Flyers

Flyers eat up Capitals with 1982-like goal frenzy in home-opening treat

Flyers eat up Capitals with 1982-like goal frenzy in home-opening treat

BOX SCORE

Home openers tend to feel like a party.
 
The Flyers made sure this one was, without any chance of it dying early.
 
They binge-scored Saturday night at the expense of their Metropolitan Division neighbors, suffocating the Washington Capitals with an outpouring of goals — an 8-2 onslaught in the Flyers' first Wells Fargo Center rendition of 2017-18 (see observations).
 
"It just kept coming down our throat," Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said.
 
Plenty of Flyers celebrated. Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Scott Laughton all scored two goals, while Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula added one apiece. Giroux finished with four points and Couturier three. Shayne Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek each had three assists. And 10 different Flyers recorded at least a point.
 
Now that's some offense.
 
"We played a good game," Giroux said. "I don't remember the last time that we won, 8-2, or something like that, so it's good to have a game like that.
 
"Those games are a little bit more fun."
 
The Flyers never had such fun last season when they consistently struggled to score goals, especially from mid-December to the finish line. They missed the playoffs after scoring the NHL's third-fewest markers since Dec. 15 with 110 in the final 50 games (2.20 per game). As a result, some doubts swirled in the offseason regarding the Flyers' core.
 
But Saturday represented a different team. Faster skating, greater possession and more weapons. The Flyers are younger and deeper and looked it.
 
"I think we've added a lot of depth and speed," Simmonds said. "I think those guys probably had a little more depth and speed than we do, so now it's evened up, it's who's going to play harder, who's going to want it that much more, so I think we're in a really good position."
 
This was the first time the Flyers scored eight or more goals in a game since Nov. 5, 2011, and the first time they did so in a home opener since Oct. 7, 1982.
 
The Flyers also saw Giroux, Voracek and Simmonds get the better of their Washington counterparts, something you couldn't say last season or the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals' big names of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom had given them trouble in the recent past.
 
So much so that Giroux, Voracek and Simmonds combined for just two points in four games against Washington last season. On Saturday, they went off for nine points (three goals, six assists).
 
"Play with structure and play with detail," Trotz said. "If you play the right way, then your structure and your detail are going to be your security blanket. We didn’t have enough of that and we weren't smart. Absolutely stupid with the puck. We deserved every ounce of that. Giroux's line just ate up Kuznetsov's line today. It wasn't good."
 
While many of the household names did damage Saturday, the Flyers are pleased with the blend of youth and veterans. The new fourth line of Taylor Leier, Laughton and Michael Raffl has made up one of the team's best units. Jordan Weal and Filppula are playing their first full seasons with the Flyers. Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny pose threats in the bottom six, while the defense is young and sharp, as expected.
 
"Our veterans are playing hard, playing well and the young guys are fitting in and doing their part," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's a combination — we've played five games and the one common thread is we worked hard in all of those games and we've had everybody as a part of it, everybody has been chipping in. We haven’t gotten the results, obviously in all five games (3-2-0), but we’ve played hard as a team and that’s a good place to start."
 
The Flyers know this is just a start. Turning it into a season is the challenge. In 2016-17, the Flyers produced goals at a top-two clip through the first two months before tailing off.
 
"Tonight went well," Giroux said, "but we need to build on this.
 
"I really think we're just in better shape. The camp we had, guys came to camp in great shape. We don't really get tired. I think we've got four lines that play great. We don't have one line playing 22 minutes or something like that, so when you have four lines going, you can keep your energy up a little bit better.
 
"We've got to stay energized, keep working hard in practice and get ready for the next game. Tonight, the fans … I haven't heard the crowd loud like that in a while, so it was great to hear."
 
Eight goals and a party will do that.

Scott Gordon's trip to Atlantic City and Dave Hakstol's classy move

Scott Gordon's trip to Atlantic City and Dave Hakstol's classy move

It's been a chaotic time for those in the Flyers' organization.

With change comes a lot of moving parts.

One of those moving parts got a little lost the other day.

Scott Gordon felt the effects of all the hustle-bustle. The poor guy was just trying to get to his new job after being named the Flyers' interim head coach Monday.

He did everything right. He was following his directions and even studying up while on the commute.

Gordon was focused. Maybe a little too focused.

