Michael Raffl

Fights and a flurry of goals in a snow-day win

Fights and a flurry of goals in a snow-day win

BOX SCORE

The Flyers like to score goals in bunches against the New York Islanders.

Of their three four-goal periods this season, two of those have come against the Isles, as the Flyers bounced back from a lackluster performance against the Penguins to beat New York, 6-4, at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.

Three of the Flyers’ goals in the second period came during a span of 4:48.

Travis Konecny, Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds all scored even-strength goals. Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov tallied on the power play.

Twelve different Flyers registered at least one point.

Starting his 15th consecutive game, Brian Elliott turned aside 27 of 31 shots. He’s 9-5-1 in those 15 starts. 

The Flyers and Islanders will meet one final time, April 3 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

• It was a good, solid shift in the opening minutes from Nolan Patrick as he kept the puck in the offensive zone and made a play that you can see from the press box but not sure if the guys on the ice have the same visual. 

Patrick’s pass to Robert Hagg resulted in a good scoring chance. If Hagg had quicker release, it may have resulted in a goal. Patrick’s vision reminds me a little of Joe Thornton’s. He definitely appears to be more of a setup guy, or at least, that’s what he’s comfortable with at this point. 

• The Flyers held the Islanders without a shot for the first five minutes of the game. Isles defenseman Ryan Pulock finally got New York’s first shot from just inside the blue line that Elliott easily snagged.

• There was another good shift from the Patrick line that resulted in a Provorov shot that went high and wide. On a delayed penalty, the Flyers pulled Elliott. With Provorov floating in the high slot, the Flyers' defenseman attempted to redirect a shot that just went wide.

• Couturier continued his magical season as he opened up the scoring during the first period with a redirect on Jakub Voracek’s pass into the slot.

• A couple of middleweights dropped the gloves as Konecny exchanged blows with New York’s Shane Prince. It was good to see that side of Konecny as he never connected any good right hands but he was able to body slam Prince for the takedown.

• For some reason, the Islanders’ checking line turns into a scoring line against the Flyers. Fourth-line winger Cal Clutterbuck scored his second goal against the Flyers this season when he deflected Nick Leddy’s entry shot from the blue line off his knee in the first period. Clutterbuck had an earlier shot in the game when he went high glove side on Elliott but rang it off the post.

The Flyers came out really strong in the opening minutes of the second period. First, Raffl did an excellent job of playing keep-away from Islanders captain John Tavares. His ability to control the puck and shield it with his body allowed the Flyers to cycle the puck and work it around to Provorov, who fired a shot that deflected off Raffl and past Thomas Greiss for the goal and 2-1 lead.

• Patrick’s line, which was buzzing all night, finally received its due when Jordan Weal gained control along the boards and sent it out to the point. With Simmonds in front of the net, he was able to circle around the defense and beat Greiss low to the glove.

• The Flyers earned a four-minute double minor as defenseman Andrew MacDonald drew a high-stick to the face. On the ensuing power play, Provorov found a shooting lane with a line of at least four bodies standing in front of Greiss. All Provorov had to do was snap a shot between everyone’s legs to score a goal and extend the advantage to 4-1. Provorov followed up a bad game against Pittsburgh with one of his best against the Islanders. He also tallied a second marker with an empty-netter.

• Konecny got in the scoring act on a breakaway. Couturier flipped a perfect pass over the Islanders’ defense, which sprung Konecny, who made sure he picked a side of the net instead of the corner. He snapped a shot over Greiss’ blocker for his fifth goal of the season. Konecny now has points in three of his last four games.

• With Anders Lee serving as a screen directly in front of Elliott, John Tavares sniped a shot that barely saw Elliott flinch. The Flyers’ PK can’t allow a superstar like Tavares to get that kind of open look no matter where he is on the ice.

• Pulock, the Islanders’ defenseman taken four spots after Samuel Morin in the 2013 draft, came up with a solid individual effort. When Hagg tried to flip the puck from his blue line into the Islanders’ zone, Pulock stepped up, snagged it and skated in all alone on Elliott before snapping a shot high glove to pull the Isles within a goal, 5-4, in the third period.

