Flyers

Flyers grind for ugly win over Sabres to push streak to 5

Flyers grind for ugly win over Sabres to push streak to 5

BOX SCORE

It was a Flyers’ win with a capital “U.” 

That’s “U” as in ugly.

However, it was still good enough to beat the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres, as the Flyers skated away with a 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night (see observations).

It’s the type of game the Flyers lost earlier in the season during their previous homestead when they came out sloppy against the lowly Arizona Coyotes in an eventual 4-3 loss in overtime.  

“I thought this was a boring game,” Jakub Voracek said. “Honestly, I don’t think we played good today, but we got the win, which is really important. You’re not going to play great every night. We played well when we needed to, but we can play a lot better, which is positive.”

Nothing was uglier than the game’s first goal when Brian Elliott attempted to play the puck behind his net. Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons intercepted Elliott’s pass and fed the puck to Ryan O’Reilly, who had a wide-open, unattended net in front of him.

“They came hard and a little miscommunication,” Elliott said. “Bad play on my part and we did a heck of a job of coming back and tying that up. That can go sideways in a hurry. We sorted it out, but our first period was kind of sloppy.”

After Elliott nearly made the same mistake again in the opening period, the Flyers rebounded to the tie game at 1-1 as Travis Sanheim scored his first NHL goal off a feed from Dale Weise (see highlights). However, even Sanheim admitted, the goal was a silver lining from a dark cloud that was looming over him defensively with failed clears and breakdowns in coverage.  

“I don’t think we were very happy with our first period, especially me,” Sanheim said. “Minus the goal, I thought that might have been my worst period of the season, but I think we bounced back and battled hard in the final 40 and came through with the win.”

“He’s been pressing for a little while, so I was so happy to see him get a smile on his face,” Weise said of Sanheim’s goal. “That’s going to do wonders for his game. You see a shift after he gets another chance there. I’m so happy for him.”

Sanheim’s season in some ways has mirrored that of the Flyers’ schedule — a yo-yo performance with bouts of inconsistency. Coming off a 10-game winless stretch, the Flyers have now won five straight. Throughout both streaks, head coach Dave Hakstol has stuck with Sanheim when some coaches may have wavered. 

“There’s always lessons along the way, especially for a young defenseman,” Hakstol said. “He’s had some bumps in the road that every defenseman is going to go through. Tonight’s maybe a little indicative of that. Travis is always honest with himself and the evaluation of his own play, and for me, that always helps keep his feet on the ground and move on to the next challenge.”

“I want to make hard plays and I’ve got to make sure the puck gets over our blue line,” Sanheim said. “It’s easier to sit back and say I could have done this, I could have done that. Going forward, I’ve just got to try and limit those mistakes and try and play a harder game.” 

The Flyers eventually produced the breakthrough goal late in the second period on a tic-tac-toe play started by Michael Raffl, who fed a pass to Voracek and then onto Valtteri Filppula for the one-time goal.

“Those are the best wins,” said Raffl, who played in his 300th career game. “You’re pretty happy when you win 4-1 and you play your best game. It’s easy to laugh, but that was a war out there and the last period, especially, but we came together as a group.”

Of the 14 one-goal games the Flyers have played this season, this was just the third time they earned a victory. Many of those games when they failed to earn a winning decision came after regulation.

“It’s all about confidence,” Voracek said. “Two or three weeks ago when we went into the third period, we would lose that game. Now it’s about making sure those loose pucks get out of the zone and don’t make any dumb decisions.”

“I think it’s huge. When we were in that streak, we blew a lot of leads late in games,” Weise said. “Minus the last two minutes where I think we sat back a little, I thought we did a good job of moving the puck forward, forechecking and not sitting back too much. It’s more of a mental thing to win those type of games.”

Among Flyers prospects, Carsen Twarynski is making everyone know his name

Among Flyers prospects, Carsen Twarynski is making everyone know his name

Alain Vigneault has been tasked with watching a lot of new players in a condensed period of time.

Flyers training camp opened with 63 players on the roster. Understandably, Vigneault is still learning about his players four games into the preseason.

Prior to Saturday night's exhibition contest, the Flyers' head coach innocuously had trouble pronouncing Carsen Twarynski's name as he rattled off the lineup in his pregame media availability.

Following the game, he said it perfectly.

"For me, the best player on the ice was Twarynski," Vigneault said after the Flyers' 4-1 win over the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations). "He played a solid game at both ends, good on the forecheck, made some good decisions. There's no doubt the young man is making a strong case for himself."

Best player on the ice, on a night when the Flyers dressed forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny. The Flyers played a majority of their regulars at all positions.

Twarynski is a prospect and not the Flyers' most touted one, either. He doesn't care and nor do the Flyers, who are clearly considering the 21-year-old winger for their bottom-six vacancies.

Twarynski scored an impressive goal on sheer effort in the Flyers' win. He played just 11:44 but led the Flyers with seven shots and also had three hits.

"When I'm going fast, it's when I'm doing my best," Twarynski said. "As long as I'm moving my feet and playing with guys that understand that and play the same way, it's going to work well and it's going to click well and I think that's what you guys saw tonight."

The 6-foot-2, 206-pounder plays a bottom-six style and understands what the Flyers need. He has earned himself another preseason game. If he plays well again, he'll be right in the conversation for the season-opening roster.

