Flyers

Flyers miss the point for 1st time in nearly a month

Flyers miss the point for 1st time in nearly a month

BOX SCORE

The Flyers’ streak of points in 12 straight games came to an end Thursday with a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Former Flyer Justin Williams scored twice and now has 14 goals in 33 career games against the Flyers.

Travis Konecny scored his 16th goal of the season.

Petr Mrazek lost his first game since joining the Flyers as he stopped 31 of 35 shots in the process.

The Hurricanes took the ice with heavy hearts as Carolina center Jordan Staal played his first game since the death of his stillborn infant daughter. 

The Flyers and Hurricanes will meet two more times — March 17 in Carolina and April 5 at the Wells Fargo Center.

• An awful start for the Flyers saw the Hurricanes play with more energy and tempo and force the issue in the opening five minutes. They beat the Flyers to pucks, forced turnovers and won a majority of the board battles. Carolina jumped on the board first at the tail end of a power play as Mrazek couldn’t secure Jeff Skinner’s snap shot that slipped underneath his arm. Skinner gained inside position on defenseman Brandon Manning and Williams rammed home the rebound for a 1-0 Hurricanes lead.

• It wasn’t a good first period for Manning, who followed up that shift with a terrible turnover in his own end right to Carolina’s Brock McGinn that produced a prime scoring chance in the high-danger scoring area. Could have easily been a 2-0 Carolina lead.

• Check out Radko Gudas with the dazzling dangle with 7:45 remaining in the first period. He easily maneuvered around Skinner to set up a wrist shot from the left circle.

• Which one defenseman would you want back in a 2-on-1 situation? Shayne Gostisbehere would be my choice. He’s shown over the course of the season how well he reads and defends odd-man rushes, and that was the case again as he dropped to one knee to break up a cross-ice pass. He makes it look easy.

• Terrible 4-on-4 coverage led to the Hurricanes extending their lead to 2-0. Defenseman Justin Faulk skated unchecked in the neutral zone and built up speed before he gave it up to Teuvo Teravainen, who perfectly executed a give-and-go with Sebastien Aho. Teravainen simply out-hustled Robert Hagg to the net and scored on the feed from Aho.

• The second period didn’t look much different than the first, as Carolina was the quicker, hungrier team. When the Flyers worked the puck deep, they couldn’t build any sustained pressure and the Hurricanes did a very good job of keeping them on the outside while clogging up the middle.

• The Flyers came out of the third period with some speed and jump as they cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 3-1. Konecny and Sean Couturier teamed up for a beautiful play. Couturier set up Konecny with a perfect saucer pass that laid down at the last second right on Konecny’s stick. 

• The Flyers picked up their game and brought more pace, especially in transition after struggling to get the puck into Carolina’s zone. Once again, they looked for the perfect pass or play instead of settling for the obvious shot. Konecny passed up on an obvious shot attempt with about five minutes remaining in the period. 

• This was clearly one of Manning’s worst games over the past few months. He looked indecisive with the puck and made another poor decision trying to play the puck from behind his net. 

Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz activated off injured reserve, loaned to Phantoms

Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz activated off injured reserve, loaned to Phantoms

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers activated goaltender Anthony Stolarz off injured reserve Thursday and loaned him to Lehigh Valley for conditioning purposes. Stolarz suffered a lower-body injury in the first period of a 5-1 loss to the Canucks on Dec. 15 in Vancouver when he allowed two goals on four shots.

With injuries to Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon, Stolarz was pressed into duty in the early part of December, making six starts over a 10-day stretch. With a 3.90 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage, Stolarz actually played better than the numbers he posted.

“In the games that I did watch, I don’t think he was given a lot of help for stretches and he kept the team close, and whether they won or lost the game, I don’t think you could point the finger at him,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if the Flyers recall Stolarz, who can stay for 14 days without clearing waivers. Considering how well he played in wins at Pittsburgh and in Buffalo, there may be a team willing to take a chance on Stolarz as an inexpensive backup looking ahead to next season. 

With such limited playing time over the past two seasons in his recovery from meniscus surgery in September 2017, Stolarz is better served as the No. 1 in Lehigh Valley, where he can improve his game and regain his confidence. If Stolarz can build upon his small body of work this season, it will be interesting to see if the Flyers view him as a viable backup option for next season.      

No hearing for Lehtera; could Leier be an option?

