Flyers

Flyers follow through on Claude Giroux's guarantee of victory over Senators

Flyers follow through on Claude Giroux's guarantee of victory over Senators

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If you’re going to make a guarantee, proclaiming victory against the Ottawa Senators seems to be the way to go this season.

Following the Flyers' most lopsided defeat in a home opener in 47 years, Claude Giroux said, “We’re going to go back to work and get a win in Ottawa,” and the Flyers followed through with a 7-4 victory Wednesday (see observations) to wash out the bad taste of a horrible loss on South Broad. 

With all due respect to Giroux and the Flyers, a lot of teams will be taking victories out of Ottawa this season. 

Just prior to training camp, Ottawa traded its best player, two-time Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson, to the San Jose Sharks — the team that whipped the Flyers 8-2 on home ice just 24 hours earlier.

You can argue the Senators' franchise is still in the tear-down phase of their rebuild.

Entering the regular season, Vegas oddsmakers had the Sens listed as a 200-1 long shot to win the Stanley Cup. Teenager Brady Tkachuk, who just turned 19 a month ago, is arguably their most talented player, and he’s still finding his way in the league.

For 30-year-old Giroux, just playing in front of friends and family in his hometown provides plenty of incentive, but there was no backing down from his bold statement. The Flyers' captain backed it up with a goal and an assist on a team-high seven shots.

And it wasn’t just Giroux. 

Jake Voracek tallied his first ever five-point game, defenseman Radko Gudas registered three assists for the first time, and Calvin Pickard was just good enough to win his Flyers' debut. 

“I think it was important for us to bounce back and play the way we wanted to,” Giroux told reporters. “It was a great team effort. I know Nolan (Patrick) went down and guys stepped up and really played well as a team.”

Patrick exited the game in the first period with an upper-body injury that looks like it may have been a head or neck injury.

Whether Giroux actually believed he was throwing out a guarantee, or if his words were just said in the heat of the moment was unclear, but the Flyers still had to show up and get under the skin of the Senators. Ottawa’s lack of discipline led to seven Flyers power-play opportunities, and Giroux and company had no problem cashing in, scoring twice on 20 power-play shots.

Bad team, plus bad discipline, equals very good results for any opponent, and the Flyers were the lucky recipients as they rolled a seven on the Canadian Tire Center scoreboard.

“This is a hell of a push-back win on a back-to-back when it was coming off a real miserable night in our own building,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We’re going to take the positives, regroup and build for Saturday.” 

Then again, producing positives against the Ottawa Senators this season should be expected.

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Jets 7, Flyers 1: Michal Neuvirth pulled in disastrous first game back

Jets 7, Flyers 1: Michal Neuvirth pulled in disastrous first game back

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The Flyers left Winnipeg on Sunday breathing Jet fumes after an embarrassing 7-1 loss at Bell MTS Place.

The Jets blew the game open with five unanswered goals and the Flyers now haven't won in Winnipeg since 2015.

With Chuck Fletcher in attendance, which line impressed the GM and how did Michal Neuvirth perform in his first action since Oct. 27?

• The Flyers came out strong with a refusal to be outworked in the first 25 minutes. They had good puck pursuit, outracing the Jets to loose pucks and outworking Winnipeg along the boards. At one stretch early in the second period, the Flyers outshot the Jets 24-8, although they still trailed 2-1.  

• The best line at even strength was the Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise combination. Through two periods, that trio was generating chances and simply outworking the Jets' third line. Once the Flyers were forced to kill Robert Hagg’s major for checking from behind, Raffl and Laughton were forced to kill some major PP time and the entire team had the wind ripped out of its sails.

• Neuvirth looked like a goaltender that hadn’t played since Oct. 27 as all three goals he allowed were stoppable shots. Kyle Connor’s shot from the slot wasn’t deflected and Neuvirth couldn’t corral it. Josh Morrisey’s power-play goal from just inside the blue line was a shot in which Neuvirth may have been slightly screened but not enough to where he couldn’t have tracked it. Finally, on Brandon Tanev’s rebound goal, Neuvirth couldn’t squeeze his glove as the puck trickled to the ice. 

• Perhaps the outcome could have been a little different had the Flyers opened the scoring with a power-play goal. They had the Jets' PK chasing the puck and had some tremendous grade-A opportunities with Wayne Simmonds denied on the doorstep by Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who was tremendous in the first period. Those were the types of saves the Flyers needed out of Neuvirth. The Flyers' power play generated eight shots on their two opportunities.

