scott laughton

Flyers whiff on the high five

Flyers whiff on the high five


After burning off some jet fuel coming off a weekend sweep out West, the Flyers simply ran out of gas back home.

Devils forward Taylor Hall scored the game-tying goal — his second of the game — with 1:21 remaining in regulation to help New Jersey gain a much-needed point. The Devils picked up the second point by scoring the lone goal in a shootout for a 5-4 win Tuesday. Drew Stafford scored the only goal in the three-round shootout as New Jersey closed to within two points in the Metropolitan Division (see standings).

On the same day starting goaltender Brian Elliott underwent successful core muscle surgery (see story), Michal Neuvirth fought through an up-and-down night in net. He allowed a soft goal to Hall, but rebounded and made some big saves over the final 20 minutes. In all, Neuvirth made 32 saves on 36 shots. 

A day after he was named the NHL’s First Star of the week, Claude Giroux continued his torrid scoring pace with a goal in his fourth straight game. Giroux also added an assist and now has eight points over the last five games.

Travis Konecny continued his second-half surge with his 14th goal of the season. Eight of those goals have come in the Flyers’ last 12 games with Konecny excelling on the top line. Radko Gudas and Scott Laughton also scored for the Flyers.     

The two teams completed the four-game season series with the Flyers finishing with a 2-1-1 record and the Devils 2-2-0.  

• You think these teams are tired of seeing each other with this the fourth meeting in the past month? Wayne Simmonds and Miles Wood were jawing with each other before the linesman could drop the puck for the opening faceoff. 

• The Flyers had a tremendous start to this game as they outshot the Devils, 6-0, out the gate. All four lines actively jumped into the offensive zone and applied constant pressure. The 13 shots on net in the first period were provided by 12 different players.  

• Konecny’s presence on the top line has created more chances and scoring opportunities off the rush, and it didn’t take long to get behind the Devils’ defense. Giroux once again showed why he’s one of the best playmakers in the NHL with a cross-ice, two-line backhanded pass right on the tape to Konecny, who is playing and shooting the puck with pure confidence. Giroux said at intermission he was at the end of his shift and was just trying to chip the puck out of the zone.

• Konecny scored his eighth goal in his last 12 games and is now on the verge of his first 20-goal season.

• Neuvirth did a horrific job of sealing the near post on Hall’s goal that tied the game at 1-1. For whatever reason, Neuvirth’s pad wasn’t parallel to the pipe, which allowed daylight for the puck to carom into the net. Unlike the goal he gave up against the Capitals from the same area, Neuvirth was at least in position to make a save. However, he must eliminate these soft goals on low-percentage shots.

• Just 43 seconds after Hall tied the game, the Flyers’ third line came right back and answered emphatically. Michael Raffl, who had a solid game, caught the Devils and goaltender Keith Kinkaid off guard as he threw the puck on net to Laughton. As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the Raffl-Laughton combination is one that deserves to stick around. They’re hard on pucks and, most often, they draw third- and fourth-line matchups.

• Gudas is red hot as he scored a goal in his second straight game. This time it came with a goalie in front of the net after scoring an empty-netter in Vegas. Gudas has taken shots with regularity this season, averaging two shots on goal per game, but he hasn’t had success until now. In his Flyers career, Gudas been a streaky goal scorer.

• It was also refreshing to see Gudas lay some lumber as he leveled Hall on the Devils’ power play. I think Gudas is at his best when he brings a controlled physical element to his game. For much of this season, Gudas has been busy chasing the puck in his own end and hasn’t put himself into position to be that punishing player. Gudas also airlifted Hall after he scored the soft goal on Neuvirth. 

• The Devils refused to die and they capitalized on a neutral-zone takeaway. Once again, the Flyers’ fourth line was abused by the Devils’ top line without Hall. Jori Lehtera was driven into the bench-side boards and coughed up the puck to Nico Hischier. Hischier converted a give-and-go with Jesper Bratt, who was filling in for the banged-up Hall. It’s beyond time to bench Lehtera, who’s been plodding over the past weeks. 

• Sean Couturier has a future as a battering ram as he continued to crash the net at every opportunity. Couturier had a couple of high-danger zone scoring chances and then laid out a Giroux-like backhand pass to the captain. Couturier had a team-high four attempted shots in the first period.

• The Flyers got caught late with their fourth line of Valtteri Filppula, Lehtera and Dale Weise on the ice against the Devils’ top line of Hischier, Hall and Kyle Palmieri. Needless to say, it was the Devils’ best scoring chance of the first period. The Flyers displayed some careless, sloppy play to close out the first period. 

