Nolan Patrick

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).

Nolan Patrick returns for Flyers after 9-game absence

Nolan Patrick returns for Flyers after 9-game absence

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol confirmed after Thursday's morning skate that rookie Nolan Patrick will return to the lineup in his hometown when the Flyers take on the Jets at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg (8 p.m./NBCSP).

“Obviously it will be pretty exciting playing in front of a lot of family and friends,” said Patrick, who put on a pretty good poker face and never expressed any emotion or obvious enthusiasm about returning to game action just down the road from where he grew up. 

A handful of Flyers did not participate in the optional morning skate and Hakstol hasn’t put his team through line rushes over the past two days, and wouldn’t give an indication what line Patrick will be on or who he’ll skate with.

“I’m sure it’s been a learning experience for him, but he’s handled things very well,” Hakstol said. “He’s got good poise in all situations. Obviously being challenged with an injury early on isn’t ideal, but it’s another learning experience that a player has to handle well.”

Patrick has missed the previous nine games dealing with suspected concussion symptoms, dating back to the Flyers' game against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24, and has gradually ramped up his practice routine over the past week. Last Thursday, Patrick skated with assistant coach Ian Laperriere and then went through a hard bag skate on consecutive days before rejoining his teammates on Monday.

“That’s something that I need to produce more when I get back," Patrick said. "My last couple of games before I got hurt I didn’t think I played really well. I’ll just try and get into a rhythm as fast I can when I get back.” 

“I thought there were a few games before the injury that he was starting to make a lot of plays in some tight areas in key situations,” Hakstol said. “Those were positives for me in the way he was growing on the offensive side of the game.”

With Patrick returning to the lineup, here’s how the Flyers' lineup might look against the Jets:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-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

No Mase to face
Former Flyers netminder Steve Mason will watch tonight’s game on the bench, backing up starter Connor Hellebuyck, who has clearly been Winnipeg’s better goaltender over the first month of the season. 

“I was looking forward to [this game],” Mason said. “Obviously, that’s not the case. We’ve got one more game against you guys later in the year, so maybe I’ll get the one back in Philly.”

Mason signed a two-year, $8.2 million contract with Winnipeg in the offseason and was brought in as the No. 1 goaltender, but he got off to a rocky start in his new surroundings as he surrendered 11 goals in his first two starts and has appeared in just four games since. He finally earned his first win in a Jets sweater this past Saturday when they beat the Coyotes in Arizona, 4-1.

“I played behind a team for five years and you get used to guys' tendencies and here you had to learn an entirely new group of guys," Mason said. "We have Tyler Myers, who’s just a towering defenseman and that alone is an adjustment to learn how to fight to look through him. You go from being comfortable playing behind a group of guys and you’re starting from scratch and that’s a little more difficult than I envisioned being.”

Mason’s only other opportunity to face his old teammates will come on March 10, when the Jets make their only visit to Philadelphia.

“I’m just looking forward to going back to Philly," Mason said. "I thoroughly enjoyed my time from start to finish. There were some good times and some bad times, but overall I look back on it with great memories. I always enjoyed playing in front of the fans, whether I get that start later in the year, it will be fun to go back there and play again.”

Nolan Patrick practices again but will he return for a special homecoming?

Nolan Patrick practices again but will he return for a special homecoming?

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — When the Flyers' charter touched down early Wednesday morning, the team was greeted with its first snowfall of the early season. Mid-November in Winnipeg may as well be late January in Philadelphia. Temperatures in the 20s, scarf and glove weather, and cars caked in snow slush.

While Nolan Patrick recognized all the familiar sights of his hometown and was clearly comfortable in familiar surroundings happy to be back to see family and friends, very little changes here in the Canadian midwest. Perhaps more importantly, change for Patrick seems to move just as slowly. 

Just like he did three weeks ago, Patrick was on the ice practicing with his teammates, this time at the Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg. The Flyers' 19-year-old rookie did not have an ounce of enthusiasm in his voice as if he was preparing to play his first NHL game in the area he grew up watching, learning and playing the sport of hockey.

“Anywhere would be nice,” Patrick said. “Obviously to play here would be pretty cool, play my first game in my hometown, but that decision is not really up to me, so I guess we’ll see what happens.”

“I’ll make those decisions on game day,” said head coach Dave Hakstol, which leads one to believe Patrick's return to the ice is now based more on what works best for the team and not anything related to the protocol and baseline testing.

“It’s hard on any player. When you’re out of the lineup for an extended period of time, sometimes more so for a young player. He’s worked hard. He’s done all the things asked of him. Most importantly, he’s got a good group of teammates around him. Those are some of the most important people around him when he is out of the lineup.”

Patrick was quick to remind the Canadian media how he was struggling when he sustained the hit Oct. 24 against the Ducks. In the four previous games, Patrick had contributed just one assist and five shots on net. You can’t expect a player still learning the NHL game and having missed three weeks to be the offensive savior on a team that hasn’t scored a goal in its last 156 minutes of action.

“Hopefully I can contribute when I get back," Patrick said. "That’s something that I need to produce more when I get back. My last couple of games before I got hurt, I didn’t think I played really well. I’ll just try and get into a rhythm as fast I can when I get back.”

This ordeal isn’t much different than Patrick’s final season of junior hockey with the Brandon Wheat Kings when he was in and out of the lineup dealing with a multitude of core muscle injuries. 

“It’s not that frustrating,” Patrick said. “I’ve been through the injury process before so I know how to handle it. I just try and stay positive through the whole thing. I don’t think anyone wants to be hurt. It’s part of the game. Just stay positive throughout the process.”

Patrick circled Thursday on his calendar months ago when the NHL schedule was released, and the Flyers likely wanted Patrick to accompany the team, if anything, just to enjoy his first trip back to the town where he grew up. Eventually, he’ll have that first game in Winnipeg, but for now, it may not be what’s best for a struggling Flyers team searching for offense. 

'Mac' update
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald rejoined the team for the first time Wednesday in Winnipeg. MacDonald hadn’t skated since taking a slap shot off his leg Oct. 21 against the Edmonton Oilers. MacDonald just ditched the crutches the past Saturday, so it doesn’t appear as if he’s preparing to play against the Jets either.

“I’m not sure that’s realistic or not,” MacDonald said. “Just being off for the amount of time I was. It did feel really good, but again, we just have to go through the process of seeing how it feels tomorrow (Thursday), and kind of progress from there and make sure there’s no setbacks or anything.”

GM meeting
General manager Ron Hextall did not accompany the team to Winnipeg as he prepares to join the league’s other GMs in Montreal, where a number of topics will be discussed, including the effect of the new slashing penalty and the changes to the coach’s challenge.

Trade talks are always on the table now that injuries have created some holes on team’s rosters, while other teams are looking to fortify their position, especially after the three-team swap earlier this month that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa.