Travis Konecny

Flyers fueled by fast start vs. Devils

Flyers fueled by fast start vs. Devils

BOX SCORE

The Flyers had no problem getting up for a Saturday afternoon puck drop.

They jumped all over the New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center, doing all their damage in the first period en route to a 3-1 victory.

Travis Konecny, Valtteri Filppula and Ivan Provorov lit the lamp in the opening frame for a team that has often fought lackluster starts.

That was far from the case Saturday as the Flyers (22-16-8) have now won six of their last seven games (see standings). Over that span, they've outscored the opposition 28-19.

With the victory, they improved to 4-2-4 against the Metropolitan Division. Plenty more to come.

The Devils (24-13-8) entered in second place of the Metro but have had trouble against the orange and black thus far. The Flyers are 2-0-0 against New Jersey with two more games remaining in the regular-season series. It's a bit ironic the Flyers went 1-3-1 against a Devils team last season not nearly as strong, one that finished 28-40-14 with 70 points.

Hockey can be a weird game, huh?

• Shayne Gostisbehere can be so elusive with the puck, which, from a defenseman, is such a luxury for the Flyers. He exhibited that elusiveness early to jump-start the Flyers' first-period ignition. Gostisbehere took the puck from his own blue line and weaved through some Devils before finding a wide-open Konecny in the circle for a 1-0 lead at 3:29 of the opening frame.

• Speaking of Konecny, his goal and assist give him nine points in the last 10 games. In his previous 25 games, Konecny had four points. The 20-year-old is showing what he can do when playing in a prominent role: the first line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Who could have known putting a talented kid with talented players would yield positive results?

• The Flyers really got after it with a much-needed fast start. Prior to then, we hadn't seen many of those through 45 games. The Flyers entered Saturday in a four-way tie for fewest leads after the first period with eight, going 6-0-2 in those contests. They had themselves a healthy 3-0 advantage at first intermission Saturday behind a superb opening 20 minutes. The Devils had to pull starting goalie Keith Kinkaid, who was shaken up after surrendering the third marker.

• Filppula and Provorov scored the Flyers' other two first-period tallies. Michael Raffl got his stick on a bouncing pass to set up Filppula in front for his 10th of the season, his first double-digit-goal campaign since 2014-15. Meanwhile, Raffl quietly has 15 points in his last 25 games.

"We haven't been starting games how we would like," Filppula said at first intermission. "Today was a good start and it is obviously nice to get rewarded."

Provorov displayed some great resolve in front to finally finish off his goal.

The second-year blueliner also made a spectacular outlet pass in the second period that covered about three-quarters of the ice. Konecny was the beneficiary but misfired on the shot. Still, Provorov's play had fans ooh-ahhing.

• Raffl is as laid back and jovial of a player as you'll see on the Flyers' roster. He's not a fighter, but give him credit for always dropping the gloves whenever the opportunity calls for it. Devils defenseman John Moore called for it this time after Raffl inadvertently tripped Kinkaid. Raffl hung in there following a few early blows.

• The Flyers were bit undisciplined in the second period (two penalties) and missed a few opportunities offensively, but fortunately for them, it wasn't too costly thanks to such a positive first period. The Flyers permitted a power-play goal during the middle stanza and went 0 for 4 on the man advantage for the game. It didn't matter.

• Michal Neuvirth made a second consecutive start and was strong again, making 28 saves on 29 shots. In limited duty, he's 5-5-1 on the season and came in with a 2.35 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Solid stuff from Neuvirth.

• With Cory Schneider sick and Kinkaid's exit, emergency netminder Ken Appleby was forced into action and held his own. He stopped all 24 shots he faced in his NHL debut.

• It was the second NHL meeting between 2017 top-two picks Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick. Hischier finished with no points for the Devils in 17:04 of ice time, while Patrick played 11:37 and went scoreless. His line did good work, though.

• Rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim was scratched for the eighth time in the last nine games, while forward Taylor Leier sat for a second straight game in favor of Tyrell Goulbourne.

