Wayne Simmonds

Wayne Simmonds, Flyers need to help each other

Wayne Simmonds, Flyers need to help each other

Wayne Simmonds has endured quite a bit in 2017-18.

Not that anything ever comes easy for him.

Simmonds has grinded out NHL success, featuring back-to-back 30-plus-goal outputs the previous two seasons and a 2017 All-Star Game MVP honor.

This season has been a different grind.

The 29-year-old power forward had his mouth busted twice by an opponent's errant stick, the first instance of which required some serious dental work. He then missed seven games from Feb. 20 to March 4 because of an upper-body injury. And now, when the stakes are at its highest, he's working to rediscover what makes him so important to the Flyers.

All while playing banged up, more than likely. In fact, Simmonds has battled his health all season, going back to October when he missed a practice from time to time.

"Simmer's a playoff warrior," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Monday. "That's a mentality that he carries day in and day out. He's an important guy for us and I've got a sense that he'll impact this series."

The challenge is trying to do so in some uncharted waters. After averaging 18:20 of ice time through his first 69 games, Simmonds played 15:12 over the final six regular-season contests, posting a goal and an assist. Moreover, a net-front power-play presence that felt sacrosanct, was changed. Simmonds gave way to 19-year-old Nolan Patrick, sliding down to the second-unit man advantage.

Simmonds, the team-first guy that he is, has taken it in stride.

"Oh no, it's fine," Simmonds said April 5. "I wasn't playing well and I've got to do better. I've got to be a better player. Patty's done a great job in front of the net when he's been in front of the net this year. … I feel no way about it, the kid's a great player. He deserves everything he's getting."

Simmonds played a season-low 12:38 in Sunday's Game 3 loss, in large part because the Flyers' penalty kill spent so much time on the ice thanks to eight penalties. 

"Simmer was one of the guys we lost because of the number of specialty teams, and all of a sudden his impact on the game becomes minimal," Hakstol said. "He's a key guy and we've got to find the right avenue for him to impact this series. That's something that as a coach I've got to do a better job of. When you have a night like you had [Sunday] when we took six minor penalties over a 30-minute span, it's really hard to utilize a lot of players."

Hakstol understands the importance of utilizing Simmonds in better ways. After all, he's the emotional engine of the Flyers, who went 17-3-1 during the regular season when Simmonds scored a goal.

Thus far, he has one assist through three games of the best-of-seven first-round playoff matchup with the Penguins, while scoring one goal in his last 12 games, postseason included. 

Simmonds will continue to grind as the series moves to Game 4 Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBCSP). The Flyers, trailing 2-1, hope it's the kind of grind that produces the vintage Wayne Simmonds.

Flyers' huge rally evaporates in seconds during tough loss

Flyers' huge rally evaporates in seconds during tough loss

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — The Flyers will have to clinch a playoff spot on home ice with their final two games of the regular season at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Islanders outlasted the Flyers, 5-4, at the Barclays Center on Tuesday after the Flyers rallied to tie the game in the third period after trailing, 4-1, through 40 minutes.

New York captain John Tavares led the way with a pair of goals.

Claude Giroux topped the 30-goal mark for the first time in his 11th NHL season. Twenty-eight seconds after he scored, the Flyers surrendered the game-winner.

Five goals were scored by players under the age of 21 (Mathew Barzal had two, Nolan Patrick had two and Anthony Beauvillier had one).

The Flyers will host the Hurricanes Thursday.

• Ron Hextall mentioned Monday how well Shayne Gostisbehere’s defense has improved this season, which has even exceeded the GM’s expectations. “Ghost” was outstanding as he stripped Beauvillier and stick-handled around Barzal to lead a Flyers’ 3-on-2 for Wayne Simmonds’ 24th goal of the season. While Oskar Lindblom exhibited a good deal of patience and Patrick once again flashed tremendous stick work, Gostisbehere made the entire play happen to tie the game at 1-1.

However, Gostisbehere was also guilty of a couple of breakdowns, the most obvious one on Tavares’ second goal.  

• It’s hard to generate a shot when you don’t have the puck on your stick, which was the case for the first 10 minutes of the second period. The Flyers started the first 8:20 without a single shot on net, and were heavily outshot, 17-6, over the 20 minutes. The Flyers looked completely stagnant, while allowing the Islanders to dictate play to go along with second-effort opportunities. It may have been their worst 20 minutes since the 10-game winless streak. Dave Hakstol flipped his lines around unsuccessfully in an effort to generate something offensively.

