Flyers

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Scott Laughton

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Scott Laughton

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.

Today we will be looking at Scott Laughton.

Destra

Laughton is an under-the-radar player that the Flyers are lucky to have. While he did miss a handful of games in the early weeks of the 2019-20 season because of a broken finger, he remained a vital asset upon returning. 

Through 49 games, Laughton tallied 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists). The 13 goals were a career best and considering he missed 20 games and there were still 13 left to play, chances are, he would’ve continued adding on to that. 

There has been continuous growth in Laughton’s play over the past three seasons, with his puck handling, work in the neutral zone and work on the penalty kill — his speciality. The Flyers have truly struck gold in the amount of depth they have on the roster and if Laughton continues to progress in the coming years, he’ll be the core of it all. 

I’ll give Laughton an A — overall, a great season. 

Emmer

Laughton had one of his best seasons in a Flyers uniform.

A guy that can play center and wing, he was a major key to the improved depth. In 49 games, he set personal milestones, scoring a career-high 13 goals and recording a career-high plus-13.

What needs to be recognized is the way he bounced back from adversity this season. Despite suffering two separate injuries, the 26-year-old continued to remain a solid role player for the Flyers, moving up and down the lineup when needed and stepping up in a major way on the Flyers' improved penalty kill, where he recorded over 83 minutes of ice time. Some more point production could have been expected out of the Flyers' 2012 first-round pick, but he certainly improved in his role this season.

Laughton gets a B+.

Fordyce 

There are a number of reasons why Laughton deserves this grade, but I’ll start with the most obvious. Despite multiple injuries this season, Laughton was still able to post a career-high 13 goals in 49 games. Even more impressive is that Laughton did this all while playing different places up and down the Flyers' lineup.

Laughton has become a Swiss army knife for the Flyers, playing wherever he is needed and doing so admirably. On any given night, Laughton can be a top-six forward but doesn’t get down on nights when he plays lower in the lineup. Not only that but Laughton has an uncanny ability to elevate the play of others when playing alongside them. Laughton has been one of the most consistent players in the Flyers' lineup and has proven that again this season, posting a plus-13 rating. When No. 21 is in the lineup, you always know what you’re going to get. 

Laughton gets an A.

Hall

Laughton has been one of the Flyers' most consistent forwards over the past two seasons.

He's always skating hard, always forechecking, always killing penalties and he's got some offensive strengths, to boot.

After putting up career highs in goals (12), assists (20), games (82) and ice time per game (14:51) during 2018-19, Laughton topped his personal best in markers by scoring 13 despite playing 33 fewer games this season. The 26-year-old, who has played center and winger for the Flyers, was also a career-best plus-13.

Laughton dealt with two unfortunate injuries (broken right index finger, groin), missing 20 of the Flyers' 69 games, so let's go with a real solid B+ for the underrated forward who made up for lost time.

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Carter Hart provides early birthday gift as Flyers beat Canadiens in Game 1 of 1st-round NHL playoff series

Carter Hart provides early birthday gift as Flyers beat Canadiens in Game 1 of 1st-round NHL playoff series

BOX SCORE

Carter Hart will enjoy his birthday.

The young netminder delivered a big performance Wednesday night to help the Flyers earn a 2-1 win over the Canadiens in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

So far, so good (in fact, really good) for Hart in his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jakub Voracek and Joel Farabee scored goals for the top-seeded Flyers, who are off to a 4-0-0 start in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament and have yet to trail once.

Over their last 14 games (10 in the regular season, four in tournament), the Flyers are 13-1-0 and have outscored the opposition 52-23 (plus-29 goal differential). The lone loss was to the Bruins, who finished the regular season with an NHL-best 100 points.

Wednesday was far from a picture-perfect performance but the Flyers did enough to grind it out, which they'll have to do at times against eighth-seeded Montreal.

• In the first chapter of the Hart-Carey Price showdown, the youngster got the better of the veteran.

Hart, who turned 22 years old at midnight, has been so steady early in games. He had to make only five saves in the opening frame but he hasn't allowed a first-period goal in his last seven games.

He was a life saver with 16 second-period saves and finished with 27 stops on 28 shots.

Through three games in the tournament, Hart is 3-0-0 with 84 saves on 87 shots. Can't ask for a better start from him. A major positive.

Price made a save on Scott Laughton that you'll see all over ESPN's SportsCenter and denied 29 shots. The Flyers know he'll be a tough out.

• After playing well following his jump to the first line in the round-robin finale with Voracek (undisclosed issue) out, Farabee stayed with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier in Game 1.