• Eagles defensive back Corey Graham was in the house. Sounds like Philly is ready for 6:40 p.m. Sunday.

• Things don't get easier for the Flyers, who are right back at it Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. puck drop in Washington D.C. against the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals on NBC. 

Flyers keep goals coming in win vs. Blues

Flyers keep goals coming in win vs. Blues

BOX SCORE

The Flyers on Saturday afternoon completed a season sweep of the St. Louis Blues, winning, 6-3, at the Wells Fargo Center in the return of former Flyers forward Brayden Schenn.

The Flyers blanked the Blues, 2-0, at Scottrade Center Nov. 2.

Tyrell Goulbourne, making his NHL debut, delivered a bone-jarring hit on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo that set up the game’s first goal on a shot from Scott Laughton.

Goulbourne finished his first NHL game with 5:08 of ice time and just 20 seconds played in the third period.

With a goal and a pair of assists, Claude Giroux contributed another three-point performance, his third in the past eight games.

Making his 16th consecutive start, Brian Elliott turned aside 28 of 31 shots for his 16th victory. 

• Goulbourne, wearing No. 56, made his presence known off his opening shift. He collided with Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester with a big hit along the glass and then annihilated Pietrangelo with a big open ice hit that led to Laughton retrieving the puck and firing a shot he placed perfectly in the top left part of the net for a 1-0 Flyers lead. An unassisted goal, but Goulbourne played a big part in it.

“I just saw the puck underneath his feet and tried to knock him over,” Goulbourne said between periods. “I wasn’t really worried about the puck there. I just wanted to get that first hit under me.”

• There was a good scoring chance for the Flyers’ top line with the Blues' third defense pairing out on the ice, as the Flyers spread out the Blues' defense. Radko Gudas took a shot from the point, which led to a rebound when Sean Couturier worked his way between the defensemen.

• On their very next shift, off an Ivan Provorov blocked shot, Giroux took the puck and led the rush up the right side where he attempted to thread a pass to Travis Konecny. Instead, the puck deflected off the butt of Colton Parayko and past Blues goaltender Jake Allen for an early 2-0 Flyers lead. Allen had already committed to a possible pass to Konecny and had no chance of reversing course.   

• Jake Voracek draws so much attention when he brings the puck across the blue line that it benefits whoever is playing on his line. Jordan Weal was the latest recipient when Voracek attracted three defenders and then dished it off to Weal, who had open ice and speed to burn. Weal put a beautiful move on Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson and then went to his backhand to slide it past Allen for the goal, which made it 3-0.  

• The Flyers controlled play for the first 35 minutes, winning the majority of puck battles while creating more transition opportunities. The Blues reversed that trend when Pietrangelo and Vladimir Tarasenko made plays off their backhand to spring Paul Stastny on a 2-on-1, leading to the Ivan Barbashev goal that cut the Flyers' lead to 4-1. First, I credit Tarasenko, who batted the puck out of the air, which led to the break. Secondly, Elliott should have sealed off the post. There wasn’t much Barbashev could have done off his backhand from that angle, and Elliott appeared to have been caught by surprise.  

• The Blues cut the Flyers’ lead to 4-2 in the first 12 seconds of the third period as Blues coach Mike Yeo switched up his lines to start. The combination of Barbashev, Tarasenko and Stastny opened the scoring with Bouwmeester’s two-line cross-ice pass to Barbashev on the right wing. Tarasenko wheeled completely around Giroux and as Shayne Gostisbehere dropped to a knee, Tarasenko centered a pass to Stastny for an easy goal.   

• Provorov has had a very up-and-down week. He committed what could have been a costly turnover early in the game. As both teams were making line changes, Provorov attempted a centering pass Alexander Steen intercepted, skated in and fired a shot from the high slot. Thankfully for Provorov and the Flyers, the shot hit Elliott right in the crest.

• After connecting for three power-play goals in the win against the Islanders, the Flyers' PP came up empty in their first two opportunities in the opening period. They generated five shots on net, but outside of Wayne Simmonds' attempt to bang one home from down low, they were all low percentage attempts.