"I've got to outwork [opponents], I'm trying to earn a spot here," Twarynski said. "I'm not a flashy player by any means and I know the spot that I'm battling for. I've got to work hard, that's what I've done my whole life and that's what I'm going to keep on doing.

"I've been through a lot of adversity though my hockey career. Growing up, wasn't on any national teams or Alberta teams or provincial teams. I've always had to work my way up through the first year and develop and make a step to the big league the next year. It's nothing new to me, I've just got to keep on going, keep working hard."

While the 2016 third-round pick got on the score sheet, Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost did not. The two prospects continued to show their skill and playmaking abilities but have not put up points. The Flyers certainly wouldn't mind seeing production — it's what can force the hand of the front office and coaching staff. If Farabee and Frost are scoring, it's harder to keep them off the roster.

"I don't think we're at that decision-making point," Vigneault said. "We still have a few games before we leave for Europe. But those two young men, you can tell there's a tremendous amount of potential and upside, smarts to their game. We have a lot to work with there. It's just a matter of doing what's right for the team and that's what we're going to do here when we make the final decisions.

"Just for feeling good about yourself and confidence-wise, it would be great to see them [score]. They're getting so many looks. You always say as long as the chances are there, sooner or later it's going to pay off. I'm hoping for those young men that it is because there's no doubt that they're playing well."

But the best player on the ice Saturday night was Twarynski.

His head coach didn't have trouble seeing or saying that.

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Flyers give Alain Vigneault what he wanted, prospects update, more from first preseason win

Flyers give Alain Vigneault what he wanted, prospects update, more from first preseason win

BOX SCORE 

Alain Vigneault wanted to accelerate the process as the Flyers inch closer to the Oct. 4 regular season opener in Prague, Czech Republic.

He saw some acceleration Saturday night.

Playing a lot of regulars, the Flyers won their first preseason game in four tries by beating the Rangers, 4-1, at the Wells Fargo Center. The team looked a hell of a lot better after losing to the Bruins' B-squad Thursday night, which prompted Vigneault's decision to change the Flyers' preseason plan.

Vigneault watched the game from the hockey operations suite in the press box. Just wanted a different view, perhaps? Vigneault evaluated alongside general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr.

During the opening period, the Flyers scored two goals in a 1:32 span, half their total of goals through the first three preseason games.

Let's get into observations:

• Travis Konecny was flying all over the ice in his preseason debut. He was active and a constant threat. He had been adamant about how missing the first three days of training camp wouldn't impact his readiness for the regular season.

Konecny made a point Saturday — he looked really good.

• Playing his third game, Joel Farabee had big-time scoring chances during the second period. He tried patiently holding the puck and sort of second-guessed his move on the first. He then couldn't convert on a 2-on-0 late in the frame. When he skated to the bench, he showed his frustration. The 19-year-old might be pressing a tad.

In his second game, Morgan Frost showed his skill with the puck but couldn't crack the score sheet, either. Both continued to do positive things but somewhat blended in as the veterans stole the spotlight.

Production gets you noticed and the Flyers' two top prospects have yet to put up points. The Flyers need bottom-six depth. The Nolan Patrick and Tyler Pitlick injuries could impact the kids' chances, as well.

We'll have to see how many more games Farabee and Frost get to open eyes.

• Kevin Hayes once again showed why his size can be so disruptive. He planted himself in front and Jakub Voracek, with great vision, couldn't miss the 6-foot-5 center for a 2-0 lead.

Hayes has a goal and an assist through two preseason games. Both points were products of Hayes' strategy with his size. He makes the Flyers tougher to play against.

• Speaking of Voracek, he was dominant. He finished with two assists and a goal. His vision alongside Hayes' size could be a productive combo.

• Carter Hart has stopped all 25 shots he's faced through three-plus periods of preseason action. He looks ready to go. He'll play a full game before the Oct. 4 opener.

• The Flyers entered Saturday without a power play goal through three preseason games. On the team's first man advantage opportunity of the game, it cashed in as Claude Giroux found James van Riemsdyk right in front for a 1-0 lead.

The Flyers finished with two power play goals.

Here's a thought: JVR on the top line with Giroux and Sean Couturier to start the season. There's just so much chemistry between Giroux and van Riemsdyk. We saw it last season when it sparked van Riemsdyk over a prolific stretch.

Just a thought.

• Carsen Twarynski, an under-the-radar bottom-six candidate, scored during the second period behind some excellent effort. He played a puck to himself along the boards and then tapped home his own rebound to make it 3-0.

If he's back with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, a fast start to his second season will help his chances at a potential call up to the big club. In 2018-19, he had one goal and four points through his first 20 games with the Phantoms.

• Chris Stewart dropped the gloves for his second fight of the preseason just 1:27 into the game. He also put the Rangers on the power play in the first period when he was whistled for interference. Not sure he helped his case for the roster, although he did have an assist.

• Matt Niskanen and Ivan Provorov weren't paired together but both played well. Niskanen looked a lot more comfortable and broke up scoring chances. Provorov was impressive in all areas, including the power play as the point man.

• The Flyers are expected to practice Sunday in Voorhees, New Jersey, before heading to Boston to play the Bruins Monday in their fifth preseason game (7 p.m./NBCSP+).

The team has three exhibition games remaining. It flies out to Switzerland on Sept. 27 before its final preseason contest on Sept. 30.

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