Flyers

Flyers 4, Blackhawks 0: Crucial homestand continues with another win

Flyers 4, Blackhawks 0: Crucial homestand continues with another win

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Still winless in the regular season since 1996. 

That’s how the Blackhawks left the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon after the Flyers handled Chicago with ease in a 4-0 shutout.

The Flyers have now won 15 straight regular-season home games over the Blackhawks. The longest current streak belongs to the Penguins, who have ripped off 17 straight wins over the Jets/Thrashers.

Which former Norris Trophy defenseman did the Flyers exploit and how well has Brian Elliott played lately? Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

• Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith had an absolutely brutal turnover in the defensive zone that led to Claude Giroux’s first-period goal. Keith blindly backhanded a pass from behind the goal line, which Giroux intercepted and beat Corey Crawford's five-hole. It was a brutal game for Keith, who also misplayed the puck that led to the Flyers' second goal.

• The Flyers had a yucky, sloppy first 10 minutes and didn’t look ready for the 1 p.m. start. They had some poor stick handling and Shayne Gostisbehere had a terrible giveaway, while the Flyers couldn’t navigate their way through the neutral zone and were thankful they didn’t cough up the first goal of the game.

• Chicago came into this game tied with Ottawa for having allowed four or more goals 10 times already this season. In the first six minutes of the second period, the Flyers attacked the Blackhawks' porous defense with some prime scoring opportunities. It was their best push of the game to that point as they put the first seven shots on net in the second period.

• How could you not admire the effort of Sean Couturier as time expired on the Blackhawks' power play? It was vintage Couturier, who used his size and his positioning shielding Chris Kunitz from the puck. It’s an area of Couturier’s game he probably doesn’t get enough credit for as he had also drawn a penalty on Kunitz. That’s points in five of Couturier’s last six games. Couturier finished with two goals for his 10th career multi-goal game.

• Referee Corey Syvret, brother of former Flyers defenseman Danny Syvret, officiated his first Flyers game and just his seventh NHL game. There’s been plenty of criticism surrounding the current crop of officials and how they may not be prepared for the speed of the NHL, but Syvret and veteran Dan O’Rourke called a solid game, not over-officiating while making the obvious calls.

• I’m impressed with the manner in which Christian Folin continues to handle himself. Folin has been remarkably steady since some early-season slips and stumbles and turnover-prone plays. Against the Blackhawks, Folin’s positioning and stick play were solid in separating players from pucks. With that said, I don’t see an opportunity for Andrew MacDonald to work his way back into the lineup anytime soon as the current pairs continue to work well together.

• You don’t really notice Elliott because he doesn’t have that top 10 eye-popping save to his game. Everything Elliott has done recently has been so steady and he was locked in through the 60 minutes. Elliott was the primary reason why the Flyers' PK snapped a nine-game streak of allowing a power-play goal. Elliott now has a shutout streak of over 125 minutes with his last goal allowed to Ilya Kovalchuk on Nov. 1 in Los Angeles.

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Sorry NHL trade buzz, sorry Flyers' playoff push — Oskar Lindblom's smile wins the day

Sorry NHL trade buzz, sorry Flyers' playoff push — Oskar Lindblom's smile wins the day

All the trade fodder and debate took a backseat.

Gaining ground in the playoff race and smelling first place felt inconsequential.

Quite frankly, nothing compares to Oskar Lindblom's smile.

Just ask the Flyers.

“Oh, it’s awesome. His smile, you know, he’s just a great guy to have around — he brightens your day," Justin Braun said. "The fact that he’s doing well and he’s able to come to the rink and see the boys is just fantastic.”

Lindblom, the Flyers’ 23-year-old forward who is battling Ewing’s sarcoma, surprised the team Saturday by greeting it after a 4-2 win over the Jets at the Wells Fargo Center.

Lindblom visited the entire team and staff in early-to-mid January, when he had begun his cancer treatment.

Once again Saturday, the Swedish native's vibrant smile uplifted everyone. It always does.

“Really good, really good to see him," Scott Laughton said, trying to put his emotions into words. "Just really good to see him.”