• I agree with Hagg’s checking from behind penalty, but I’m not sure it deserved to be a major. Connor appeared to turn his shoulder and his back at the last minute.

• With that said, the Jets have one of the deadliest power-play units in the league and they had not gone two straight games this season without a power-play goal. Overall, with the aid of a five-minute power play, the Jets finished 3 for 5 even with Patrik Laine failing to score.

• Phil Varone made his Flyers debut, but playing alongside Jori Lehtera, it’s hard for that fourth line to generate any scoring chances or even maintain a territorial edge. Varone played over eight minutes, mostly in third-period mop-up duty.

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Flyers reportedly may take a run at Sergei Bobrovsky this summer

Flyers reportedly may take a run at Sergei Bobrovsky this summer

From eating delicious postgame meals in Buffalo to rumors circulating in the hockey world, the old-school Flyers are back … well, kind of. Gritty is still of the new school.

With the team's goaltending situation a hot mess, it didn't take long for the Flyers to enter the rumor business again post-Ron Hextall. In fact, Chuck Fletcher was named GM just six days ago.

This one is juicy for several reasons. It makes sense, would elevate the Flyers into the next tier and would right a wrong. From Sportsnet's Chris Johnston, who we recall broke the Braydon Coburn trade in 2015 at 1:48 a.m.:

The answer to the longest-running riddle in hockey may come from an unexpected place: As the Philadelphia Flyers ruminate on how to shore up their goaltending — at least until prospect Carter Hart is ready to take the wheel — there are whispers they will take a run at Sergei Bobrovsky on July 1.

Whoa. Let's dissect this one.

We all know about Bobrovsky, the one that got away, or better worded, the prime example of what was wrong with the old-school Flyers — a lack of patience and knowledge of how to develop goaltending. Many say the Flyers never should have traded Bob, which is wrong. They had to trade Bobrovsky because they had already closed that door when they panicked and signed Ilya Bryzgalov in the summer of 2011. They never should have signed Bryzgalov. They should have signed a veteran stopgap and been patient with Bobrovsky.

Sound familiar? Of course it does, because Flyers goaltending is a vicious cycle of mediocrity. It's a similar situation now as the Flyers have a legitimate goalie prospect in Carter Hart receiving AHL seasoning. To Hextall's credit, he understood how to handle developing goaltending; he just completely bungled the bridge to Hart.

The Flyers' goaltending situation this season is a disaster and one of the major downfalls of the Hextall era. The Flyers have used five goalies this season, and it's just Dec. 9. It wasn't like this wasn't totally predictable. Brian Elliott was coming off major core muscle surgery and Michal Neuvirth had an injury record longer than a high school U.S. history textbook. It was a bad bet that Elliott and Neuvirth could get you to Hart.

An injury to Alex Lyon during the preseason was the real curveball. But betting on Lyon being the backup would have been a high-risk bet. Hextall should have addressed the goaltending situation in some way. He didn't, and now Fletcher is the GM.

Neither Elliott and Neuvirth have contracts after this season, and it's almost a sure bet that neither will be back next season. Elliott hasn't necessarily been bad here, but health issues are catching up. The Flyers need a better option until Hart is ready to take over.

Which brings us to Bobrovsky, who has the second-best save percentage (.921) among NHL goaltenders since the Flyers traded him to Columbus in 2012 and has won the Vezina Trophy twice.

Bobrovsky's time in Columbus appears to be coming to an end. He's a free agent on July 1 and all signs point to him testing free agency.

According to The Athletic's Aaron Porzline in a story published Aug. 22, Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets had not "actively negotiated for some time now." As Portzline pointed out, it's assumed Bobrovsky wants to be the highest-paid goalie in the NHL.

This is where it gets a little murky for the Flyers. Carey Price is the league's highest-paid goalie after signing an eight-year, $84 million contract on July 2, 2017. Bobrovsky's résumé warrants him to be in that conversation.

Postseason struggles aside, Bob has been one of the best goalies in the league since 2012. But the playoff performances are part of Bob's story, and they're not pretty. Bobrovsky has struggled in the first third of this season, but his track record is strong enough to overlook it.

Bobrovsky is going to be paid big this summer, and the Flyers have cap space and the drive to spend. Bringing Bobrovsky back would instantly solve this problem; it's just about the term.

The Flyers have learned firsthand not to go term on a goalie. But dishing out big bucks on, say, a five-year contract? It solves the problem now and doesn't block Hart either.

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