• The Flyers were getting absolutely killed with skill. Tavares was given all the time in the world on the Islanders' first goal, a power-play tally. Defenseman Radko Gudas was way too over-aggressive in playing the puck along the boards. Calder Trophy favorite Barzal provided a dazzling top-shelf goal and 20-year-old Beauvillier stick handled around the entire Flyers defense to generate a shot that Petr Mrazek appeared to be screened on.

• Somehow the Flyers need to incorporate Patrick on that top power-play unit. He’s just too good and productive and proved so again Tuesday. Patrick provided a tremendous second effort in front of goalie Thomas Greiss to bring the Flyers within 4-2. Credit Jakub Voracek with a perfect pass that Patrick just had to redirect for the goal. Still, Patrick has been an absolute force when utilized on the No. 1 power play.

• In somewhat of a head-scratching decision, Hakstol elected to sit Scott Laughton, a player who actually delivered a solid game against the Bruins, creating chances and generating some speed playing on the left wing. With Michael Raffl ready to return, Laughton was the odd-man out as Hakstol elected to stick with the plodding Jori Lehtera at center, who had no shot of chasing down Barzal on the 5-4 goal. Against the uptempo Islanders, the Flyers needed all the speed they could get on the ice.

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny is one of a handful of young Flyers who thrives on confrontation, lining up an opponent in his crosshairs and going for the kill.

And that’s just his profile in Call of Duty — the popular war-based video game he plays occasionally with teammates.

And while Konecny didn't show up on the score sheet Sunday evening, he still answered his call of duty, leading the charge in a variety of ways in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Capitals that inched the Flyers within four points of division-leading Washington and two points of Pittsburgh for second place. All three teams return to action Tuesday with the Flyers in Detroit.

Battered, bloodied and perhaps a little beaten, Konecny was determined that the Capitals weren’t going to get the best of him.

“I just think I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been here it doesn’t matter what your role is on the team,” Konecny said after the game. “Everybody buys in, everybody blocks shots, everyone goes to the net, everyone backchecks. I think it’s a part of me that’s learned to become a Philadelphia Flyer.”

The orange and black uniform was only a cover for the black and blue bruises Konecny’s body endured. In the third period, he stood directly in the line of fire of Christian Djoos’ shot and then limped back to the locker room. On his next shift, Konecny blocked another shot from Dmitri Orlov.

Even after giving all the postgame interviews, Konecny was still limping. The playing surface at the Wells Fargo Center may not have had enough ice for all of his sore spots.

“He’s got the heart of a lion and I think you’ve seen that all year long,” said Wayne Simmonds, who tallied twice in the win. “I kept telling him that’s what winners are made of. It’s the type of effort we’re going to need from every single guy in this dressing room. He blocks one shot, he gets up slowly, gets back on the ice, blocks another.”

The clean-cut and rather reserved Konecny that came to the Flyers as a 19-year-old rookie last season has now been replaced with a more brash, tattoo-sporting, always-chirping Konecny with a longer hairstyle and the appearance of facial hair.

The only missing element to complete the look is a leather biker’s jacket.  

That rugged toughness was on display again when he dropped the gloves with Washington winger T.J. Oshie and bloodied his knuckles 7:41 into the third period.

“I just got high-sticked right before,” Konecny said. “I got frustrated and I finished my hit on him. Not a bad guy to take off the ice when they’re trying to score."

“It was awesome. It was great to see,” Simmonds said. “You see him get high-sticked there. He didn’t quit on the play and kept going. He battles with a guy who’s probably 20 pounds bigger, maybe more than that. It was a great emotional leap for the team in the third period there. Unbelievable job and kudos to him.”

Konecny, who has 19 goals and 22 asissts on the season and has earned Dave Hakstol's trust with a bump up to the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, has quickly rounded into a five-tool player this season with speed, playmaking, a scoring touch with a hard-nosed edge. Much like Brad Marchand with the Bruins, that type of player becomes vital once the postseason rolls around.

“It gives the bench a good injection of life,” Hakstol said. “They love it and guys love to see that on the bench. I think that’s what our guys expect, but it’s always great when you see one guy doing it.”  

Which is probably why Konecny enjoys that other Call of Duty. Another game with a similar approach, except a lot less painful.

Raffl out
Forward Michael Raffl will miss two weeks with an upper-body injury suffered in the second period against the Capitals Sunday. Raffl, who has 11 goals and eight assists this year, had been seeing some time on the top line with Giroux and Couturier recently.