• The Flyers had a 2-on-1 in the opening minutes of the second period with Voracek leading the rush down the right wing. Instead of faking a shot, Voracek telegraphed a pass to Valtteri Filppula, who didn’t have much on his one-time shot. All of which made for an easy read and save for Allen.

• As well as he’s played on that top line, I still think there’s room for improvement for Konecny, who had a couple of shifts where he appeared to be looking to score instead of creating offense. He fired a sharp angle shot high that had very little chance of going in, instead of shooting low with Couturier charging to the net. Konecny had another opportunity to feed a backhand pass to Couturier but didn’t appear to be looking to pass.      

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

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

Goaltending
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Revved-up Flyers show their 'mojo'

Revved-up Flyers show their 'mojo'

BOX SCORE

“It’s pretty blatant.”

Direct words an hour before game time from general manager Ron Hextall as he laid out the lack of secondary scoring and production from the Flyers' supporting cast, and how it had to get better in the second half of the season.

Somehow that message worked its way down seven stories from the Wells Fargo Center press box to the Flyers' dressing room as five different players scored goals and 12 registered a point in the 6-4 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night (see observations).

“I think everyone is starting to get into their mojo now,” forward Travis Konecny said. "You’re seeing different guys every night step up and it’s important when you have a whole team contributing each and every night.”

“If we want to be a playoff team, we need everyone, especially from now on,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “Games are going to get a lot tighter, a lot tougher and we need everyone to step up in any way we can."

Over the past 15 games, Elliott has been the one assigned to step up and carry the load in net. It marks the longest stretch of starts since Ilya Bryzgalov started 22 straight in 2013. On Thursday, for once, the Flyers bailed out Elliott.

“I didn’t feel like I had my best effort,” Elliott said. “It’s nights like that when other guys pick up the slack. That’s huge for me. Next game is next game. You kind of erase this one from the records and start all over again.” 

Aside from the pond-hockey scoring, the Flyers also displayed some raw emotion as the game featured three separate fights from players who don’t typically drop the gloves. Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton and Konecny each spent five minutes in the box for throwing punches against their Islander counterparts (see highlights).

“It was a big game tonight,” Couturier said. “They’re just ahead of us in the standings. We knew it was important and there’s a lot of emotions out there. Guys responded and that’s what happens during the game.”

Konecny may very well be one of those key scoring components as the Flyers enter the second half of the season. While Konecny hasn’t played top-line minutes alongside Couturier and Claude Giroux, he filled the scoresheet with a goal, five shots, a fight and three hits. He’s now registered a point in three of his last four games.

“There’s a simplicity to his game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He has such good speed. He’s very tenacious on pucks. He’s not the biggest body, but he’s heavy on pucks and I think he’s using all those abilities. Instead of trying to make that extra move through people, he’s shooting the puck.”

After a three-goal lead was reduced to 5-4, the referees threw the Flyers a last-minute life preserver when they slapped Isles forward Andrew Ladd with a tripping penalty with 49 seconds remaining in the game. 

Prior to that moment, New York had been coming at the Flyers hard, and appeared as if it were on the verge of sending the game to overtime yet again.

Much like the Islanders did in this same building on Nov. 24 when they trailed the Flyers, 4-2, entering the third period before winning, 5-4, in overtime. The Flyers simply could not afford to hand another point to a divisional opponent on home ice.

“We can be better in the last 20 minutes,” Hakstol said. “We took our foot off the gas a little bit, and against this team they’ve got a history here of pushing hard in the third if they’re down. They can come hard. They’ve got pretty good offensive numbers for a reason. Give them some credit, but I thought we backed off some of that.”

Thursday’s win over the Islanders was the Flyers' first victory over a Metropolitan Division opponent since the home opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 14. The Flyers were 0-1-4 in the previous five divisional games.

To put it bluntly, the Flyers need much more of this. 

More scoring from the team’s role players. More victories over teams in the Metropolitan Division.