• There were three fights in the game. Along with Konecny, Couturier and Scott Laughton also dropped the gloves, while Simmonds and Clutterbuck had plenty of words.

• The Flyers called up Tyrell Goulbourne from Lehigh Valley Wednesday night, but he couldn’t make it to the Wells Fargo Center from Toronto (where the Phantoms practiced prior to their game with the Marlies) in time for Thursday’s game.

General manager Ron Hextall described Goulbourne’s game and what he brings to the Flyers, as the 2013 third-round pick is expected to make his NHL debut Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. 

“I think he’s a hard-nosed player,” Hextall said. “I think you see that in what he’s done in Lehigh Valley. He’s done everything asked of him there. He’s a hard-nosed, two-way player. He’s been going to those dirty areas. Because of that, he’s had a couple of scraps. You look at his last couple games here and he has a couple points. Playing good, consistent hockey and when need be, he’s answering the call there.”

Is this the spark Nolan Patrick needs?

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USA Today Images

Is this the spark Nolan Patrick needs?

SUNRISE, Fla. — Jake Voracek prefers to drive the bus no matter who’s riding on his line. 

He was the driving force on that top unit with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux through the first 26 games of the season before Dave Hakstol elected to move Voracek in an attempt to balance out his lines.

Now, rookie Nolan Patrick is learning how to structure his game by adapting to Voracek’s puck possession tendencies.

“Jake has done a good job of driving his line,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Basically, there’s been three different combinations for him so far this year. For a young guy like Patrick, you got to read a little bit off of Jake. Jake’s a creative player, but I think Patty is a guy that can read that play and can get pucks to Jake at the right time and at the right areas.”

Hakstol elected to move Patrick onto a line with Voracek and Michael Raffl prior to last Saturday’s game at Columbus, following a stretch of games when Patrick showed more urgency to create plays in the offensive zone.  

While the combination of Valtteri Filppula, Raffl and Voracek exploded right away in their first game in Calgary, Voracek believes it will take time to develop with Patrick.

“One practice doesn’t make much,” Voracek said. “You have to play games. Practice is good to stay in shape, but you can’t practice the game situations. It’s hard to do. We had a couple of opportunities in Columbus. Could we do better? Sure, but it’s a process and hopefully, we’ll generate some chances and score some goals today.”

With an average size of 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, one area the line can dominate is down in the trenches with their ability to win puck battles 

“It’s always different playing with different guys,” Raffl said. “Sometimes you need a little time to adjust, but I think he (Patrick) is one of our best centermen. He’s intelligent, he’s really good with the stick and he sees the ice well. I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work.” 

Much of that depends on how long Hakstol is willing to keep that window of opportunity open.

The Ghostly confines
Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere says he occasionally gets the “stink eye” when he’s asked where he’s from and the response isn’t your typical hockey-hotbed related answer.

The South Florida native, who was born in nearby Pembroke Pines, is proud of how he’s developed into an NHL professional beginning with his days with the Florida Panthers junior hockey program. But he also understands it’s not easy in a non-traditional hockey market and a fan base that doesn’t have the commitment of sports fans like Philadelphia. 

“Florida has been bandwagon state for sports for a while, especially down south,” Gostisbehere said. “I’m pretty sure if you go to any Miami Heat games, they’re not gonna be packed. But a couple of years ago they were. Obviously, when the Panthers were making the playoffs, the rats were coming back. It goes with the even flows of the team. If they’re winning, there’s obviously going to be more fans.”

The Panthers are one of four organizations averaging under 13,000 fans through the first three months of the regular season with a building capacity of 75 percent, and perhaps even below that, as the number is based on ticket sales.  

“It bothers me a little bit,” said Gostisbehere. “I grew up with it. I’ve seen the empty seats. Obviously, I hold them close to my heart and they’re a big part of my hockey career.”

"Ghost" will do his part to fill the seats tonight with his typical ticket requests for friends and family.

Projected lines and pairings

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

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

Goaltending
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

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.”