"It’s great to see him, I haven’t seen him in a couple weeks," Carter Hart added. "I'm sure he was happy to come to the rink and see the boys. All of us are happy to see him and he’s looking great."

The Flyers had a lot to be happy about Saturday. They strengthened their playoff chances, crept to within three points of the Penguins and Capitals in the Metropolitan Division race and general manager Chuck Fletcher watched his team further cement its status as a contender ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline (see observations).

But head coach Alain Vigneault's first postgame comments were about Lindblom.

“He was smiling," Vigneault said. "Great smile, looked beautiful.

“Makes everybody feel good. There’s no doubt that we’re all behind him, his teammates are obviously checking up on him on a regular basis and so is the whole staff.

"But to see him live, it’s just beautiful.”

For the the Flyers, it doesn't get better than that.

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Ahead of NHL trade deadline, Flyers give general manager Chuck Fletcher another win

Ahead of NHL trade deadline, Flyers give general manager Chuck Fletcher another win

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The Flyers gave their general manager one more quality show before Monday's 3 p.m. ET NHL trade deadline.

Chuck Fletcher watched his club beat the Jets, 4-2, Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers (35-20-7), who won their third straight, came into the action with a 79.6 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com. They sit in third place of the Metropolitan Division and are only three points back of the Penguins and Capitals (see standings).

Game 62 is the quickest the Flyers have recorded 35 wins since 2010-11, when the club got there at Game 53. The Flyers finished with 47 wins, 106 points and a playoff series victory that season.

The Jets (32-26-5), who entered holding the Western Conference's first wild-card spot, had their three-game winning streak snapped.

• Saturday marked the Flyers' final outing ahead of the trading period.

Alain Vigneault's club is looking more and more like a contender. The Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals since Jan. 8. Over that stretch, only two teams have more points than their 27 — the Lightning (31) and Bruins (29). Overall, they're a top-seven team in the league.

Does the Flyers' standing give Fletcher more incentive to add to his roster? Or do the Flyers have enough to make a run?

“I like my team," Vigneault said before the game. "And for me, this is no different as any other day during the regular season. I know that Chuck looks at any option that can improve our team, he’s been doing that since the first day that I was hired. Now we’re into the final stretch. If there’s something that he feels can improve our team, he’ll definitely look at it. But I’m very happy moving forward with the players that we have here.”

Does Vigneault have a voice in the matters?

“I’ve got a nice French voice," the head coach said with a laugh. "So I’ll throw my two cents in there, it’ll be fine.”

• The Flyers didn't play their best game, but good teams win when they're not at their best.

They did enough and a solid first period made up for a subpar second period in which the Flyers were outshot 15-4.

• For all the talk about the Flyers needing to add depth at forward, Scott Laughton has given the club plenty of it.

He scored a pair of goals to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead at first intermission. In 40 fewer games this season, Laughton has matched his career of 12 goals set in 2018-19.

If the Flyers get Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) back or acquire a center at the deadline, Laughton would likely be pegged as the team's fourth-line center. Not bad at all.

Tyler Pitlick, another depth piece, scored a clutch third-period goal to extend the Flyers' lead to 4-2. Sean Couturier was the Flyers' other goal scorer. The team's role guys continued to play well.

• Flyers defensemen Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Robert Hagg were very good against a big, skilled offensive team.

Braun finished with three assists.

• Carter Hart gave up a power play blast off the stick of Patrik Laine and a goal to Josh Morrissey.

Outside of that, he was stout again, improving to 16-2-2 with a 1.64 goals-against average at home.

He's a huge reason why the Flyers are 21-5-4 with a plus-45 goal differential in 30 home games.

• Shayne Gostisbehere (left knee) will wrap up his two-game conditioning stint tonight with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Vigneault said pregame that he expects Gostisbehere to return to the big club Sunday. The Flyers will have decisions to make heading into Monday (see story).

• Stick tap to Flyers director of sports medicine Jim McCrossin.

• The team is off from practice Sunday as the Flyers Wives Carnival will be held at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers practice Monday at 11:30 a.m. in Voorhees, New Jersey, before hosting the Sharks Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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