Tampa Bay Lightning

Flyers have questions after lousy Florida trip

Flyers have questions after lousy Florida trip

The Flyers are done with the state of Florida, and aside from receiving a reprieve from paying state income tax, there weren't many rays of hope to come out of the Sunshine State over the weekend. The Flyers allowed 10 goals over the weekend set against the Lightning and Panthers and have now surrendered 14 goals over their last three games, all losses. It's clear the Flyers have some warts to fix, and the first chance for fixing? Wednesday when the rival Penguins come to town.

Sanheim time?
Defensively, the Flyers were a mess over the weekend for a myriad of reasons. Against the Lightning, it came down to poor collective execution in the defensive zone exits, which were a problem area going back to last Thursday’s clunker against the Hurricanes. Ivan Provorov’s errant pass led to Dan Girardi’s goal in the second period and Andrew MacDonald’s blatant third-period giveaway led to Victor Hedman’s go-ahead goal.

Against the Panthers, the curse was the Flyers' self-inflicted wounds and failures to contain the Panthers' skilled forwards, coupled with more of those pesky turnovers that resulted in stretch passes and breakaways. With injuries to MacDonald (upper body, day to day, per GM Ron Hextall) and Johnny Oduya (left Sunday's game, no official update yet), the Flyers may be looking to dip into their Lehigh Valley depth to add a defenseman. Travis Sanheim has played exceptionally well with 16 points in 18 games and an eye-popping plus-14 rating since he was sent down. While Sanheim can be more assertive offensively at the AHL level, it’s critical that his defense has improved for him to earn a spot on the Flyers' blue line, but I don’t think there’s much of a downgrade with him over Oduya.

Sure, Oduya has veteran experience, but there’s a reason why the Senators weren’t able to trade him for a low-round draft pick and why roughly two-thirds of the league passed up on the 36-year-old defenseman before the Flyers claimed him off waivers last week. It’s naive to think Oduya could just settle in and fortify the Flyers' defense corps. Oduya needs practice time, but the early results in Florida weren’t favorable.   

Power-play Patrick
One of the biggest decisions looming for head coach Dave Hakstol is the personnel on his top power-play unit as Wayne Simmonds looks set to return from injury this week. Nolan Patrick has excelled since he was inserted onto that unit in Simmonds' place. In fact, the Flyers' rookie center has scored the team’s last three power-play goals. The last Flyer outside of Patrick to score on the power play was Claude Giroux on Feb. 13 in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Devils.

Patrick’s net-front presence is different from what Simmonds brings. Patrick has a knack for finding the open seams down low that require quick, inside looks on plays from the perimeter. He has soft hands and is capable of accurately redirecting and elevating pucks sent in his direction. The "Wayne Train" prefers a more blue-collar approach as a disruptive force, taking away the goaltender’s vision while redirecting shots from the point and hammering away at rebounds.

Both styles have proven to be equally effective on the Flyers' setup. My hunch is that Hakstol reinserts Simmonds on that top unit once he’s healthy. He’s a leader and you can’t discount the 85 power-play goals he’s scored since joining the Flyers in 2011-12 (second to Alex Ovechkin in that span). It’s not as if the power play has been clicking over its past seven games with Simmonds out of the lineup. The group is just 3 for 22, or 14 percent efficiency.

Ghost and the gang
Regardless of the outcome, Shayne Gostisbehere was all smiles after the Panthers game as he met with with the Florida state championship hockey team from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty members were fatally shot on Feb. 14. Gostisbehere attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas for two years.

“It’s the least I could do,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve got to thank the Panthers for setting it up and obviously the Flyers for going with it. It’s just something to take their minds off. They’ve had a rough past couple of weeks here."

Guess what … the Flyers got a point and they're lucky to have one

Guess what … the Flyers got a point and they're lucky to have one


TAMPA, Fla. — The Flyers put up six goals on 43 shots and had two two-goal leads, including a 5-3 lead in the third period, Saturday afternoon.

