Flyers

Flyers have 'easy' part down, now the 'overrated' part begins

Flyers have 'easy' part down, now the 'overrated' part begins

The 3-0-1 road trip for Dave Hakstol's team definitely has merit to it.

The Flyers grabbed seven of eight points, went to overtime against a Stanley Cup contender (Sharks), convincingly beat the team allowing the NHL's fewest goals per game (Coyotes) and took down a squad that went 26-10-5 at home last season (Ducks).

There was a lot to like and you would think the Flyers are coming home much more comfortable with rebuilt confidence and some swagger.

Five straight games at the Wells Fargo Center are now in store for the Flyers.

Home sweet home, right?

Not necessarily — or least not yet.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Flyers analyst Chris Therien provided excellent insight on the differences between playing at home and on the road. 

The assumption is away games present a greater difficulty considering the travel and atmosphere, compared to having luxuries and the crowd on your side at home.

Therien, a former Flyer and 11-year NHLer, said that's not always the case. Here's his breakdown from Monday night's Flyers Postgame Live on NBCSP:

I think playing at home in the NHL is completely overrated. I think it's easy to win on the road, I don't think there's a problem playing on the road, in fact, for most teams, they'll probably tell you they're comfortable. 

That being said, I think if the Flyers play exactly like they did on the road, you won't have to worry about some of the stuff that you deal with at home. The problem when you're at home, sometimes you think it's going to be easier, you think the crowd is going to get behind you. And then if you don't perform, the crowd turns on you and you can hear the boos sometimes. 

But they're big boys, they're professionals, they're going to have to get over whatever funk they think they're having at home. Even last year was not a good record for this team at home prior to other seasons. It's huge, it's major-league important that they find a groove and find a groove in Philadelphia.

The last time the Flyers took the Wells Fargo Center ice, they lost to the Islanders, 6-1, dropping to 4-7-0 before their four-game road trip. The Flyers certainly looked like pressure got the best of them on Oct. 27. Head coach Dave Hakstol said his team "tightened up in this building" and Claude Giroux echoed that sentiment.

"I think when you want too much sometimes, you press a little harder, get away from what you're supposed to be doing, you're just pressing," Giroux said then. "I really feel like we're pressing right now, we're just tired of losing, so we're trying to do everything we can to make something happen, but sometimes it's not always the right thing."

Through the early going, the Flyers are 2-4-0 at home with a minus-12 goal differential. Among NHL teams, they've scored the second-fewest goals at home with 2.33 per game, while allowing the third most with 4.33.

All it takes, though, is one strong period to shake the nerves and feel at home again. Put the fans back on your side. The Flyers have five cracks at it — they're big boys and should get it done.

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The shadow of last season starting to loom for Flyers

The shadow of last season starting to loom for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — You don’t have to remind the Flyers that they’ve gone three straight games without a win — two of those losses at home to opponents (Panthers, Devils) who were last in their division at the time.

And the Flyers (9-9-2) certainly don’t need to be reminded this is the same exact point in the season a year ago when they went through a pummeling stretch of winless hockey with a 0-5-5 record from Nov. 11 to Dec. 2. 

The first 20 games of the season are a near carbon copy of what transpired a year ago when the team also had a .500 record at 8-8-4. The question moving forward is can the Flyers learn from last year’s mistakes and breakdowns that led to a 10-game winless stretch?

“We were in a big hole last year. We’re not in a big hole this year,” Jakub Voracek said Tuesday. “It could give us a little more confidence that we don’t have to chase as much as we did last year, but we have to find more consistency in our game.“

After taking the previous two days off — Sunday was the Flyers Wives Carnival and Monday was a designated day off — the Flyers returned to practice showing a little rust.

Dave Hakstol felt confident in what he’s seen over the past three games to keep the same line combinations during Tuesday's practice, including leaving James van Riemsdyk on the third line with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Before Saturday’s five-goal performance, sparked by a remarkable four-goal outburst in the third period, the Flyers had gone 110:38 without a goal.

“We’ve generated more in those last three games than we have in the previous five games on average,” Hakstol said. “The opportunities are coming. We weren’t able to finish. We talked about different ways that we could do a little better, simple things, get guys to the net. Obviously, the most important thing is to finish on enough of those to put us in a good spot.”

In order to avoid the snowball from building and a potential fourth straight loss, the Flyers will have to derail a red-hot Buffalo Sabres team Wednesday that has won six straight games, all by one goal, during its longest winning streak in nine years. 

