Flyers

Flyers flip switch in Western Canada, finish off rare sweep of trip

Flyers flip switch in Western Canada, finish off rare sweep of trip

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Where else can the Flyers work in a game between now and Tuesday?

Medicine Hat? Red Deer? Saskatoon? 

Whatever the case, Western Canada has turned around the Flyers' fortunes as the team swept the Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver portion of its schedule all in regulation for the first time in 21 years. Thursday, the Flyers knocked off the Canucks in a convincing 4-1 victory at Rogers Arena, winning three games in a four-day span (see observations).

“Since I’ve been with the Flyers, I don’t think we’ve swept the West like that,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s good for our confidence. We changed a couple of things, the way we play and our identity as a team, and everybody’s bought into it.”

The Flyers have strung together their longest winning streak of the season off the heels of a 10-game winless streak, while working their record back to .500 at 11-11-7. 

Several key changes have benefited the Flyers greatly during their current run:

• Switching up all four lines, including pairing Jakub Voracek with Valtteri Filppula and Michael Raffl. 

• Utilizing a 1-2-2 zone at key moments, which has given the opposition trouble, especially late in games. 

• Shortening the bench by not putting late-game pressure on some of the younger players.

“We had to buy into something,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “Everybody’s understanding their role and where they’re supposed to be on the ice, and simplifying things a little bit. Along with that we’re making the smart decisions and not turning pucks over at the blue line.”

Michael Raffl applied his golden touch, scoring his fifth goal, all in the last eight games (see highlights). In fact, Raffl scored the game-winner in each of the three games of the road trip and has found some chemistry with Voracek, who collected seven assists and now leads the NHL with 30.

“We knew it was going to come,” Voracek said. “We’ve played some good hockey the past three games. We could have scored more than one tonight, especially in the third, we had lot of chances.

“I think I’m more experienced now. I’m almost 30 years old. I’m making more simple plays than I used to, so that’s a good thing.”

Starting games on consecutive nights for the first time this season, Elliott bailed out his teammates in the opening seven minutes when the Canucks outshot the Flyers, 9-0, to start the game (see video)

“He did a great job,” said defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who passed the Ric Flair robe over to Elliott as the Flyers' Player of the Game. “It’s never easy for a goalie to be put in a back-to-back situation. We were a little slow out of the gate and they came out pretty hard, and he made some crucial saves early that let us just calm down. That’s the veteran goaltending presence that he brings.” 

Overall, Elliott stopped 36 of 37 shots, and 103 of the 108 shots he faced on the road trip for a .950 save percentage. He also earned his 200th career victory, becoming the 87th goalie in NHL history to reach that milestone.

“My goalie coach just sort of shook my hand and said 200,” Elliott, a ninth-round selection in 2003, said. “It’s pretty special for me. You get your first win and you just try and stay in the league and play your game and try and win a Stanley Cup. Reaching milestones like that means a lot. Hopefully, I can go for another 100.”

The Flyers' power play came to life, scoring two goals for the first time since Oct. 10 — a span of 25 games. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere opened the scoring when his slap shot from the point was deflected by Sam Gagner and past goaltender Jacob Markstrom.

“We have a lot of character in this room, and like I’ve said before, it’s one of the tightest groups I’ve been with," Giroux said. "We’re playing as a team and let’s keep rolling here."

Western Canada has been so good to the Flyers, they’re staying an extra day as they’ll enjoy a day off in Vancouver before flying back to Philadelphia Saturday morning. 

Whatever they’ve discovered, they need to bottle it up when they open a five-game homestand starting with the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

VOORHEES, N.J. — Monday started with bad news for the Flyers.

Travis Konecny, their 22-year-old leading scorer, is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Konecny was leveled in open ice by Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki during the first period of the Flyers' 4-3 win Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. He left the game and never returned.

The 2015 first-round pick is on pace to shatter his career highs. He's been arguably the Flyers’ most important piece to their turnaround through 30 games of 2019-20.

He has 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) after having 28 points through the team's first 50 games last season. The Flyers are 2-4-4 in games that he hasn't scored.

