Flyers

Don't worry about Ivan Provorov, he can go from 'good to great'

Don't worry about Ivan Provorov, he can go from 'good to great'

Ivan Provorov always stays at one level.

When he speaks after a game, it's hard to tell if the Flyers won or lost.

The 21-year-old is that calm and together.

His game is very much the same. Everyone has become so accustomed to Provorov's robotic consistency that when his play wavers ever so faintly, a panic almost sets in.

Wait, was that Provy? He messes up?

"It's part of hockey, you can't be perfect," Provorov said Saturday. "Nobody is perfect."

The funny thing is Provorov was saying this after evaluating what was arguably his best game of the season. There were some areas he didn't like. He came in with one point and a minus-5 rating through seven games. 

In Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Devils (see observations), Provorov notched two assists, blocked four shots, played a team-high 23:24 and was a plus-2. 

He collected the primary assist on the game-winning goal, a play in which he sent a pass along the wall from the back boards in the defensive zone, springing Jakub Voracek for a breakaway attempt to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead with 3:10 left in the third period.

Provorov's recollection of the play was impressive. He wasn't just trying to fling the puck out of the D-zone to briefly relieve pressure.

"I think it was a D-to-D pass from Travis [Sanheim], I looked one way and I thought I was going to rim it the other way," he said. "But I saw I had two guys beat if I go on my backhand up the wall and that's what I did, and luckily it went by the D and Jakey went on the breakaway and scored."

Following a better output, there was no switch to Provorov's postgame demeanor — that's not who he is or what he's about.

But while the tone of his voice didn't change, his message spoke volumes.

"I don't think I've played bad this year," Provorov said. "I think it's a few bad bounces, a little bad luck. But overall, I think I started good and I'm going to continue to get better and go from good to great."

If Provorov's performance didn't ease concerns, the "good to great" statement should. The 2015 No. 7 overall pick is not the player to worry about on this Flyers team. When he's human, he's still effective. He's also coming off a Grade 3 AC separation suffered in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It wasn't expected to impact his offseason or the start of this season, but who knows.

Nonetheless, Provorov's rookie year should be a good reminder of how fast he's able to adjust after a mistake or rough night. Many remember his embarrassing stumble and turnover during a 7-4 loss to the Blackhawks, his third NHL game. He finished the defeat as a minus-5 and was a minus-9 through his first 11 contests.

A 19-year-old could have crumbled.

Instead, Provorov ended up setting a franchise rookie record with his 21:58 ice time per game and earned the Barry Ashbee Award as the Flyers' top defenseman.

He hasn't been a question mark since and shouldn't be now.

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Flyers vs. Kings: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Kings: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — Head coach Alain Vigneault is looking for a bounce-back performance in his team's penultimate game before its NHL-mandated Jan. 22-30 bye week.

The opportunity appears ripe as the Flyers (25-17-6) host the Kings (18-26-5) Saturday.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• Vigneault wants a response from his Flyers. Mostly, he wants his Flyers to play like the Flyers again.

He was not pleased by the team's performance in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center, after the Flyers had picked up wins over the league's three best teams — the Capitals, Bruins and Blues — over a four-game stretch (see story).

Playing against the Western Conference's worst team, which is 7-16-4 on the road, the Flyers need to dictate terms vs. the Kings.

The team held a meeting and analyzed some video prior to Saturday's short morning skate in Voorhees, New Jersey.

What was Vigneault's message?

We’ve got to execute, we’ve got to compete. We’re at our best when we’re on top of people, we’re taking people out of the equation and we’re connected, we’re close together whether it be on the forecheck or when we have the puck.

We showed a couple of sequences of us doing it well, especially in the St. Louis game, which we did a lot of good things. We’re going to try to bring that tonight, bring some good energy and focus and play a good game.

• Defenseman Justin Braun is set to return earlier than the Flyers had originally anticipated. With a groin injury, Braun was expected to be out until after the bye week.

He ended up missing only six games and the veteran stay-at-home blueliner will be paired with the physical Robert Hagg against the Kings.

Pucks in, pucks out, the old saying — it’s about as boring as it can get, but that’s the kind of game I want to play tonight. We don’t want to be hemmed in, defending all night. We want to get [the puck] into the forwards’ hands and let them go to work.

- Braun

• The Flyers have not lost consecutive home games in regulation all season. They have a plus-32 goal differential at home, while the Kings own a minus-28 goal differential on the road.

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Joel Farabee-Connor Bunnaman-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

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

Goalies

Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

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'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

Every so often, ever since training camp in mid-September, Alain Vigneault will remind everyone he wasn't here last year or the years prior.

He'll do so amicably when questions arise about a past season or trend with the club he now coaches. Vigneault likes to focus on the present and what's ahead.

After all, he doesn't want to act as if he's openly criticizing what happened before him. 

"It's the start of a new era, a new group," he said Sept. 13, Day 1 of training camp.

If he didn't know, the type of loss the Flyers suffered Thursday night has become a recurring theme in recent years, the kind that drives the fan base up a wall. One night, the Flyers will look like world-beaters against the NHL's elite. Another night, they'll lose a game that had victory written all over it, leaving fans scratching their heads.

Except, Flyers fans are no longer dumbfounded by those types of losses because, quite frankly, their team has tended to suffer them predictably.

On Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers lost, 4-1, to the Canadiens, who are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture and had lost nine of their previous 11 games. What made the defeat particularly maddening was that the Flyers had just made a significant statement by beating the league's three best teams — the Capitals, Bruins and Blues — in the past four games.

The win over defending champion St. Louis came Wednesday night on the road. So on Thursday night, the Flyers were facing the second game of a back-to-back set, coming off the high of beating the champs in their building, and playing without either of their regular two goalies (see observations).

When "emotional letdown" was brought up at his postgame press conference, Vigneault wouldn't even tiptoe the line.

“You know that word that starts with B?" Vigneault asked.

Begins with bull and ends in ... ?

"I mean, these are big games," Vigneault said. "There’s almost nothing separating teams. And tonight, it’s a couple plays. I understand emotionally, but points are the same. This game was worth two. Last game was worth two. You’ve got to get up for it, you’ve got to get yourself ready, it’s going to be a battle.

"You do know the word I’m talking about, right?”

Sure do.

And his Flyers know those losses can't become a theme.

Vigneault will call out that bulls--t if he sees it.

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