Flyers-Blackhawks observations: Offense fizzles in road shutout

Flyers-Blackhawks observations: Offense fizzles in road shutout


CHICAGO — The Blackhawks provided the Flyers with every chance in the world to score and score often. However, the end result was a failure to score altogether as the Flyers suffered a 3-0 loss at the United Center. 

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped all 35 shots he faced as the Flyers were shut out for the third time in 13 games this season. 

The Flyers’ record dropped to 6-6-1 as they’ve lost four of their last five games.

• Once again, the Flyers lost another defenseman as Radko Gudas left after the first period and never returned with an upper-body injury. That limited the Flyers to five D-men, three of them rookies.

• With 11:30 remaining in regulation, Jakub Voracek had a nice stretch pass to Claude Giroux, who streaked around Brent Seabrook. But once again, Crawford came up with another big stop. Without question, the Flyers had a handful of grade-A opportunities but were just unable to convert. 

• Voracek had an early opportunity as he took a pass from Giroux and wheeled around Chicago defenseman Jan Rutta, but he couldn’t sneak the puck past Crawford’s outstretched pad.

• The Flyers were playing with fire in the second period and they finally got burned on Chicago’s fourth power play of the game. Richard Panik fired a big slap shot that Brian Elliott stopped. However, Artem Anisimov cut in behind Ivan Provorov to put in the rebound. Several things: Provorov’s reaction kept him from sealing off Anisimov’s path to the crease, and there was no one to clear the rebound. That said, even in the first period, Elliott was not crisp with his rebounds, often lunging to cover pucks in front of him. 

• The Blackhawks’ power-play goal in that second period snapped an 0-for-18 skid.

• Twenty seconds after making it 1-0, Chicago grabbed a 2-0 lead when Jonathan Toews connected on a breakaway. Robert Hagg simply whiffed on trying a shot from the blue line. Toews saw an opening, jumped all over it, and slid a backhand through Elliott’s five-hole. Just an unfortunate play for the rookie Hagg.  

• Aside from a delay of game penalty, there was more to like with Mark Alt’s game. He perfectly played a Chicago 2-on-1 to deny a scoring chance with his stick and knocked the puck to the corner. Later in the second period, he played some airtight defense on Toews as he stuck with him along the boards before he finished a check to send the Blackhawks’ captain to the ice. After 40 minutes, Alt led the Flyers with four hits.

• Travis Sanheim had his best shot so far at scoring his first NHL goal when he was sprung free on a breakaway. Sanheim looked to go top left corner, but Crawford came up with perhaps his best save of the game as he caught the shot with his blocker.

• The Flyers were close to scoring the first goal on several occasions, including when Jori Lehtera flipped a puck that Crawford couldn’t handle. With the puck bouncing around and Crawford clearly out of position, Dale Weise couldn’t get a good whack on it or he likely would have scored his second goal of the season. This was Weise’s first game back after being a healthy scratch the previous three, and he still appears to be fighting rust. 

• A solid job by Flyers as they didn’t allow the Blackhawks to set up their cycle game down low in the first period. Alt turned in a solid opening 20 minutes in his first road NHL game. Watching him closely, he wasn’t rattled playing in a hostile environment. Alt’s only hiccup came early in the period when he lost track of the puck between his skates, which let Lance Bouma to get off a backhand shot. Alt played 4:53 in the opening period.

• It was a roller coaster-type first period for Valtteri Filppula, who had a breakaway wrist shot — the Flyers’ best chance early on — and a wraparound attempt that nearly shot up and over Crawford for a goal. In the same shift, Filppula got his stick around Nick Schmaltz for a hooking penalty. Earlier in the first, Filppula was whistled for high sticking.

• It was good to see Travis Konecny move up to the Flyers’ second line as he appeared to grow frustrated on the third line without Nolan Patrick. Dave Hakstol would like to see more from Konecny and this was a good opportunity as the Jordan Weal-Filppula-Wayne Simmonds combo has not played, nor generated much offense, over its last three games.

• The Blackhawks' best chance at scoring during the first came in the final minute of the period when Cody Franson’s shot trickled past Elliott. Thankfully for the Flyers, there was no one for the ‘Hawks to clean up the rebound. Chicago’s power play has really been a mess this season. The Blackhawks came into this game 2 for 30 on home ice, and on their first power-play chance the Flyers had three easy clears in the first minute.