The 20-year-old rookie winger continued his productive response to the opportunity, scoring a massive goal 16 seconds after Shea Weber tied the game at 1-1 in the second period.

Farabee went to the net, deflected Travis Sanheim's shot and then pounded home the rebound — so timely given Montreal had totally swung the momentum in its favor, putting the Flyers on their heels.

Farabee should stay on that line until he gives the Flyers a reason to not keep him there. He has three points (two goals, one assist) over three games in the 24-team tournament.

He’s been great for us," Ivan Provorov said postgame in a video interview. "It’s his first playoffs, but it doesn’t look like it. He has poise, he’s been making plays, he’s been scoring and helping us big time. I think he deserves to play on that line and he contributes a lot. He’s been going, I think he complements Coots and G really well.

• The Flyers delivered a pair of early positive signs:

The power play struck on its first opportunity after going 0 for 11 through the three-game round robin. Provorov, who led all NHL defensemen in man advantage goals during the regular season with seven, blasted a shot from the point and Voracek must have just gotten a piece of it to hand the Flyers a 1-0 advantage.

The other positive was the ingredients to the goal. The Flyers went with a double screen on Price. Impeding the Montreal netminder's vision will be critical and the Flyers hammered home that point with Couturier and Voracek disrupting.

Not only is it an effective approach but it can also frustrate Price, who does not like being bumped or obstructed.

The power play finished 1 for 3 and missed out on a chance to provide insurance in the third period. It didn't cost the Flyers.

• The second period was troubling for the Flyers. They got a taste of their own medicine. Typically, the Flyers are a team that wants to wear down the opposition with its effort and north-south style. The Flyers are not the fastest team, but the way in which they play makes them tough to play against, which was a huge initiative entering their turnaround season.

Montreal completely took it to them in the middle stanza. At one point, the Flyers were pinned in their own end and had three failed attempts to clear the puck.

Leading up to the series opener, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault warned that Montreal seldom slows down in its pace or energy, which can sneak up on teams if you let it.

"That’s a team with real good team speed, there’s no doubt that they work extremely hard," Vigneault said in a video interview before the game. "Those two areas, watching the four games in that Pittsburgh series, caught everybody’s attention. They were extremely quick and extremely hard-working."

Fortunately for the Flyers, Hart was strong and Farabee made his heads up play, allowing the Flyers to leave the second period with a 2-1 edge.

• Vigneault gave the Game 1 nod to Shayne Gostisbehere over Robert Hagg, who was the extra defenseman. Gostisbehere truly won his spot in the lineup with impressive work during camp, the exhibition game and one round-robin game.

He wasn't as impactful against the Canadiens as he was in the 4-1 round-robin win over the Lightning and looked a little shaky in the second period, but so did the Flyers as a whole. Gostisbehere didn't play a ton later in the third period as the Flyers shortened things up.

Not sure that's enough to sit him in Game 2 but the battle for the lineup will truly be a game-to-game situation. The playoffs are a game-to-game business.

• James van Riemsdyk was on the fourth line and played 11:40.

Nate Thompson, the former Canadien who centers the fourth line, missed a wide-open net late in the third period.

Overall, the Flyers didn't receive the depth efforts they got throughout the round robin, but the club's role players weren't awful, either.

The Flyers had a so-so game in general.

• The series continues Friday with Game 2 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSP.

For the full series schedule, click here.

The Flyers practice Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at the Ford Performance Centre.

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Flyers vs. Canadiens NHL playoffs: Game 1 live stream, storylines, more

Flyers vs. Canadiens NHL playoffs: Game 1 live stream, storylines, more

For the first time since 2000, the Flyers will open the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.

They kick off their first-round series Wednesday against the eighth-seeded Canadiens.

With the Flyers set to begin what feels and looks like their most credible chance at a Stanley Cup run since 2011 or 2012, let's look at five big storylines ahead of their matchup with Montreal:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The goaltending matchup is well-advertised: Carter Hart vs. Carey Price, youngster vs. idol. As Hart, who turns 22 years old on Thursday, started molding his game, he looked up to Price, who turns 33 years old on Sunday.

"Any time you have a chance to play against somebody that you looked up to, it’s always exciting, and in the playoffs even more," Claude Giroux said Monday. "It's two good goaltenders; it’s going to be a treat to watch."

Everybody knows how Price can dictate an entire series by just his own ability between the pipes.

"I really believe everything’s been said about Price," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. "Obviously a premier goaltender in the league, gives the Canadiens a chance every game. I’m not sure there is much more I can add to where he is, how well he plays and what he does for that team."