I didn’t know a ton about him. I knew he competed like hell, fiery player," Matt Niskanen, in his first year with the Flyers, said Monday. "Playing with him, that’s reinforced that thought — hungry on the puck, good quickness, really good at creating turnovers. He’s shown a pretty good scoring touch, too, so far this year. A lot of good tools and he’s been a really important player for us.

Philippe Myers left the Flyers' skill practice Monday with back spasms. With Konecny out and Myers potentially out for Wednesday's game in Colorado against the Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN), the Flyers will most likely have only 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen to open a three-game road trip.

Niskanen, who has 125 career postseason games on his résumé and a Stanley Cup title, said this can be a good challenge for the Flyers. The team is 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for the most points in the NHL at 28 since Nov. 1 (see weekly observations).

"Both guys have played really well for us," he said. "Hopefully they come back, we've been on a pretty good run here. But it gives somebody an opportunity and it tests us a little bit — and that's OK, early in the year, you're going to have to learn to deal with things."

As of Monday morning, the Flyers did not have plans to make a call-up. Forward Chris Stewart will enter the lineup and defenseman Robert Hagg will, as well, if Myers is unable to go in Colorado.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said it's uncertain if Konecny will or can travel with the Flyers. The team flies to Denver Tuesday afternoon.

"At this time, I would say no," Vigneault said, "but you never know how things change."

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Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

While the Flyers lost their winning streak and point streak, they still put together a productive 2-1-0 week.

Alain Vigneault's team is 7-1-1 over its last nine games, a stretch in which the Flyers have allowed 2.11 goals per game. Since Nov. 1, the Flyers are 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for most points in the NHL at 28, continuing to make strides under the new coaching staff.

We'll get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• Scott Laughton's performance in Saturday's emotion-filled 4-3 win over the Senators served as a microcosm of his importance to the Flyers.

The team-first attitude, the hard skating, the physicality, the forechecking, the penalty killing and the secondary scoring.

He is not undervalued by the Flyers.

If I look at today’s game where it got heated, he’s one of the guys I thought that responded the best. He responded in a physical nature when the opportunity was there, but when he needed to make plays with the puck or defend, he did that — he did both of those things.

As a coach, it’s really easy to trust a player when he’s doing the right things and playing the right way on the ice.

- Vigneault

And check out these marks: the Flyers are 7-0-0 when Laughton records a point and 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of a broken finger.

• In 30 games, Ivan Provorov has already matched his goal total from last season (seven) and set career highs on the power play (four goals, six assists).

He's projected to pass his numbers from a breakout 2017-18 season in which he scored 17 goals and 41 points. The 22-year-old's rebound from his letdown 2018-19 campaign might be the most impactful development to the Flyers' overall rebound so far in 2019-20.

Before the Coyotes' 3-1 win Thursday over the Flyers, Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet extolled Provorov.

"I think he's one of the best young defensemen in the league," Tocchet said, via Coyotes public relations.

"He plays with an edge in a sense that he doesn’t play safe. He’s up the ice, he makes plays, he’s not scared the way he plays. Not so much scared physically, just the way he plays, he’s trying to win the game. As a young guy, he wants to be in those spots. When I watch him, he wants the puck. I love young kids like that, they’re not scared.”

When asked if Provorov reminded him of anyone, Tocchet said "a little bit of Phil Housley," who is a Hall of Fame blueliner and now an assistant coach with Arizona.

• Carter Hart owns 10 wins and a 2.39 goals-against average.

By Dec. 8 of last season, Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz, Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon had combined for 12 wins and a 3.30 goals-against average.

As much as some people want to knock the previous coaching staff, the Flyers were a mess in net at this point last season and things predictably unraveled. Really, from the outset of 2018-19, things were problematic between the pipes for the Flyers.

• One of the biggest signs of growth with the 2019-20 Flyers has been goal prevention. They've allowed 80 goals through 30 games. In 30 games last season, the Flyers gave up 111. That's 31 more goals.

A lot goes into that — goaltending and offseason acquisitions to name a few. But Vigneault's system has turned the Flyers into a more structured team.

Much more often compared to 2018-19, the Flyers, even if they're struggling to score, look like they're controlling games instead of letting the opposition do the honors. Through 30 games last season, the Flyers had 11 losses by three goals or more. This season, they have only four such defeats.

 

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