But all they could manage was one point in a wild 7-6 loss to the Lightning at Amalie Arena (see observations)

For the time being, that point will put the Flyers in a tie with the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Lightning scored three consecutive goals in the third to take a 6-5 lead, but Claude Giroux had the equalizer with 2 minutes and 53 seconds remaining in regulation that sent the game to overtime and guaranteed the point.

"It's tough to be satisfied when you lose," Giroux said. "But they played a good game on the other side. Their goalie is pretty good, if he's not the best in the league, he's one of them. He made a lot of key saves.

"It's definitely frustrating not to get the win, but we have to move on."

Giroux had a goal and an assist in a whopping 25:57 of ice time as plenty of Flyers got on the score sheet. Ivan Provorov (goal, two assists), Nolan Patrick (goal, assist), Jakub Voracek (goal, assist), Robert Hagg (goal), Jori Lehtera (goal) and Valtteri Filppula (two assists) joined in on the scoring frenzy.

"We know we didn't play well a couple of nights ago," coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's not just about losses, it's about the overall performance. That wasn't us the other night and we knew we had to raise our level from where it was the other night. I thought our guys did that."

In the shootout, Sean Couturier and Patrick came up empty while Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos scored for the Lightning to end the game.

The Flyers jumped on the Lightning early with three goals in the first period, as Patrick continued to raise his game at the right time, scoring on a power play and forcing a turnover to set up Voracek's goal.

After the Lightning tied it 3-3 in the second period, Lehtera scored on a turnaround shot from the left circle and Provorov added a goal on the Flyers' first shot in the third to take another two-goal lead.

In overtime, the Flyers had a 4-on-3 power play when Nikita Kucherov was called for hooking but Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy came up with some big saves, including a robbery on Shayne Gostisbehere.

"I had an empty net there and he made an unbelievable save," Gostisbehere said. "That's why they are where they are. They have some great goaltending and great players. Obviously, we wanted the two points but not bad to get one."

Goalie Petr Mrazek fell to 1-8-2 against the Lightning, but he’s 3-1-1 since being traded to the Flyers. Hakstol said he hasn’t made a decision on whether Mrazek or Alex Lyon will start Sunday against the Florida Panthers.

Flyers struck by Lightning in wild game

Flyers struck by Lightning in wild game


TAMPA, Fla. — Claude Giroux came up with the equalizer with 2:53 remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime, but the Flyers came up empty in the shootout in a wild 7-6 loss Saturday afternoon to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

The Flyers, however, guaranteed themselves a point and put themselves in a tie with the Washington Capitals for the lead in the Metropolitan Division for at least a couple of hours.

Ivan Provorov (goal, two assists), Nolan Patrick (goal, assist), Jakub Voracek (goal, assist), Robert Hagg (goal), Jori Lethera (goal) and Valtteri Filppula (two assists) were the main producers on offense.

Petr Mrazek fell to 1-8-2 in regular-season games against the Lightning. Steven Stamkos had a career-high five points (two goals, three assists) as the Lightning scored three consecutive goals in the third period to erase a two-goal deficit and take a 6-5 lead before Giroux tied things up.

And now for some observations:

• Patrick is picking up his game at the right time and he had a dominating first period, scoring on a power-play goal to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead and forcing a turnover on Voracek's goal to make the score 2-1. Patrick had a chance at a second goal midway through the third period but was robbed by Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

• The Flyers' ninth-ranked power play did its job with the first-period goal but could not capitalize in the overtime when Nikita Kucherov was sent to the box for hooking. Shayne Gostisbehere had a great look but Vasilevskiy made the save.

• Meanwhile, the Flyers' bottom-feeding penalty kill lasted all of seven seconds before giving up Stamkos' first goal. Luckily, it was the only time the Flyers were shorthanded all game.

• Mrazek fell to 3-1-1 in his fifth start with the Flyers and will certainly reflect on a couple of stops he'd like to have back, including a shot from Victor Hedman (two goals, two assists) at the goal line that he mishandled.

• The Flyers will finish their final regular-season swing through the Sunshine State with a Sunday afternoon game against the Florida Panthers (3 p.m./NBCSP) before returning home Wednesday to host the Pittsburgh Penguins.