A few interesting notes on both goalies:

Price has good career numbers against the Flyers, going 16-11-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 30 career regular-season matchups vs. the orange and black. He has been very good against them over the last two regular seasons: 3-0-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average and .959 save percentage.

There is a potential back-to-back scenario with Games 4 and 5. Despite Hart playing on no days rest only once this season (and it was in relief duty), expect him to play that back-to-back, especially given how big Game 5 could be, with the series either tied, the Flyers looking to clinch or trying to survive.

Meanwhile, Price was off his game on no days rest during the regular season, going 0-2-2 with a 3.76 goals-against average and .864 save percentage.

• The Flyers went 2-1-0 against Montreal in the regular season, with a 3-2 overtime win Nov. 7, a 4-3 overtime victory Nov. 30 and a 4-1 loss Jan. 16.

It's important to remember, though, that the Flyers got much better from early January and Hart faced the Canadiens only once (he beat them on Nov. 7). They also acquired Derek Grant and Nate Thompson at the Feb. 24 trade deadline, with Thompson coming from Montreal.

Having Nate, a veteran player that is such a pro in the way he prepares himself, the way he competes, the way he is with his teammates, a real good teammate — that’s his first and foremost value with him, he comes to play and he plays hard. Obviously in our preparation for the Montreal Canadiens, we did pick his brain on what we saw in video. I’m not going to go into length in what he shared with us; obviously that stays internal. There’s no doubt that he’s been here a short amount of time, but he’s been a real valuable player as far as bringing his game to the table every night and helping our group. In this preparation for Montreal, there’s no doubt that we did ask him a few questions.

- Vigneault

• An X-factor in this series for the Flyers is James van Riemsdyk.

The Flyers went 0 for 11 on the power play during the round robin. JVR has a long résumé of power play production in his career and makes a living on disrupting goalies around the net, which is something the Flyers must do to beat Price.

On top of van Riemsdyk playing with a little bit more to prove after being scratched for the second game of the round robin, he also owns quality lifetime numbers against the Canadiens. In 39 career regular-season matchups with Montreal, van Riemsdyk has 16 goals and nine assists. He has scored more goals against only one other team: the Sabres with 17.

Vigneault will continue to look for more from van Riemsdyk and the big winger profiles well in this series.

• After missing the round-robin finale because of an undisclosed issue, Jakub Voracek has practiced the last two days and said he's good to go.

Voracek was one of the Flyers' best players when the club started finding its identity in November. He's important to the man advantage, as well.

We'll have to wait and see if he goes back on the Flyers' top line. It seems likely he will to at least start the series given the chemistry he has with Giroux and Sean Couturier. He could also see time on the third line if the Flyers elect to play Joel Farabee on the first unit, where the rookie's strengths become much more utilized.

Because of the team's depth in a system predicated on balance, Voracek played 17:03 minutes per game in the regular season, his fewest since 2011-12, his first year with the Flyers. As a result, he was more effective in all three zones with less pressure to constantly push the envelope offensively.

"Let’s be honest, I think this is the best team since I came to Philly in 2011," Voracek said Tuesday. "That first year we had a pretty good team, but we are really deep this year. I think we showed it before the stoppage, we showed it in the last four games (three round robin, one exhibition) that basically we are capable of beating anyone. Skating well, check them well.

"Let’s be honest, I think we are going into the playoffs as one of the favorites. That’s a good feeling and hopefully we are going to find a way to go all the way because we feel really comfortable with this group. That’s where we stand right now."

As for Michael Raffl, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 1 of the round robin, it's uncertain when the Flyers will see his return.

• During the playoffs, Vigneault is close to the vest with his lineups. For strategic purposes, the Flyers will keep all lineup decisions to themselves moving forward.

It's uncertain if Robert Hagg or Shayne Gostisbehere will be the Flyers' sixth defenseman for Game 1. Expect to see Hagg begin the series in the lineup and with Justin Braun, but Gostisbehere opened eyes in the Flyers' 4-1 round-robin win over the Lightning to tighten the race for playing time.

If this first-round series doesn't start particularly well and the Flyers want to combat Montreal's quickness with Gostisbehere's elusiveness, they could look to call his number, as Vigneault has mentioned the importance of adjustments throughout a series.

"I’ve decided who I’m going to play for the first game, but that’s something that I’m not willing to share at this moment," Vigneault said Tuesday. "But there’s no doubt that Shayne did play his best game. You can see right now at this point that he's healthy, he’s confident about the surgery that he had on both his knees. He feels good about himself and feels energized. If we need him during the series, there’s no doubt that he'll be ready for us."


Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Derek Grant-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Joel Farabee-Nate Thompson-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Justin Braun

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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