“They have a couple of new additions to their team and they’re working really well right now. It’s a dangerous group. It’s going to be tough for us,” Voracek said. “So far every game has been tough. It’s a 50/50 chance every single night. It’s been pretty even so far this year, but it’s going to start breaking down after about 45 games.

“You’re going to see a bigger picture of what’s going to happen down the road. It’s too early to judge right now.”

Lyon could see pair of starts

With three games compacted into four days over the Thanksgiving holiday, Alex Lyon is expected to receive one and possibly two starts this week. Lyon was the first goaltender off the ice during Tuesday’s practice as a sign that he could be called upon Wednesday night in Buffalo.

Lyon said there’s an NHL mindset he needs to work his way into whenever he receives the call up from Lehigh Valley.

“In the American League, you have from Sunday until Thursday typically to sit at your home and relax,” Lyon said. “Call a spade a spade, the stress level is a little bit less in the American League.” 

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Flyers stock watch: As Claude Giroux goes, so do the Flyers

Flyers stock watch: As Claude Giroux goes, so do the Flyers

After a 5-0-1 stretch of solid hockey and signs that the Flyers were climbing their way up in the Metropolitan Division, they took a step back.

The Flyers are once again a middle-of-the-pack team after failing to capitalize during a recent five-game homestand, finishing with a 2-2-1 mark (see weekly observations).

At the quarter pole of the NHL season, it’s time to take inventory of who’s up and who’s down in this week’s stock watch. 

Stock up

Claude Giroux
It’s a pretty simple formula: When Giroux scores, the Flyers' chances of winning increase significantly. In the six games that Giroux has been held without a point, the Flyers are 0-5-1. They're 9-4-1 when he cracks the scoresheet. Overall, Giroux’s game has been steady and a continuation from what we saw last season. The captain currently has five multi-point games over his past nine and has been saddled with some major minutes (at least 22 in each of the past five games) while adding penalty-kill duties.  

Sean Couturier
We’re finally starting to see the Couturier that made him into a Selke Trophy finalist last season. After a slow start of trying to find his speed and timing, Couturier has been the Flyers' most consistent player at both ends of the ice. His three-point effort against the Blackhawks was the pinnacle of the season as he outmuscled Chris Kunitz to score on Corey Crawford. With just three points in his first 11 games, Couturier has found his stride offensively with points (five goals, six assists) in seven of his last nine games.  

Stock down

Oskar Lindblom
If I was writing this column 10 days ago, Lindblom’s stock would be at an all-time high, but he’s regressed over the past week. After an impressive five-game point streak in which he tallied two goals and five assists, Lindblom has just one assist over his past four games and has seen his ice time dip from the 16-minute range to playing just 10:07 in a 3-0 loss to the Devils on Thursday. It should be a matter of time before James van Riemsdyk reasserts himself on that line, leaving Lindblom with third-line minutes.

Jori Lehtera
Dave Hakstol finally came to the realization that Lehtera has been bringing very little to the Flyers. Once JVR finally returned to the Flyers' lineup, Lehtera was the one who came out, and as a result, forced Hakstol to move Scott Laughton back to center. Lehtera’s recent lack of ice time is a reflection of how he’s played and how he’s turned into a “black hole” in the offensive end of the ice. In his last seven games, Lehtera hasn’t registered a single shot on net and has proven to be a liability on the penalty kill.  

Nolan Patrick
Much is expected out of the 20-year-old, who like Lindblom, broke out of his early season shell during the Flyers' recent trip out West. But like any young player, Patrick has failed to keep a level of consistency throughout his overall play. While he maintains defensive responsibilities on a rather consistent basis, his offense and his aggressiveness to push play in the opponent’s zone are sporadic. Patrick currently has one goal and two points over his past six games and had a brief opportunity to solidify his place on the top power-play unit. It’s not that Patrick has been a bad player, but he’s displayed the ability to be a better player.

Travis Sanheim
To his credit, Sanheim has cleaned up his game defensively to the point that he doesn’t make you nervous in his own end of the ice. However, with Sanheim’s size, he should be more of a physical presence in separating a player from the puck. Too often, he loses those battles. But Sanheim’s strength is in his offense by pushing the puck up the ice and creating offensive chances. To that end, he’s been nonexistent over his past 10 games and hasn’t registered a single point. Even playing 17 minutes on a regular basis, there has to be a more concerted effort on Sanheim’s part to generate offense. Otherwise, that skill set simply goes to waste.

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