Flyers

Flyers go from running on E to comeback for 'Big E'

Flyers go from running on E to comeback for 'Big E'

BOX SCORE

On a night when a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd celebrated “Big E,” the Flyers responded with an equally big ‘W’ by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, in overtime to sweep the three-game regular-season series. 

Sean Couturier scored his 26th goal just 18 seconds into the extra session on a feed from Travis Konecny.

The Flyers trailed, 2-0, after the first two periods, but erased that deficit in the first 3:25 of the third period.

Nolan Patrick opened the scoring in the third with his third goal of the season. 

Wayne Simmonds scored his 16th goal of the season and the second shorthanded goal for the Flyers this season, which tied the game at 2-2. Simmonds now has a point in six straight games (four goals, two assists).

Michal Neuvirth stopped 29 of 31 shots as the Flyers’ backup netminder has now won his last two starts.
    
• The Leafs snapped a scoreless tie in the second period when Shayne Gostisbehere attempted to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Gostisbehere missed it completely, and with Ivan Provorov already pinching, only Couturier was back at the blue line. Couturier couldn’t catch Connor Brown, who broke in all alone on Neuvirth and beat him through the five-hole for a 1-0 Toronto lead. “Ghost” has to make sure that puck doesn’t squirt past him. 

• Just 28 seconds later, the Flyers surrendered another goal on a fluky play as Jake Gardiner harmlessly shot the puck on net from the left circle. Neuvirth made the initial stop, but the puck popped up straight in the air. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Robert Hagg couldn’t prevent Frederik Gauthier from getting a shot off. Neuvirth either lost track of it or the puck was tipped on the way to the net, but it put the Flyers down 2-0.

• The Flyers finally came to life when Patrick scored perhaps his most impressive goal of the season. After his initial shot from a sharp angle was turned aside and bounced behind the net, Patrick tenaciously chased down Mitch Marner, stripped the puck and turned to fire a shot that caught Frederik Andersen by surprise. Patrick continues to improve his play and show more jump in the offensive zone. He had a strong first period and followed it up with a goal.

• Neuvirth made the save of the game off a 2-on-1 when Patrick Marleau had a wide-open net. Neuvirth went post to post and was able to extend his right pad just enough to kick away Marleau’s shot.

• The Jori Lehtera interference penalty was absolutely ridiculous. The referees allowed both teams to play without much officiating and then whistled Lehtera for a penalty they had no business calling. 

• It was a tight-checking game in the opening five minutes. The only sustained pressure came from the Leafs’ top line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman. The Flyers had a good look when Claude Giroux was able to feed Provorov, who came into the high slot untouched. However, Provorov’s one-timer hit Andersen in the chest.

• There was a great save from Neuvirth that started after Jakub Voracek was caught stick handling too much just inside the Leafs’ blue line. That led to a 2-on-1 rush with James van Riemsdyk leading the rush up the left side. Neuvirth did a fantastic job of anticipating the pass to Tyler Bozak, who was cutting down the middle of the ice.

• The Flyers worked a power play in the final two minutes of the opening period as Hyman tripped up Gostisbehere unnecessarily. “Ghost” unleashed a slap shot early that handcuffed Simmonds, who was looking for a shot where he could extend his hands a little bit more. Gostisbehere also had a prime opportunity as he broke in underneath the Leafs’ coverage for a quality scoring chance. 

• The Flyers continued to play with fire as they gave Toronto a shorthanded opportunity. Overall, it was a pretty good first period for the Flyers, who have struggled to score in the first 20 minutes with just five goals over their last 11 games. 

• Interestingly, Dave Hakstol had Lehtera as one of his penalty-killers. Lehtera, who’s not exactly fleet of foot, had a chance to jump on a loose puck and clear the zone, but simply couldn’t get there quick enough. Overall, the Flyers’ PK did a solid job of pressuring the Leafs from the top of the circle to the blue line, not allowing them to setup and ultimately no shots on goal.   

• If you enjoy the defensive part of the game, then you would have loved watching Couturier battle with Matthews. Couturier refused to give Matthews any room to maneuver with the puck. The Matthews line was clicking earlier this season when the Flyers faced the Leafs in Toronto, but not so much in mid-January.

• There was a very good save sequence from Neuvirth around the 12-minute mark of the second period as the Leafs had several whacks right around the crease area. Neuvirth stood his ground, looked calm and maintained his positioning for any rebounds.

• The Flyers came up empty with two of their best scoring opportunities from the high-danger area in the span of a minute. First, Konecny missed wide of the net, and then later, Jordan Weal’s shot was blocked by Leafs defenseman Gardiner. For Konecny, that’s a shot he has to bury.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Tyrell Goulbourne-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defenseman
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forwards Taylor Leier (healthy) and Dale Weise (healthy), and defenseman Travis Sanheim (healthy).

Flyers weekly observations: Wayne Simmonds' trade deadline audition, Cam Talbot deal, more

Flyers weekly observations: Wayne Simmonds' trade deadline audition, Cam Talbot deal, more

The Flyers are 12-1-1 with 25 points and a plus-18 goal differential since Jan. 14.

They have passed 13 teams after residing in the NHL basement on the morning of Jan. 13 with 38 points.

Twenty-three games remain in their playoff pursuit, which had the Flyers six points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot entering Monday.

With all that said, let's get into our weekly observations:

• It looks like Wayne Simmonds has himself audition time Tuesday night.

