Flyers

Blue Jackets 6, Flyers 3: Where's the defense and goaltending?

Blue Jackets 6, Flyers 3: Where's the defense and goaltending?

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Cannon fire erupted at Nationwide Arena Thursday night as the Columbus Blue Jackets doubled up the Flyers, 6-3.

The Flyers have now allowed five or more goals in four of their first seven games to start the season.

Where were the breakdowns in Columbus?

Here are my observations from Nationwide Arena:

• Ivan Provorov’s struggles continued in the opening period. The Flyers' defenseman had a bad turnover to Anthony Duclair, he got turned around during another shift and Provorov's failure to corral the puck led to an eventual tripping call against Sonny Milano. General manager Ron Hextall said Provorov’s not injured but he’s not playing up to his standards.

“It’s just six games," Hextall said pregame. "Let’s be careful not to overreact.”

Last season, Provorov had a 10-to-15-game stretch midseason in which the puck looked like a hand grenade on his stick.

• If you track the Flyers' shot location in the first period, the team was mostly directing shots against Sergei Bobrovsky on the bottom half of the net — either looking for a rebound or a redirected tip-in. Travis Konecny connected on a terrific tip that went five-hole and you could sense from Konecny’s reaction the relief to finally get that first goal of the season.

• After breaking through with two goals on Bobrovsky in the first period, the Flyers resorted to trying to make the pretty pass and the perfect play in the second period as opposed to just getting the puck on net, creating rebound opportunities and sticking to what worked in the first 20 minutes.

• Give Duclair credit for making a very athletic play, but I think Robert Hagg can do a better job of preventing a quality scoring chance and eventually a highlight goal. Duclair fell to the ice, got back up and beat Pickard with a nice shot in the first period.

Hagg was also on the ice when Cam Atkinson sped around him and scored the Jackets' 3-2 go-ahead goal during the second period. In both instances, I’d like to see Hagg make a stronger attempt at breaking up those plays even if it means taking a penalty. Deep in your zone in the high-danger areas, those are penalties worth taking.

• It will be interesting to see how Dave Hakstol restructures his lines once Nolan Patrick is cleared to return to the team. Jordan Weal has looked really solid in the few games he’s played at center. Oskar Lindblom was buzzing offensively on Weal’s wing and that line scored in the opening minute of the third period to close the gap to 4-3.

I also liked Weal’s attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck until his costly tripping penalty late in the third period.

• Hakstol said the plan all along was for Calvin Pickard to start this game, but I really wondered if he would have followed through on that had the Flyers not coughed up a 5-2 lead to the Panthers Tuesday.

Pickard’s performance was the product of the defense in front of him, but sometimes you need your goaltender to make the saves they’re not expected to make. Foligno’s snap shot from between the circles is definitely a stoppable shot and certainly Milano’s wraparound from a sharp angle.

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Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

VOORHEES, N.J. — Monday started with bad news for the Flyers.

Travis Konecny, their 22-year-old leading scorer, is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Konecny was leveled in open ice by Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki during the first period of the Flyers' 4-3 win Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. He left the game and never returned.

The 2015 first-round pick is on pace to shatter his career highs. He's been arguably the Flyers’ most important piece to their turnaround through 30 games of 2019-20.

He has 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) after having 28 points through the team's first 50 games last season. The Flyers are 2-4-4 in games that he hasn't scored.

I didn’t know a ton about him. I knew he competed like hell, fiery player," Matt Niskanen, in his first year with the Flyers, said Monday. "Playing with him, that’s reinforced that thought — hungry on the puck, good quickness, really good at creating turnovers. He’s shown a pretty good scoring touch, too, so far this year. A lot of good tools and he’s been a really important player for us.

Philippe Myers left the Flyers' skill practice Monday with back spasms. With Konecny out and Myers potentially out for Wednesday's game in Colorado against the Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN), the Flyers will most likely have only 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen to open a three-game road trip.

Niskanen, who has 125 career postseason games on his résumé and a Stanley Cup title, said this can be a good challenge for the Flyers. The team is 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for the most points in the NHL at 28 since Nov. 1 (see weekly observations).

"Both guys have played really well for us," he said. "Hopefully they come back, we've been on a pretty good run here. But it gives somebody an opportunity and it tests us a little bit — and that's OK, early in the year, you're going to have to learn to deal with things."

As of Monday morning, the Flyers did not have plans to make a call-up. Forward Chris Stewart will enter the lineup and defenseman Robert Hagg will, as well, if Myers is unable to go in Colorado.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said it's uncertain if Konecny will or can travel with the Flyers. The team flies to Denver Tuesday afternoon.

"At this time, I would say no," Vigneault said, "but you never know how things change."

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Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

While the Flyers lost their winning streak and point streak, they still put together a productive 2-1-0 week.

Alain Vigneault's team is 7-1-1 over its last nine games, a stretch in which the Flyers have allowed 2.11 goals per game. Since Nov. 1, the Flyers are 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for most points in the NHL at 28, continuing to make strides under the new coaching staff.

We'll get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• Scott Laughton's performance in Saturday's emotion-filled 4-3 win over the Senators served as a microcosm of his importance to the Flyers.

The team-first attitude, the hard skating, the physicality, the forechecking, the penalty killing and the secondary scoring.

He is not undervalued by the Flyers.

If I look at today’s game where it got heated, he’s one of the guys I thought that responded the best. He responded in a physical nature when the opportunity was there, but when he needed to make plays with the puck or defend, he did that — he did both of those things.

As a coach, it’s really easy to trust a player when he’s doing the right things and playing the right way on the ice.

- Vigneault

And check out these marks: the Flyers are 7-0-0 when Laughton records a point and 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of a broken finger.

• In 30 games, Ivan Provorov has already matched his goal total from last season (seven) and set career highs on the power play (four goals, six assists).

He's projected to pass his numbers from a breakout 2017-18 season in which he scored 17 goals and 41 points. The 22-year-old's rebound from his letdown 2018-19 campaign might be the most impactful development to the Flyers' overall rebound so far in 2019-20.

Before the Coyotes' 3-1 win Thursday over the Flyers, Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet extolled Provorov.

"I think he's one of the best young defensemen in the league," Tocchet said, via Coyotes public relations.

"He plays with an edge in a sense that he doesn’t play safe. He’s up the ice, he makes plays, he’s not scared the way he plays. Not so much scared physically, just the way he plays, he’s trying to win the game. As a young guy, he wants to be in those spots. When I watch him, he wants the puck. I love young kids like that, they’re not scared.”

When asked if Provorov reminded him of anyone, Tocchet said "a little bit of Phil Housley," who is a Hall of Fame blueliner and now an assistant coach with Arizona.

• Carter Hart owns 10 wins and a 2.39 goals-against average.

By Dec. 8 of last season, Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz, Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon had combined for 12 wins and a 3.30 goals-against average.

As much as some people want to knock the previous coaching staff, the Flyers were a mess in net at this point last season and things predictably unraveled. Really, from the outset of 2018-19, things were problematic between the pipes for the Flyers.

• One of the biggest signs of growth with the 2019-20 Flyers has been goal prevention. They've allowed 80 goals through 30 games. In 30 games last season, the Flyers gave up 111. That's 31 more goals.

A lot goes into that — goaltending and offseason acquisitions to name a few. But Vigneault's system has turned the Flyers into a more structured team.

Much more often compared to 2018-19, the Flyers, even if they're struggling to score, look like they're controlling games instead of letting the opposition do the honors. Through 30 games last season, the Flyers had 11 losses by three goals or more. This season, they have only four such defeats.

 

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