• Wood was screaming at Shayne Gostisbehere from the penalty box as the two players were assessed matching minors — “Ghost” for crosschecking and Wood for roughing. On further inspection, Wood was bleeding from his lip and was trying to challenge Gostisbehere to a fight. As the penalties expired, Wood was jawing with Gostisbehere, but nothing transpired. 

• Gostisbehere had a tremendous opportunity to score in the final seconds of the second period as he filled the slot and launched a missile that missed the net.

• The Flyers’ second power-play unit was on point early in the third period with a handful of chances to extend the Flyers’ lead to two goals. The combination of Jordan Weal, Nolan Patrick, Ivan Provorov, Konecny and Filppula has formed a consistent threat since Dave Hakstol put it together.  

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Michal Neuvirth
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forward Taylor Leier (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

Why Flyers' depth is really a mirage

Why Flyers' depth is really a mirage

Updated: 6:10 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe there was a false sense of reality right from Wayne Simmonds' opening hat trick to the eight-goal outburst against the Washington Capitals in the home opener.

“Just remember, after eight games, the media was all giddy about our team,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said a month ago in Calgary. “We were like, ‘It’s a little early about getting too giddy about this team.’ We were a pretty good team then. Pretty good.”

Perhaps the giddiness (if that truly existed) was a result of having some giddyap to their game in that first month when the Flyers received contributions up and down their lineup while displaying an ability to transition out of their zone efficiently and effectively.

Offensively, the Flyers were ranked in the top five in goals per game, but the “O" was more of an oasis, the illusion of a balanced offensive attack.

Earlier this week when I asked certain Flyers about the team’s identity or lack thereof, head coach Dave Hakstol pointed directly to “depth” as that identifiable trait.

Coming out of training camp, that may have been the case. Oskar Lindblom, who many believed was NHL ready, was assigned to Lehigh Valley, while Samuel Morin was essentially the eighth defenseman when the season started. The Flyers had a certain degree of depth, but as we’ve discovered over the past six weeks, it’s not the organizational depth needed to carry them over an 82-game schedule.

Through those first 10 games, Jordan Weal had five points and was averaging nearly 14:26 a game. In the 23 games proceeding October, Weal has just five more points, averaging just 11:51.

Fourth-liners Taylor Leier and Scott Laughton have seen their ice time take a significant hit as well. Combined, they were logging over 25 minutes through the first month of the season to just under 21½ minutes in December. Some of that decrease in ice time has been Hakstol’s decision to take Leier off the penalty kill.

Laughton agreed a handful of the Flyers' supporting cast just haven’t been relied upon as much as they were during the opening weeks of the season.

“Yeah, I’m not sure. I guess it’s just the situation and you've got to know your role,” Laughton said. “That’s the biggest thing. I knew my role coming into the year was going to be this and you've got to stick with it. Even though you’re not playing the big minutes, I think it’s an important role to try and create momentum.”

However, it’s been the role players of the Flyers' opponents who have provided that momentum recently. On Tuesday night, the Penguins received a pair of goals from fourth-liners Ryan Reaves and Tom Kuhnhackl. Last week in Florida, the Panthers' Jared McCann and Derek MacKenzie chipped in with decisive goals.

Hakstol has been forced to shorten his bench to protect third-period leads and has resorted to double shifting some of his skilled players when trying to make up a third-period deficit.

From a forward standpoint, you have Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula earning the bulk of the playing time, and then there’s every other forward in one collective clump. Compare that to the NHL’s top team, the Lightning, who have a perfect balance with eight forwards averaging in the 16-20 minute range.

Sure, few teams have the luxury, but it wasn’t that long ago the Flyers were in that same boat. It just happened to be the last time they won a playoff series in 2012.

Only on defense has the Flyers' depth been tested through injury, as Hakstol has been forced to play 10 different blueliners, the same number they played with all of last season. Collectively that unit has a plus-10 rating, a respectable sum considering the injuries and suspension to Radko Gudas, plus the growing pains of a handful of rookies.

Depth has been an issue within this organization since the lockout in 2013. And unless the Flyers stage an impressive turnaround in the second half of this season, they’ll miss the postseason for the fourth time in the last six years.

Perhaps when Hextall starts to feel giddy about this team again will we truly know they have the depth to compete for a championship.

