectively has gone 4 for 35. That’s an 11.4 percent success rate of with an average of just 2.91 opportunities per game.

Right now, Hakstol’s club could use anything or anyone to score a goal. The timing couldn’t be more ideal for a Nolan Patrick return.

Flyers-Wild observations: On the wrong end of another shutout

Flyers-Wild observations: On the wrong end of another shutout

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Devan made me do it.

That could serve as the Flyers’ excuse for being swept in their home-and-home series with the Minnesota Wild. The Flyers were shut out once again, this time with a 3-0 final at the Xcel Energy Center Tuesday night.

Devan Dubnyk stopped all 30 shots for his third straight shutout to extend his scoreless streak to 195:05. He blanked the Flyers in both games.

For the first time in franchise history, the Flyers have been shut out in five of their first 18 games.

Nino Niederreiter scored Minnesota’s first goal just 12 seconds into the game. It was the first goal in four games scored by a Wild player other than Jason Zucker, who had the team’s previous six goals over that span. Eric Staal and Zucker added empty-netters over the final 1:09.

Brian Elliott was solid once again in a losing effort as he turned aside 17 of 18 shots. 

• Minnesota should have had a 2-0 lead with 6:30 remaining when Marcus Foligno got in behind the Flyers’ defense. His backhand attempt was stopped by Elliott and it appeared Chris Stewart missed a wide-open net.

• The short and speedy Tyler Ennis had a clear breakaway on Elliott, who didn’t give up his ground and stoned Ennis blocker side. 

• Minnesota is like a vacuum in the defensive zone. Robert Hagg appeared to have some open ice on a Flyers’ breakout, but he was snuffed out by four players by the time he got to the top of the circles. Then Dale Weise got behind the defense but couldn’t put any sort of move on Dubnyk as he elected to test the five-hole. However, Dubnyk had it closed off.

• Once again, Minnesota’s top line of Staal, Niederreiter and Zucker was buzzing on its first shift of the second period. There were a couple of good chances down low from Zucker and Niederreiter. Ivan Provorov and Hagg have had their hands full containing that trio down in the trenches.

• Minnesota had a solid 30- to 40-second shift when Travis Konecny broke his stick, which left Jordan Weal and Weise working even harder to clear the zone. The Flyers were also left with Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas defending and neither player could corral the puck and work it to a Flyers forward.  

• Scott Laughton provided the Flyers with their best opportunity of the game with a pair of shots from close range that Dubnyk was able to deny with his left pad. It’s about as close as the Flyers have been able to penetrating Minnesota’s defense.

• The Flyers started to regain the possession edge over the final 10 minutes of the second period. Claude Giroux had a tip-in attempt that Dubnyk was able to glove, but for the most part, the Flyers haven’t been able to clog the area in front of the crease and make life miserable for the goalie.

• Did you catch Matt Dumba’s move from behind his own net? He banked a pass off the net and spun around Jori Lehtera to get out of danger. Dumba has a huge slap shot and big offensive upside. However, in these two games he’s played very sound defensively. 

• Taylor Leier gave the Flyers two good looks in the final 90 seconds of the second period, including one that rang off the post. Dubnyk saved the other, and through six periods, he stopped all 62 shots he faced from the Flyers.

• Just an ugly start for the Flyers. Twelve seconds into the game, Staal stripped Provorov along the boards and fed Niederreiter for the one-timer goal over the shoulder of Elliott. It tied the record for the fastest goal on home ice in franchise history. 

• After they started the game on the ice for that unforgettable first goal, the new-look second line of Weise, Weal and Wayne Simmonds had a strong shift. That stretch included Weal’s high-percentage scoring chance in the slot on the feed from Simmonds. Their puck possession also included drawing a penalty that led to the Flyers’ first power play. 

• Elliott kept the deficit to 1-0 with a big pad save on Mikko Koivu from the left circle during the first. In consecutive shifts, Minnesota’s top three lines had good pressure in the Flyers’ zone. That included a clear path for Luke Kunin, who reversed his way from beyond the goal line to get a clear look but the puck was poked away. 

• Later, Brandon Manning committed a turnover as he skated deep into his own end that saw Joel Ericsson have a free look at Elliott, who came up with a glove save.

• The Wild’s Ryan Suter may be one of the best rebound-clearing defenseman in the NHL. Suter seems to always know where the low-traffic area is on the ice. He was outstanding in the game at the Wells Fargo Center and he has such quick wrists that he’s capable of knocking the puck away before a Flyers’ stick can get to it.

• Ticky-tack holding call on Simmonds as he grabbed Ennis’ jersey for a brief moment when the puck was on the other side of the ice. The Wild got a couple of early shots, but credit the forwards who did a solid job of keeping Minnesota’s PP on the perimeter.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Defenseman Mark Alt (healthy) and forward Matt Read (healthy).

Bigger goalies like Wild's Devan Dubnyk pose problem for Flyers

Bigger goalies like Wild's Devan Dubnyk pose problem for Flyers

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Four shutouts in their first 17 games.

Or you can break it down in a way that sounds a little more alarming: the Flyers essentially have given themselves no shot at winning 24 percent of their games this season which, in part, explains why they’re in last place in a very tightly-packed Metropolitan Division.

“It’s tough to say,” forward Scott Laughton said Tuesday. “I think we’re aware of it for sure. We’ve been shut out four times now and it’s not fun.”

“Everyone’s got pride in their offensive game, and when you get shut out, it doesn’t feel good,” forward Jordan Weal said. “I think if we can really get to our game and do it for a full 60 minutes tonight, I see something going in.”

The Flyers had a similar stretch of offensive ineptitude last season when they were blanked five times over a 19-game stretch from late December to early February, and they finished the season on the wrong side of eight shutouts, which ranked in the bottom five of the league. 

The logic is rather simple: when you can’t score, you can’t win, and that has been the case against some of the better goaltenders in the league. L.A.’s Jonathan Quick, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, Chicago’s Corey Crawford and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk are big, rangy netminders who cover a lot of area.

“Three of those guys are really big goalies who fight through traffic,” Laughton said. “I thought last game Dubnyk was good but we've got to get more traffic on him, and create better chances for ourselves. If our first line doesn’t score, we’ve got to have other guys who step up.”

Perhaps a little overdue in switching up his second and third lines, head coach Dave Hakstol recognized a needed change after Saturday’s loss to Minnesota in which the Valtteri Filppula and Jori Lehtera lines failed to generate anything off the rush playing with little speed through the neutral zone.

“There’s no need for a desperate mentality or anything like that,” Hakstol said. “A couple of games where we didn’t score, maybe we could have done a little more, gotten to the net a little bit harder, could have found a rebound here or there. In all of those games, we ran into good goaltending performances, but again, you have to find a way to alter that. We can do a little more.”

Whatever the message, the Flyers have been quick to fix their flaws this season. In each of the three games proceeding a shutout, they’ve responded with a win in their next game, outscoring their opponents, 7-3.

“We’ve addressed a few things after the game, and we talked about those things after the games we were shut out and I think we came up with good energy and a mentality,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. 

However, tonight’s game is different. It’s a rare home-and-home against a Western Conference opponent they don’t see too often and once again facing Dubnyk, who will be looking to extend his shutout streak of 138 minutes and 20 seconds following his 1-0 victory Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Wayne Simmonds believes the Flyers can alter their offensive approach by not jamming up the area in front of the crease. 

“We had some chances, we just didn’t bury it,” Simmonds said. “They played pretty much five guys packed right in front of the net. We probably needed to maybe pop a guy out or pop a guy up top or something.”

Patrick still out
Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick skated with teammates for a second straight day, however, he’ll miss his ninth straight game with an upper-body injury that he suffered in a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24. Patrick has now skated in some capacity in five of the last six days, providing the possibility he could return to the lineup against the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night.

General manager Ron Hextall hinted that Andrew MacDonald could return to the team Monday, but the defenseman did not skate then, and although he traveled with the team, MacDonald was not on the ice for Tuesday’s morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. MacDonald will miss his 10th straight game with a lower-body injury and likely won’t return until Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames at the earliest.

Zucker going wild
Minnesota’s Jason Zucker is on a remarkable tear, scoring the Wild’s last six goals over their past three games. No Flyer has done that in their 51-year history and the last Flyer to register six goals over a three-game span was Simmonds when he had multi-goal games in December of 2013.

“You obviously have to be aware,” Hakstol said of Zucker’s presence on the ice. “He’s on a heck of a run. He’s obviously feeling good and he’s a good player and a good offensive player who’s feeling it. So you have to be aware.”