Flyers forward Jori Lehtera will not receive supplemental discipline from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety following his reckless hit into the back of Bruins forward Ryan Donato. Lehtera received a five-minute board major and a game misconduct. 

Lehtera likely avoided a suspension because Donato wasn’t injured on that play. The Bruins' winger was bleeding as a result of the hit, but never missed a shift in the third period.

Lehtera spent 17 minutes in the box compared to just 5:40 on the ice. At this point, Gordon has two highly ineffective veterans in Lehtera and Dale Weise, who cleared waivers on Wednesday but will remain on the team’s active roster. 

At this point, Gordon would be better served in giving Taylor Leier another look. Leier has scored seven goals in his last six games with the Phantoms.

“It’s hard to explain as a player, that feeling of wanting the puck on your stick all the time,” Leier said. “I think I have that back in my game now.”

Will a third trick be a charm?

Sean Couturier’s three goals against the Bruins marked the first time since October 2002 that the Flyers registered hat tricks in consecutive games. Mark Recchi ripped home three goals in a 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames, while John LeClair potted four goals three nights later in a 6-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

It also marked the eighth time in Flyers franchise history that the team had a hat trick in back-to-back games, but that feat has never occurred in three straight games.

So, who could be the likely candidate to put three on the board at the Bell Centre Saturday and make franchise history?

I’m leaning on Claude Giroux, who has 10 goals in 30 career games against the Montreal Canadiens, with a two-goal effort against the Habs in 2011.

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Claude Giroux's unselfishness shouldn't go unnoticed

Claude Giroux's unselfishness shouldn't go unnoticed

Assistant coach Kris Knoblauch went to Claude Giroux and proposed a power-play adjustment.

It required Giroux vacating his usual left circle, where the captain has blasted away for a long time, as lethal as anyone in the game from that spot on the man advantage.

Shifting the right-handed Giroux to the opposite circle, an area not as favorable for his shot, had the premise of augmenting the lefty-shot James van Riemsdyk, who could do greater damage around the net taking right-wall feeds from the captain.

Giroux was receptive.

"Knobber had a conversation with G and got his thoughts on it," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said Tuesday following practice. "It certainly plays to the strengths of JVR, who obviously had a ton of points on the power play in his time in Toronto and maybe that is something we can take advantage of. 

"Obviously if the power play is going at 20 percent plus and we're scoring a power-play goal a game, you're not having the conversation. But credit to Claude for being open-minded to consider it and give it a go."

The first game Giroux and company gave it a go, van Riemsdyk scored a power-play goal and finished with a hat trick as the Flyers rallied resoundingly from a 2-0 deficit to pick up a 7-4 win Monday over the Wild.

A game later, the Flyers found themselves in another 2-0 hole. And another comeback was ignited, this time by a marvelous dish from Giroux, once again making his teammates better. Notching his 500th career assist, the 31-year-old stopped on a dime to recover a loose puck and zip a pass in the opposite direction, finding a streaking Oskar Lindblom.

Suddenly, a play no other Flyer can make had everyone revived. Confidence was restored and fruited into a 4-3 win over the Bruins, giving the Flyers consecutive victories for just the second time since mid-November.

"I've been lucky to play with really good players and I'm lucky to be able to give the puck to all these players," Giroux said. "It's a great accomplishment but we just have to keep going here."

Much of those wins are a product of Giroux's unselfishness, an underrated part to his building (and debated) legacy.

If Giroux shies away from Knoblauch's suggestion, acts like his power-play prowess is infallible, van Riemsdyk might not go off for a much-needed lift.

If Giroux doesn't make a play out of nothing for Lindblom, a comeback might not happen against a Bruins team that will be making noise in the playoffs.

If Giroux doesn't switch positions at 30 years old last season, Sean Couturier might not have his anticipated breakout the organization had been hoping for since the 2011 draft.

"His intensity, he's ready to go every other shift," Gordon said of Giroux. "He wants to play a lot, he does play a lot, he's not an easy guy to keep off the ice in practice when it's probably best for him not to go on the ice. He's very passionate about being a Flyer.

"I haven't felt that he's taken a shift off the entire time that I've been here. Anything that even resembled it might have been more fatigue than anything else, not because of a mental decision to say, 'You know what, I don't feel like playing hard this year.'"

That would be selfishness. You won't find it from Giroux, even in a season like this.

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