TSN's Darren Dreger reported in late January that the NHL-leading Lightning had inquired about Simmonds.

What do you know, here comes Tampa Bay visiting the Wells Fargo Center less than a week before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. The Lightning will get a firsthand look at the 30-year-old power forward who is Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher's biggest decision ahead of next Monday.

A game won't completely sway Tampa Bay one way or the other. However, say Simmonds scores a goal, puts his toughness and net-front prowess on display, it wouldn't hurt the Lightning's interest (and potential offer) to solidify a Stanley Cup run.

Former Lightning and Flyers player Vinny Lecavalier had this to say about Simmonds to The Athletic's Joe Smith:

He protected me in two line brawls. He's just a great teammate. He's not afraid of anybody.

Not a bad quality to have when you'll be the No. 1 target in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

• The Cam Talbot trade made perfect sense for the Flyers.

If Carter Hart is the Flyers' No. 1 of the future, then Anthony Stolarz is at best their backup. The 25-year-old has overcome a lot but his track record of knee injuries was a concern and there would have been challenges in retaining him (see story).

"Obviously there's a decent probability he'll be an unrestricted free agent, or at least would have been if he stayed with us," Fletcher said last Saturday.

So the Flyers capitalized on Stolarz's positive stock by acquiring a 31-year-old goalie with experience as a No. 1 and No. 2, who can help now and possibly down the road. With Talbot compared to Stolarz, they actually have more flexibility (see story).

"Every summer there are goaltenders available," Fletcher said. "I think this is an opportunity for us to evaluate Cam down the stretch and see if there's a fit. As importantly, hopefully give us a boost as we continue to push for a playoff spot."

• The relationship between Talbot and Hart has been well-documented.

Talbot, who has become a mentor for Hart, offered a noteworthy quote last Saturday on the 20-year-old sensation:

It started a couple summers ago, we skated once or twice together. Then this past summer, every time we were on the ice, we were on the ice together. I've been watching Carter do his thing since he has been called up. 

He gave me a call before his first NHL game, just asked a few questions, wanted to pick my brain about a few things. I think that's what makes him as good as he has been — he's willing and eager to learn, he's a hard-worker and he wants to get better, he wants that help and guidance from people, he's not afraid to ask for it. 

I think that's what's making him so successful right now.

• A Sean Couturier appreciation observation:

Since Jan. 8, the 26-year-old center is tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) over 17 games. 

Only Patrick Kane (31), Vladimir Tarasenko (27) and Brad Marchand (26) have scored more.

Couturier is projected to finish with a new career-high 34 goals. He'll be up for the Frank J. Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) yet again.

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Is the Carolina Hurricanes' postgame celebration over the top, or are they just having fun?

usa_canes_celebrate.jpg
USA Today Images

Is the Carolina Hurricanes' postgame celebration over the top, or are they just having fun?

The Carolina Hurricanes are determined that all that attention the state of North Carolina receives this time of year will no longer be reserved for Blue Devils or Tar Heels basketball.

This season, the Canes have turned their postgame ritual into something that resembles the intersection of an NFL end zone celebration and an elementary school playground.  

After every win on home ice (16 so far this season), the Hurricanes have given their devoted fans, the “Caniacs," reason to stick around for the third period and beyond with some sort of choreographed postgame skit.  

Here’s just a few of their greatest hits from this season:

The limbo …

The knock-it-out-of-the-park home run trot …

Duck, duck, goose ...

These pre-meditated antics have driven hockey purists and traditionalists to the point of coming down with HDS, or Hurricane Derangement Syndrome. Those who have been around the game for years are completely beside themselves and feel this is merely a travesty to their beloved sport. 

That feeling couldn’t have been articulated more strongly than by Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry, who went on a minute-long rant Saturday calling the players “jerks” for their behavior. Check it out here:

Off-air, Cherry may be one of the nicest, most pleasant guys you will meet. But even the brash, outspoken 85-year-old hockey icon can see the utter hypocrisy to which he describes. I suppose only Cherry is permitted to be flamboyant or even obnoxious while calling attention to himself for his outrageous appearance. Shame to anyone else who steps outside those boundaries.     

The Hurricanes wasted little time to profit off an opportunity that fell right into their laps this weekend, and I’m guessing there will be a backorder for this shirt in the next 24-48 hours.    

My feeling is that as long as it’s in good taste, anything that grabs the attention of the sports world even for a couple of minutes is good for the game. 

There aren't very many hockey markets where you can pull this off. Toronto, Montreal? No way. New York, Boston? Are you kidding? 

But what does Raleigh, North Carolina, have to lose? The franchise has missed the postseason for nine straight seasons and their attendance has been at the bottom for the past five years. The Hurricanes have given fans a reason not to come since winning a Stanley Cup in 2006. 

For a league that is a distant fourth when it comes to the Big 4, the publicity that comes from these celebrations can only draw in fans that may not have been attracted to the sport previously. 

Now, the team is knocking on the door of their first playoff berth since 2008-09. I commend head coach Rod Brind’Amour and captain Justin Williams for bringing a little bit of fun to the team while knowing they would receive plenty of heat outside their dressing room.

Sometimes you have to think a little differently when you’re fighting for revenue shares in a very competitive sports world.

Like unveiling a big, orange, oversized googly-eyed mascot that everyone seemed to hate when it first rolled out.

Take that to your jerk store. 

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