• In defense of a hit on linemate Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton dropped the gloves with defenseman Connor Murphy, who the Blackhawks acquired from Arizona as part of the Niklas Kjalmarsson trade. Murphy is the son of Flyers assistant Gord Murphy. He didn’t exactly make dad proud as Laughton took him to the ice right away. 

• Voracek nearly banked a shot off of Crawford, who came out of his net to play the puck but showed little urgency in getting back to his crease. The goal-hungry Sean Couturier, who leads the team with nine goals, jumped on the opportunity and tried to bang home a loose puck. Couturier has a tenaciousness about him right now that comes with confidence.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Mark Alt

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forward Matt Read (healthy), and defensemen Will O’Neill (healthy) and Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body).

Recapping the Flyers' 2018 NHL draft class

Recapping the Flyers' 2018 NHL draft class

While the weekend felt rather subdued to Ron Hextall (see story), the Flyers still made some history of their own at the 2018 NHL draft.

The Flyers entered with nine picks and ended up making eight — none of which were used on a Canadian player, a first in the organization's history. 

Over the two-day draft, which wrapped up Saturday, the Flyers selected five American players and three Swedish players.

Let's recap the Flyers' work in Dallas:

First round, No. 14: Joel Farabee, 6-0/164, LW

Analysis: A legitimate two-way winger with a big shot and scoring mentality.

Quotable: "He's got speed. He's got skill. He can score. He's a good player and he has size in his family, so I still think there's a chance he can grow." - Hextall

First round, No. 19: Jay O'Brien, 5-11/176, C

Analysis: Some may view it as a reach, but the Flyers love O'Brien's makeup and ability.

Quotable: "He just has the traits of a hockey player. Just his timing of passes, when to shoot, when to pass. He's a really smart hockey player. He's competitive. He's strong. He's got a little agitator in him." - Hextall

Second round, No. 50: Adam Ginning, 6-4/206, D

Analysis: A stay-at-home defenseman with toughness and size.

Quotable: "We like his size. We like his upside. He’s a big guy and he moves pretty well for a big guy. He’s got solid puck skills and he has the range we need for a solid defensive defenseman." - Hextall

Fourth round, No. 112: John St. Ivany, 6-2/198, D

Analysis: A right-handed shot blueliner the Flyers wanted.

Quotable: "Good size, moves well. Kind of one of those steady-Eddie types of guys, solid with the puck. He was a good fit for our group." - Hextall

Fifth round, No. 127: Wyatte Wylie, 6-0/190, D

Analysis: Another righty blueliner that saw his draft stock shoot up in the second half of his junior season.

Quotable: "I like to describe myself as a two-way defenseman, one that can move pucks up and likes to join the play." - Wylie

Fifth round, No. 143: Samuel Ersson, 6-2/176, G

Analysis: The Flyers were not going to chase a goalie but liked the ceiling here.

Quotable: "We think there’s some upside there that hasn’t been tapped yet. We got him a lot later. Had we needed a goalie, we would have taken him a lot earlier." - Hextall

Sixth round, No. 174: Gavin Hain, 5-11/193, C

Analysis: A teammate of Farabee with bottom-six potential.

Quotable: "The NTDP itself is a hard-grooming place to play as a player, but it’s a great spot to develop." - Hain

Seventh round, No. 205: Marcus Westfalt, 6-3/203, C/LW

Analysis: An Oskar Lindblom-type prospect? Westfalt has some traits to like.

Quotable: "I like the mix that we got — three D, four forwards, a goalie. I like the mix, I like the fits. We got some good players. We got some skill up front. We got some guys in the back that complement our group with some size, some steady guys." - Hextall

More on the 2018 NHL draft

• Flyers' draft shows big year for USA Hockey

• Hextall surprised by Flyers' quiet draft weekend

• With O'Brien, Hextall shows he's 'never' one to be safe

• With Philly ties, Farabee can't wait to help Flyers

• Samuelsson continues family's NHL tradition

5 thoughts on Flyers' 2018 NHL draft

5 thoughts on Flyers' 2018 NHL draft

Ron Hextall entered his fifth draft as Flyers general manager with nine selections and left Dallas making eight of them — a pretty typical draft weekend under the Hextall regime.

With Hextall as GM, the Flyers have averaged 8.4 draft picks and their eight selections this year are the second least with him steering the ship. He made six picks in his first draft in 2014.

