Minnesota Wild

Flyers Weekly Observations: Radko Gudas in spotlight for wrong reason … again

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Flyers Weekly Observations: Radko Gudas in spotlight for wrong reason … again

And so the losing and frustration slog on for the Flyers.

Yet another week of no real progress is in the books as the Flyers endured another shutout loss, blew a two-goal lead in painful fashion and then let another one slip away through their fingers two days later.

The Flyers were shut out yet again by the Minnesota Wild, 3-0, Tuesday, dropped a 3-2 shootout decision Thursday to the Winnipeg Jets and then suffered a 5-4 OT defeat Saturday afternoon to the Calgary Flames.

We’ve got plenty to chat about here, gang, so let’s hop right into it.

And, of course, we’re starting with the most-talked moment of the week, not just with the Flyers, but around the league.

• Ah, Radko Gudas … the guy just can’t seem to keep his name out of the disciplinary spin cycle, can he? The repeat offender found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reason again Thursday in Winnipeg when he viciously chopped Jets forward Mathieu Perrault in the back of the head with his stick.

Gudas was originally given a two-minute minor on the play, but after officials saw the play on the video board high above the ice (that’s another argument for another day), he was rightfully handed a game misconduct. It was just a completely reckless play that was incredibly dangerous in nature and could have been way more dangerous in action.

Gudas is a vet who’s been through this before, he knows a target is on his back and that mercy, if any, will be slight from both the officials on the ice and those who dole out punishments in the league office. Do I think it was a totally intentional play? I don’t, but Gudas has to be smarter than that for both himself and his team. His first-period actions put the Flyers in a five-man defensive hole for a game that went 65 minutes.

The reality is, Gudas put himself in this situation and now the league has rightfully thrown the book at him with a 10 game suspension. There’s no place for that sort of play in the league and the league has to start coming down harder on things like this and this is now Exhibit A. An example was set at Gudas' expense, unfortunately for the Flyers.

• Yes, Brian Elliott gave up five goals Saturday afternoon to the Flames, but he still had a solid week in net for the Flyers and, in my eyes, continued to cement his grip on the No. 1 goalie job.

While he had only 17 saves, he was superb Tuesday against the Wild and gave the Flyers a chance to win, but, alas, no help. He then backed his claim to the top job up again with 31 saves in a hard-luck loss at Winnipeg on Thursday when he had to take on prolific snipers Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine in the shootout (that didn’t end well).

Everybody could have been better against Calgary, including Elliott, who stopped 26 of 31 shots but also had to face 10 power-play shots as the Flyers couldn’t stop heading to the penalty box.

What the Flyers need right now is stability in all phases, not just from the top line (more on that shortly). Elliott is giving the Flyers a chance to win on a nightly basis and they’re not producing in front of him. The last thing they need right now is to be playing the goalie flip-flop game in net. Elliott is giving them chances to win and that’s what matters right now. But knowing how Dave Hakstol is so fickle with his netminders, don’t be surprised to see Michal Neuvirth in net Tuesday vs. Vancouver after a five-goal game.

• I could sit here and write this point over and over again week after week after week because until it changes, it will dramatically plague the Flyers — players not named Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek need to score and score consistently. Couturier (two) and Voracek (one) scored three of the Flyers’ seven goals this week.

No need to keep harping on, it’s got to change, plain and simple.

What could help? The return of Nolan Patrick certainly is a boost. Patrick returned to the ice in his native Winnipeg on Thursday. And while he eased his way back into the swing of things that night with just over seven minutes of ice time, he made a major impact against the Flames in his over 13 minutes as he fired four shots on goal and collected his second tally of his young career, a nifty backhander past Calgary netminder Mike Smith off a rebound. The return of the talented 19-year-old is no doubt a lift.

• My colleague John Boruk soundly encompassed the Flyers’ frustrations with themselves Saturday after their undisciplined play, specifically that of Shayne Gostisbehere, in the second period was a major turning point in the eventual OT loss to the Flames.

The postgame quotes say it all. And Hakstol, usually as steady and collected as can be, was as visibly and verbally frustrated as I’ve seen him in his three seasons here in Philadelphia — “It pisses you off,” he said no-so-politely after the game.

It’s those kinds of self-inflicted wounds that just cost the Flyers way too much. So the frustration from the coach is more than understandable.

• Dear NHL, no more Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, please and thank you. With love, the Flyers.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Vancouver (7:00 p.m./NBCSP), Wednesday at New York Islanders (7:00 p.m./NBCSP+), Friday vs. New York Islanders (4:00 p.m./NBCSP).

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).