The new bench boss couldn't help but laugh when he shared the story after Tuesday's 3-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center.

There's been so much going on. I was telling the guys from TV, I was driving in here last night and speaking to the captains and a couple of the players that I knew, and I was so into the conversation that I looked up and I see a casino in front of me — I had driven into Atlantic City on the way to Voorhees. So it's been a bit of whirlwind here and I'm like, 'What just happened?' So what happened was I put the Skate Zone in and I got some other Skate Zone.

Whoops.

Hey, he's learning on the job — now he knows there are multiple Skate Zone facilities.

And Gordon's phone must have been buzzing nonstop Monday.

One of the first calls he received after taking the gig came from the man he was replacing.

A classy move from Dave Hakstol on the day the head coach was fired.

I wasn't expecting it, it kind of caught me off-guard. Hak and I, we didn't talk often but I felt like we had a good relationship. The first thing that he said was, 'I just want you to know that this is a really good group of guys. They care, they want to win … off the tracks a little bit right now.' 

But I just felt that … usually when a team struggles, there seems like there's some dissension, there doesn't seem to be enthusiasm in the pregame skate, the meetings, the game tonight, on the bench. That [enthusiasm] was there.

Gordon didn't have any problem finding it.

This time, his directions were just fine.

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Carter Hart gives Flyers fans something they've been waiting 20 years for

Carter Hart gives Flyers fans something they've been waiting 20 years for

When PA announcer Lou Nolan revealed the starting lineup with Carter Hart’s name off the top, there was an uproar from a crowd that had been building from the day Ron Hextall retired.

For those who have braved and endured Flyers hockey over the past 20 years, Tuesday night was a coronation. For Hart himself, it was simply a moment some 16 years in the making, and he soaked in every single moment, including the outburst of cheers that came with that very first NHL save.

“Yeah, that was kind of funny,” Hart said after the Flyers' 3-2 win over Detroit (see observations). “It was just like a toe save and they’re going nuts. It was something special tonight, just to be out there. Now, it’s something that’s starting to sink in a little bit when I saw my mom on TV there. It was just a dream.”  

Hart’s mother and father flew in from Edmonton. So did his 78-year-old billet Parker Fowlds, who Hart lived with the past three years in Everett, Washington, and came cross country to share in the moment as well.

Part of Hart’s acclimation to professional hockey has been living independently in Lehigh Valley and doing all of the routine things his family had done for him over the years.

“(I have) to cook, clean, pay the bills and do almost everything that I'm not used to doing,” Hart said. “But now, I’ve gotten into a routine of cooking and cleaning and doing laundry. I hate doing laundry.”

No one really cares if Hart has shirts piled up in the corner of his room. He’ll only be judged for the one thing he has mastered since he was 8 years old when he strapped on a youth size set of goalie gear for the first time — stopping the puck.

On Tuesday night against the Red Wings, Hart had to make just 20 saves, a workload that may have been easier than washing dirty clothes. He became the youngest goalie in Flyers history to win his NHL debut. Hart's most memorable stop coming with 3:17 remaining in the opening period. Hart stoned a wide-open Dylan Larkin from point-blank range to keep the game scoreless. 

“That was a critical save,” interim head coach Scott Gordon said. “Not to get behind in the first period I thought was important and that was a huge save for him.”

“He’s got ice in his veins if you watch him out there,” James van Riemsdyk said. “He’s very poised. Just tracks the game really well and did a great job for us.” 

That save and the final minute of regulation was crucial considering the Flyers simply haven’t been able to win hockey games this season when they score three or fewer goals — an inconceivable record of 1-15-2 until Tuesday’s 3-2 victory.

In other words, they haven’t had a goaltender steal them a game all season. When the Flyers aren’t at their best, which has been pretty much since the opener in Vegas, they need someone like Hart to step up and be a little bit better than the rest.  

“The kid is giving us something right now,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “He’s giving us some energy, a jolt, something this team desperately needed.”

Desperate is a mild way of putting Hart’s appearance into perspective. The organization’s urgency for a franchise netminder is probably worse than a root canal patient requiring a dose of Lidocaine. 

On this night, Hart gave the Flyers that much-needed injection, and his performance helped numb the pain of a season that has felt like one excruciating toothache.

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