Flyers

Despite injuries, Flyers put together 'unbelievable' effort in shutout

Despite injuries, Flyers put together 'unbelievable' effort in shutout

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS — The Flyers showed the St. Louis Blues what a true blue-collar effort really looks like.

Behind Michal Neuvirth’s 33 saves and a defense with four first-year NHL players with 272 games played combined among its unit, the Flyers kept the high-powered Blues out of the net with a 2-0 win on Thursday (see observations). It marked the first time the Blues have been shut out this season.

“Unbelievable. That’s one of the hardest-working teams in the league over there,” Neuvirth said. “They (defensemen) stepped up. They needed to step up and that’s what they did. I was impressed.”

If the Flyers didn’t already have enough going against them with all the injuries piling up, the team was also playing its fifth games in eight days. That stretch included four out of those five on the road with Thursday night’s game being the second half of a back-to-back set.

“The guys just worked hard. That’s just what it comes down to,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “They worked their asses off in the [defensive] zone tonight. The number of blocked shots, starting with Provy (Ivan Provorov), but throughout the group, that’s what it takes on nights like this.”

Defenseman Provorov came into Thursday’s game having logged some monster minutes over the Flyers’ past three games, including a career-high 29:51 the night before in Chicago. Yet Provorov put himself on the line Thursday in St. Louis as he matched a team record with 10 blocked shots (see highlights).

“The other team had a real shooting mentality, especially on the power play, so we tried to get into the shooting lanes and block some shots and help Neuvirth out,” Provorov said. “I think that’s what we did tonight.”

The Blues, on the other hand, had every reason to feel confident and comfortable. St. Louis owned the NHL’s best record at 10-2-1 and were well-rested with three days off between games.

“There were a couple of shifts where I thought we got a little bit slow in defending, but for the most part, whenever they did get it moving, we got it out of our down-low coverage,” Hakstol said. “We did a good job of getting in some lanes and then working and moving to find our next point of pressure.”

“A lot of guys are putting their bodies on the line, sacrificing their body, blocking shots,” Sean Couturier said. “You look at a guy like (Robert) Hagg, he’s not the most flashy guy. He’s pretty solid doing all the little details that make a difference to win a game, even Sanny (Travis Sanheim), he’s getting better every game, and the young guys are just getting better and better.”

The Flyers got the blocks and even a few of the breaks on Thursday night. Following a scoreless first period, the Flyers scored the game’s first goal when Brandon Manning ripped a slap shot that Blues goaltender Jake Allen never saw with Jakub Voracek in his face. 

Initially, the referees waved off the goal on account of goalie interference. However, after Hakstol challenged and the play was reviewed, officials reversed the decision when it was determined that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo pushed Voracek into Allen’s way.

“I felt something, but I was pretty confident I was out of the crease,” Voracek said. “After I saw the replay, I thought it could go either way. You never know lately how the call is going to go. I’m glad they allowed [the goal].”

The Flyers’ reversal of fortunes came exactly a week after a Manning goal was taken off the board in a 5-4 loss in Ottawa, which would have been the difference in earning a point.

“A little bit of good karma I think,” Manning said. “As soon as I saw it I was hoping that Hak would challenge. There wasn’t much there. It all works out in the end. Fortunately for us, it was a big one tonight.”

Fourteen games into the season, the injury-riddled Flyers have already been forced to utilize nine different defensemen, which is one more than what they needed in their first 80 games last season.

“Everybody’s here for a reason. Everybody can play,” Provorov said. “It sucks that Ghost (Shayne Gostisbehere), Mac (Andrew MacDonald) and Gudy (Radko Gudas) got injured, but the guys that came in did a really good job. I think we played a really solid game.”

Notes and tidbits
• In their 50-plus years of existence, the Flyers have never put a team on the ice with such little experience on the back end. The Flyers played four defensemen in the game that had 15 or fewer games of NHL experience prior to the game — Hagg (14), Sanheim (10), Mark Alt (3) and Will O’Neill, who made his NHL debut.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the next closest such game was on Nov. 5, 1981, when the Flyers suited up four defensemen with under 40 games of experience — Fred Arthur (11), Reid Bailey (25), Glen Cochrane (39) and Steve Smith (NHL debut).

