Travis Konecny

Flyers turn in dominant response with Game 2 win over Penguins

Flyers turn in dominant response with Game 2 win over Penguins

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — The Flyers bounced back in a big way in the ‘Burgh Friday night with a 5-1 win over the Penguins to even the series at 1-1.

Shayne Gostisbehere and Sean Couturier scored one minute and 24 seconds apart while Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick and Andrew MacDonald also added goals.

Brian Elliott bounced back with an excellent performance, stopping 34 of 35 shots to snap a seven-game postseason losing streak.

The Flyers’ special teams took over as the power play connected twice and the penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4.

With three consecutive shutouts, Penguins goaltender Matt Murray had his postseason scoreless streak snapped at 225 minutes and 49 seconds.

The series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 Sunday afternoon (3 p.m./NBC).

• Game 1 was too easy for Pittsburgh as the Flyers allowed the Penguins to move with ease throughout the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. The Flyers responded in Game 2 with a more physical presence, taking the body, especially along the boards — an element to their game that was missing in Game 1. The Flyers were fortuitous in drawing a boarding penalty that led to their power-play goal, a shot that Murray should have stopped. 

• This may be the first time since early in the season that we’ve seen the Flyers display a quick-strike ability against the Penguins as they scored their first two goals in a span of one minute and 24 seconds. Couturier tried to catch Murray through the five hole and as the goalie made the save the puck deflected off Kris Letang and past him for a 2-0 lead. The Pens’ defensive breakdown left Couturier all alone, which was the key to making it happen.    

• The Flyers made the Penguins earn everything in and around the crease. The Flyers’ defense had a body on the Penguins forwards and didn’t allow them to have the freedom to hang around the blue paint. After giving up a bad first goal in Game 1, Elliott’s rebound control was excellent as he steered most of Pittsburgh’s shots out of harm’s way. It also helped that four Penguins’ shots hit posts.    

• Elliott came up with the save of the game with 7:28 remaining. After Claude Giroux turned the puck over at the Penguins’ blue line, Sidney Crosby raced in all alone on Elliott. The netminder read Crosby’s move perfectly and stoned his backhand attempt. With Crosby, there’s a guessing game to where he’s going to go and credit Elliott, who made a perfect read.

The Penguins hit several posts and Crosby’s frustration was evident as he failed to connect on an easy, slam dunk tap-in on the Pens’ power play at the end of the second period. Crosby threw his head back in disbelief and then snapped his stick along the crossbar — a rare public display of frustration from the Pens’ captain that would have pulled Pittsburgh to within 2-1. 

Flyers to rely on key rookies as playoff kick off tonight

Flyers to rely on key rookies as playoff kick off tonight

PITTSBURGH — Five Flyers are expected to make their Stanley Cup playoff debuts tonight in Pittsburgh. Defenseman Ivan Provorov is perhaps the most relied upon rookie out of that group, which also includes Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom.

Provorov and Patrick will attempt to draw on their extensive playoff experience with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League as a starting point for the intensity, speed and physicality that comes with the NHL postseason. 

“I think that experience helped us both a lot,” Provorov said. “We learned how to win in the playoffs and play long series against teams and how to wear teams down. 

“I just look at it the same. The level is going to elevate. The physical part is going to come. I think both of us are ready for that and I’m just going to go out there and give everything I have."

Together, in back-to-back seasons, Provorov and Patrick played 40 games in the WHL Playoffs, advancing to the Memorial Cup tournament in 2016.

Hagg sits
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol spent several minutes on the ice before Wednesday’s morning skate speaking one-on-one with rookie defenseman Robert Hagg, whose physical style and positional play would be ideally suited for a playoff series. 

“He just came up to me and told me to be ready and that you never know what’s going to happen in the playoffs,” Hagg said. “He just told me to put my work in and you need to be ready.”

As one of the last Flyers off the ice during practice and morning skates, Hagg has put in the necessary work but has been a healthy scratch over the final eight games of the regular season.

“When you haven’t played in a while, you have to keep up physically and try not to be gassed after two shifts,” Hagg said. “It’s different when you practice all the time and then go into a game. You can limit that a little bit by practicing good and practicing hard to get prepared.” 

A three-peat in Pittsburgh? 
The talk swirling around Pittsburgh is the possibility of winning three straight Stanley Cups for the first time since the Islanders ripped off four straight from 1980-83. 

The Flyers find themselves in the unenviable task of trying to take down a team that has won its last eight postseason series since it was eliminated by the Rangers in five games in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

According to head coach Mike Sullivan, understanding roles and the bigger picture is a big part of that success. 

 “Our team is very well aware of what our identity is,” Sullivan said. “I think to a man our players understand what their contribution is in helping this team be successful and now we’ve got to go out there and play our game and we’ve got to embrace the challenge.”

Projected lines, pairings, scratches
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Michael Raffl
Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera-Matt Read

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Petr Mrazek

Scratches: Jordan Weal, Robert Hagg, Taylor Leier, Dale Weise, Johnny Oduya

Why this playoff berth is different for Ron Hextall's Flyers

Why this playoff berth is different for Ron Hextall's Flyers

Ron Hextall's process is methodical and meticulous.

At times, it can mimic a snail-like pace that would drive even the most patient person up a wall.

But there's substance and meaning to it.

The general manager's long view is setting up the Flyers for multiple Stanley Cup runs, not just go for the gusto and back to square one.

Which brings us to Saturday.

When the Flyers clinched a playoff berth behind a 5-0 rout of the Rangers, there was some validation to Hextall's master plan, a step forward in the process.

No, playoffs are not the ultimate goal, but this bid should represent more — because the Flyers are in the postseason with their youth in place, just about a year after Hextall deemed it ready.

"Our kids, it's time to give them a shot," Hextall said last April after missing the playoffs. "And we're going to do that."

This April, the Flyers are in the postseason with plenty of kids set for their first taste.

"The stage gets bigger, there's a lot more eyes looking at you," Sean Couturier said. "That's what you play for growing up." 

Hextall's Flyers got younger this season, but more importantly, better as they grew up.

Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg all played roles in pushing Hextall's vision onward during a season which started with far more questions than guarantees.

The 19-year-old Patrick and 21-year-old Lindblom are second-line guys seemingly improving with every game they play. Sanheim, 21, hasn't come out of the lineup since his recall March 9, while Hagg, 23, finished with 70 games and a team-best 238 hits.

All four are rookies.

But the rebuild even changed gears when Hextall, somewhat uncharacteristically, placed two 19-year-olds on his roster as camp broke for the 2016-17 season. Those teenagers were Provorov and Konecny, who are now massive contributors both at the age of 21.

Provorov, already, is a minutes-eating defenseman that turned in 17 goals, 24 assists and a plus-17 rating. Regarded for his maturity, he sounded determined for playoff hockey.

"We're not here just to get some experience," Provorov said. "We're here and we're going to try to win."

Konecny, on the other hand, has provided spunk and energy to go with 24 goals. His youthful exuberance has rubbed off on the Flyers, even 102-point captain Claude Giroux.

"T.K. is more loose during the games," Giroux said with a smile. "Often I kind of give him s--- to focus a little bit more."

But when he was Konecny's age …

"His personality, I think I see myself a little bit in him," Giroux said. "I used to be pretty loose and sometimes it got me in trouble. We have a good relationship, so it's good.

"He's a really good kid."

Just one of many Hextall trusted to augment his team's core.

It produced a playoff team, a notable mark in the GM's blueprint.

The next will be winning in the postseason.

We'll see if these kids are ready for that step of validation.