Roster move
The Flyers on Wednesday night called up forward Tyrell Goulbourne from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. He will be available for Thursday's game against the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-foot, 200-pound winger was drafted by the Flyers in the third round of the 2013 draft and has spent parts of his last three seasons with the Phantoms.

In 34 games with Lehigh Valley this season, the 23-year-old has six goals, five assists and a plus-8 rating.

Flyers wake up too late from holiday slumber

Flyers wake up too late from holiday slumber


SUNRISE, Fla. — The Flyers picked up where they left off prior to the Christmas break Thursday night with their third straight defeat, a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie scored his first goal of the season and the fifth shorthanded goal the Flyers have allowed this season as Florida won its fourth in a row.

Jared McCann and Jonathan Huberdeau also scored for the Panthers.

Scott Laughton scored his sixth goal of the season and is now one shy of matching his career high of seven he finished with in 2015-16.

Starting his 12th straight game, Brian Elliott stopped 24 of 27 shots. Elliott is 7-4-1 during this current stretch. 

Claude Giroux saw his point streak extended to six games with an assist.

The Flyers and Panthers will meet one final time on March 4 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.

• It was an absolute brutal start for the Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere, who was whistled for an interference call just 36 seconds into the game. Vincent Trocheck collided with “Ghost,” who made it look like he lowered his shoulder to deliver contact. 

• Moments later, Elliott was whistled for tripping Aleksander Barkov on a breakaway attempt. Elliott tried to poke check the puck away from Barkov. You see goalies make that play without drawing a penalty and I’m not sure Elliott actually tripped Barkov.  

• The Flyers’ PK, which came into the game ranked 29th, did an excellent job of killing off 1:19 of 5-on-3 time. The Panthers had just one shot on net and another ring off the post, but the Flyers did a solid job of closing off the passing lanes.

• The Panthers struck first when McCann made a move around Wayne Simmonds and fired a snap shot from the high slot that beat Elliott low to the blocker side. Replays didn’t appear to show the puck was deflected. My biggest problem was how the Flyers just gave the Panthers a clean zone exit and allowed them to move freely in the neutral zone. 

• Not sure what got Andrew MacDonald so fired up that he practically jumped Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson. Perhaps it was a slashing infraction as both guys went to the box during the matching minors as MacDonald was whistled for roughing.

• There was an irresponsible high-sticking penalty from Nolan Patrick, as the rookie raised his stick and clipped Michael Haley when neither guy was playing the puck. Hard to understand why players hold their sticks up high when there’s simply no need. 

• The Flyers played a typical opening 20 minutes for a team that had a three-day Christmas vacation. They were outshot 13-5 and trailed 1-0. The skated much better once the penalties were served. 

• Head coach Dave Hakstol has threw his lines into a blender as he moved Laughton onto the second line and bumped Jordan Weal to the third line. Hakstol appeared to be trying to find any combination after a lackluster first period.

• The Flyers were saved by the Panthers’ ineptitude to stay onside in the opening minute of the second period. Florida was looking at a potential 3-on-1 if Barkov hadn’t stepped over the line prematurely.

• The Flyers’ power play has been charitable when giving the opposition shorthanded chances. That was the case again when Giroux moved the puck down the boards just inside the blue line. Florida’s Colton Sceviour retrieved it to spring a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Giroux couldn’t keep up with MacKenzie, who scored on the one-timer pass from Sceviour.

• In an effort to drum up some emotion, Michael Raffl dropped the gloves with Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic. Give Raffl credit as he also drew a roughing penalty on Petrovic. The Flyers appeared lifeless in the first 30 minutes of the game.

• The Flyers couldn’t respond as the Panthers opened up a 3-0 lead when Matheson beat Robert Hagg to a loose puck to feed Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad then fed Huberdeau for a perfectly-placed shot. Huberdeau also used Radko Gudas as a screen as Elliott was late to pick it up. The Panthers had two players in the zone to the Flyers’ four. Florida simply out-hustled the Flyers.

• Jake Voracek had an excellent opportunity to get a goal back when he broke in all alone on James Reimer. However, he couldn’t finish as it appeared Voracek was trying to go five-hole with his backhanded shot. Instead, he pulled it too much left and it deflected off Reimer’s pad.

• The Flyers finally got one back with 7:32 remaining in regulation after Aaron Ekblad broke his stick on a slap shot that sprung Travis Konecny. The Flyers capitalized as the trailer, Laughton, snapped off a perfect shot that beat Reimer just under the crossbar. 

• The Flyers’ power play broke through as well when Sean Couturier redirected Gostisbehere’s shot from the point to pull them within one.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth