Flyers

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Sean Couturier has been the Flyers' goal-to guy all season. 

Saturday night was no different.

The Flyers' top-line center had his third straight two-goal game in a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Couturier, who was left off the Metropolitan Division All-Star team announced Wednesday, was arguably the best player on the ice for both teams with a three-point night and a plus-2 rating.

Travis Konecny, Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl also scored for the Flyers, who have reeled off four straight wins while the Devils have dropped their last six.

The Flyers also snapped a three-game losing streak at the Prudential Center. Their last win there came on Feb. 16, 2016.

This was the first of four meetings between divisional rivals with all four games being played in a span of exactly one month. Their next matchup comes Jan. 20 in Philadelphia.

• The Devils struck first with the Nico Hischier line taking advantage of the Nolan Patrick line and the Flyers' third defensive pairing of Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. Hischier connected with Jesper Bratt, who made it 1-0. The Flyers simply lost coverage, as the Devils gained time and space after crossing the blue line. Gudas made the situation worse by leaving his feet and with Sanheim misplaying the puck along the boards, the Flyers were completely lost defensively.

• With the Patrick line facing the Hischier line for their second shift, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol found a way to get Couturier out on the ice with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. It was Couturier who won a puck battle along the wall and then moved it out to the point, where the rebound came straight out to Couturier. He then outmuscled two Devils, including Hischier, to score his 24th goal of the season.

• With Patrick out there, I gave the Devils the clear advantage against the Hischier line. With Couturier against the Devils' top line, the Flyers had the edge with that matchup.

• On their fourth attempt, the Devils' power play finally answered. Jersey moved the puck around the umbrella before setting up Kyle Palmieri with a one-timer that he ripped past Brian Elliott for a 2-1 Devils lead. Elliott couldn't quite make it to the post to seal off the shot. Typically, Elliott has anticipated those one-timer shots, but this may have caught him by surprise.

• On their first power-play opportunity, the Flyers capitalized. They broke down the Devils' four-man box. It all started with Couturier drawing a pair of defenders around the goal line and then finding the open passing lane to Jakub Voracek in the slot, as he used the back of his skate to kick it to Claude Giroux for the one-timer.

Sure, Voracek makes a nice kick pass, but Couturier, coupled with a Simmonds screen and an eventual tip-in on Cory Schneider, set up the goal and a 2-2 game.

• The one guy unaffected by the bye week is Couturier, who scored a power-play goal as he worked his way into the soft spot in the Devils' slot. Couturier blasted a one-timer past Schneider. That’s now three straight two-goal games for Couturier, and a big 3-2 lead after two periods.

• Travis Konecny was patiently waiting for several seconds for the two-line pass to spring him for a breakaway, and it all started with Couturier doing the grunt work below the goal line, winning the puck battle, and working the puck to Ivan Provorov, who found Konecny at the Devils' blue line, and the 4-2 Flyers lead.

• Penalties were a real problem for the Flyers in this game, as they were whistled for the first five minors — all stick infractions. In fact, Patrick committed a pair of high-sticking penalties in a span of 47 seconds of ice time. Aside from the Palmieri goal, the Flyers' PK was very strong. On their fifth opportunity, they pressured the Devils, not allowing Jersey to even set up.

• The Flyers' blue line appeared to be completely out of sorts early on, especially Brandon Manning, who committed a penalty, lost an edge, got beaten on a play and then nearly put a puck in his own net off his skate. With Shayne Gostisbehere out of the lineup because of an illness, Hakstol had to reconfigure his pairings, and with a five-day layoff, the bottom two pairings weren’t in sync at all.

Flyers goalie prospect Carter Hart added to Phantoms' playoff roster

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers goalie prospect Carter Hart added to Phantoms' playoff roster

Carter Hart is joining the Phantoms but don’t expect him to play just yet.

Hart on Tuesday joined Lehigh Valley for the remainder of the playoffs since his junior career ended with the Everett Silvertips losing in the WHL Final.

The 19-year-old will be behind Alex Lyon, Dustin Tokarski, Anthony Stolarz and John Muse on the Phantoms’ depth chart. This is strictly for experience — just like last year when he joined the Phantoms after Everett’s season ended.

In his final season of major junior, Hart led all WHL goalies with a 1.60 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and seven shutouts. He won the Del Wilson Trophy (WHL top goalie) and Four Broncos Trophy (WHL MVP).

Hart is expected to win the CHL Goaltender of the Year award for the second time, becoming the first goalie to accomplish that.

The Phantoms, down 2-0 to Toronto in the Eastern Conference Finals, will host the Marlies Wednesday night in Game 3 on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ at 7:05 p.m. 

Rob's Rants — Golden Knights' success is a good thing

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USA Today Images

Rob's Rants — Golden Knights' success is a good thing

My latest installment of Rob Rant’s focuses on things I just don’t get.

Knight time
I don’t grasp the sentiment that the expansion Vegas Golden Knights' advancement to the NHL Stanley Cup Final is a black eye for the NHL. Maybe I’m a glass half-full guy but I think it’s the best national sports story of the year. They played their first home game just nine days after the horrific shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Vegas Strip that left 59 dead. And their season served not only as a distraction from the incident but as a galvanizer for the city. 

They had the fifth-most points in the regular season. And beat the Kings, Sharks and Jets in the postseason. Not an easy task. General manager George McPhee made smart selections in the expansion draft, including landing a Stanley Cup champion goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and nabbing a quality winger in James Neal, among other transactions throughout the season. They showed through a smart front office, good coaching and players buying in, you can speed up the process. I love that unlike the NBA where a super team like Golden State is basically a lock to win it again, hockey has a great storyline. Vegas’ success proves that if you do the right thing in the offseason, next year could be your team’s year.           

Style over substance
On the heels of last week’s NBA combine, it’s always puzzled me how much stock organizations in various leagues put on workouts rather than game tape. I get it that to play any sport professionally there is a level of athleticism needed. But I’d much rather see how said prospect did against real game competition instead of a stopwatch or tape measure. How do they think about the game? How do they react when their team is down? What kind of teammate are they? You need look no further than Tom Brady’s 40-yard dash at his combine workout. His career turned out pretty well.    

Off base?
So Odubel Herrera got on base Sunday versus the Cardinals but his 45-game on-base streak was still snapped. Herrera struck out in his last at-bat but because of a wild pitch, he reached first base. The strikeout nullified the act of reaching base and keeping the streak alive, according to MLB rules. But if it’s not an out, and he gets on base, shouldn’t that count toward the streak?     

Loyal royal
The wedding of Price Harry and Meghan Markle this past weekend seemed like a lovely affair. My evite must have went right to my spam. Don’t get me wrong, Harry comes off as a sincere, caring dude who is genuinely concerned with using his platform to better the world. And his new bride is beautiful and an accomplished actress. They seem like a great couple. And I get that the new Duchess of Sussex’s biracial ancestry is of interest to folks.