As the offseason now shifts onto development camp and free agency, let’s break down the weekend that was for the Flyers at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

1. The overall draft class

Hextall emphasized during last week the need to restock the Flyers’ defensive pipeline and that right-handed defensemen were a “big fill” in the organization. On Day 2, he followed through.

The Flyers used their first three picks Saturday on defensemen: Adam Ginning (50th overall), John St. Ivany (112th overall) and Wyatte Wylie (127th overall). St. Ivany and Wylie are righties.

Overall, the Flyers’ draft class from Rounds 2-7 didn’t seem to blow anyone away, but with a prospect pool as deep as the Flyers, this draft wasn’t about refilling the cupboard.

What mattered most about this draft was the two first-rounders and while Jay O’Brien is a bit of a wild card, Joel Farabee was as perfect as an option the Flyers had available at No. 14 overall.

Drafts can’t be judged until three or five years down the line, so we won’t know how this overall crop will pan out. But if one of Farabee or O’Brien hit, that’s all that matters.

Farabee, especially, fits an organizational need as a quick, shoot-first natural winger.

If all goes according to plan, this draft class should be judged on the first-round picks. It’s important to find diamonds in the rough and perhaps they have. Time will tell.

But based on the Flyers’ current timetable to compete, they need at least one of these two first-rounders to turn into an impact NHL player. My money is on Farabee being just that.

2. A quiet weekend

Part of the allure of draft weekend is the constant trade speculation leading up to Round 1 and throughout the first round. Friday was a fairly quiet night in the NHL player transaction ledger.

Saturday some saw significant player movement with Ilya Kovalchuk and signing with the Kings and the Flames trading Dougie Hamilton to Carolina for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindblom.

But none from the Flyers. The draft is when Hextall comes out of his cage and yells, “I am Ron, hear me roar.” For Hextall, the draft is where he does his best, and loudest, work.

Technically, this is the first draft the Flyers didn’t make any moves of note, but that is misleading. When Philly hosted the draft in 2014, Hextall’s first, the Flyers reportedly were hot in pursuit of trading up from No. 17 overall to the top pick to draft Aaron Ekblad.

In the end, Hextall couldn’t strike his magic. Every year since he has … since now. It was a weird feeling not seeing the Flyers subject of trade rumors this weekend.

The Flyers didn’t leave Dallas without making one trade, though. Hextall reached into his bag of tricks and traded the 190th overall to the Canadiens for a seventh-rounder in 2019.

3. The growth of USA hockey on full display

For the first time in franchise history, the Flyers did not draft a Canadian-born player. Their breakdown goes as followed: Five Americans and three Swedes.

Hextall continued to add college-bound prospects Saturday with the selections of St. Ivany and Gavin Hain (sixth round, 174th overall). St. Ivany is headed to Yale and Hain, North Dakota.

Hain is also the second player the Flyers drafted from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and was Farabee’s teammate. That’s of note because they haven’t drafted a player from the USNTDP since James van Riemsdyk (No. 2 overall) in 2007. 

If the Flyers drafting no Canadians means anything, it should be viewed as the growth of USA Hockey. It was a pretty good year for the NTDP, which had 12 players drafted.

4. Too early to compare

Of the Flyers’ Day 2 picks, Marcus Westfalt may be the most intriguing.

Westfalt was the Flyers’ final selection, taken with the 205th pick. He’s a big winger described as a two-way player. His skill level doesn’t appear to be high-end, but he has potential.

It’s easy to make comparisons to Oskar Lindblom, who fell to the fifth in 2014, but it’s far too early to make that connection. Lindblom’s issue was his skating — it needed major work.

After years of working on it, Lindblom elevated his skating up a few notches. He’s by no means a great skater now, but he improved enough to make the jump to the NHL.

At the very least, Westfalt can be chalked up as an intriguing prospect to watch overseas.

5. The name game

It wouldn't be a hockey draft without an ode to great hockey names.

The Flyers got a gem of their own: Wyatte Wylie in the fifth round.

I feel like the Coyotes should have drafted him. Wylie the Coyote.

I’ll see myself out.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

• If Morin doesn't pan out, is this pick the replacement?  

• With O'Brien, Hextall shows he's 'never' one to be safe

• With Philly ties, Farabee can't wait to help Flyers

• 4 thoughts from Day 1 of 2018 NHL draft

• Samuelsson continues family's NHL tradition