• The last NHL team to play with four defensemen each under 15 games of experience was the Colorado Avalanche, who did so while suffering a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Nov. 9, 2010.

• Provorov equaled MacDonald’s record of 10 blocked shots in this game. MacDonald set the record in a game at Tampa on March 11, 2016. The NHL has only started recording blocked shots since 1997. 

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

General manager Ron Hextall is nearly finished wrapping up contracts for his restricted free agents.

And his goalie picture is now clear for 2018-19.

The Flyers on Wednesday re-signed netminder Anthony Stolarz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth $761,250, according to a report by hockey writer John Hoven.

With Stolarz back, defenseman Robert Hagg remains the Flyers' lone restricted free agent.

Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, underwent a nightmarish 2017-18 season just a year after he made his NHL debut and performed well in seven games with the Flyers. The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his left knee during early September, the same injury he suffered at the end of 2016-17 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests as a result. In 2016-17, he made his way to the big club and put up a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in a small sample. Then the injury occurred with the Phantoms and it's been an uphill battle ever since for the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder.

Stolarz will have his work cut out for him — if he hasn't already — as playing time will be earned at Lehigh Valley with Alex Lyon back in the fold and Carter Hart joining them.

"It's just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said in June after an on-ice workout at Flyers Skate Zone. "I think the thing for me is to prove I'm healthy. I don't think I've skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I'm healthy and going out there and working to prove I'm still a high-caliber goalie."

The Flyers' goaltending tandem is set with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts. Things obviously can change this offseason, as Neuvirth and Stolarz seemed like realistic trade candidates.

But as of now, it's Elliott and Neuvirth with the younger trio pushing and competing.

"I'd rather have too many goalies than too few," Hextall said earlier this month. "If something makes sense and we can make something happen, we'd at least look at it. We saw it last year. All of a sudden, a couple goalies go down and you're scrambling for goalies. If we start with five, we start with five. Not a perfect situation, but again, I'd rather start with five than with three."

More on the Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

• Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

• No arbitration needed for Flyers and Lyon

• Sandstrom hungry to prove he's not the 'other' goalie

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery died Sunday morning. First responders pulled his body out of Hamilton Harbour, where he had been swimming with friends. An investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing. 

Emery was 35.

According to local authorities, Emery was checking out a friend’s boat docked at Royal Hamilton Yacht Club when the group he was with decided to jump in the water around 6:30 a.m. Emery’s body never surfaced and was eventually recovered around 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Hamilton police say Emery’s body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen.

Emery was last seen publicly with a handful of his former teammates Saturday night as the goaltender participated in Zac Rinaldo’s charity hockey game in Hamilton. Emery can be seen standing during the playing of “O Canada.”

"The Philadelphia Flyers are stunned and extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery," president Paul Holmgren said in a statement from the team. "Ray was an outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender. He had exceptional athleticism, was a fierce competitor and battled in every game he played with the Flyers.

"His performances through the 2009-10 season were a very big part of the team's success in making the playoffs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Ray's talent, work ethic and determination helped him enjoy a successful 11-year NHL career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Several of Emery’s former teammates over the years offered their condolences via Twitter after learning of the tragedy.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo shared the he was crushed by the news (NSFW).

Jakub Voracek also shared his condolences (NSFW).

Emery joined the Flyers in June 2009 on a one-year contract, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in his Flyers debut. The goaltender’s first stint in Philadelphia was cut short when he suffered a muscle tear in his abdomen in December missing the remainder of the season. Emery was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a degenerative condition to the bone tissue in his hip.

After undergoing successful surgery, Emery eventually joined the Ducks before winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. Impressively, Emery finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. He re-signed with the Flyers that summer as a backup to Steve Mason.

Emery’s most infamous moment in Philadelphia came during an ugly 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2013, as the Flyers netminder pummeled Caps goalie Braden Holtby during a line brawl in the early stages of the third period.

Emery faced criminal charges over a handful of off-the-ice incidents and altercations. Most recently, he was arrested for assault with a weapon in 2017 against former fiancé Keshia Chanté. 

Emery played a total of 287 NHL games, 88 with the Flyers.