Flyers

Flyers-Kings observations: Nothing gets past Jonathan Quick in shutout

Flyers-Kings observations: Nothing gets past Jonathan Quick in shutout

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings redeemed last year’s home-opening loss to the Flyers with a 2-0 victory Thursday night at the STAPLES Center.

The Kings didn’t require a spectacular effort from Jonathan Quick, who was solid and steady as he stopped all 35 shots and survived an early third-period wave. 

Michal Neuvirth made his first start of the season and stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced in the defeat.

• The Flyers (1-1-0) could not match Los Angeles' energy and speed in the opening nine minutes, as the Kings (1-0-0) had a considerable amount of zone time. The first period was one that Travis Konecny would rather forget. First, he failed to cover his man coming down center ice, which resulted in a hooking penalty. As Konecny exited the box, he was immediately stripped of the puck, and as he scrambled back into the Flyers’ zone, he committed another turnover that led to a Kings’ shot.

• Jakub Voracek mentioned how he didn’t like the way the top line played defensively in the game against San Jose. Early on, the unit struggled again to get back with its coverages against the Anze Kopitar line.

• However, the trio of Voracek, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux produced some prime scoring chances in the second period. Voracek had all sorts of time but was completely undecided on what to do in one instance. 

Later in the second, Giroux came out of the box and made a nice move to cut to the middle of the ice. Quick made the initial stop and Giroux had a second opportunity to put back his own rebound. 

In the same period, Couturier glided across the front of the crease but couldn’t get off a quality shot. Three prime opportunities, but the Flyers were just unable to convert.

• Part of the reason the Flyers didn’t generate some early speed like we saw in San Jose was that the Kings made life rough in the neutral zone. In fact, the Kings capitalized on one of those neutral-zone turnovers when Scott Laughton coughed it up. 

The Flyers’ defense fell out of position with Radko Gudas on the left side and Travis Sanheim on the right. Trevor Lewis slipped around Sanheim, who probably didn’t know he was there, for the easy one-timer off a pass from Nick Shore.

• Making his NHL debut (see story), Sanheim played 4:48 in the first period, all at even strength. 

“I felt good out there,” Sanheim said. “It was nice to get through those first couple of shifts. Obviously, there were some nerves at the start of the game, but I felt good.”

However, Sanheim was careless during the second period in getting his stick too high as he clipped Lewis in the face and drew blood, which resulted in a four-minute double minor. The Flyers’ PK killed off the full four minutes.

• The Flyers' best stretch of hockey came in the third period as they outshot L.A., 11-1, in the first nine minutes of the final stanza, but they simply couldn’t capitalize with a game-tying goal. Then, with 2:21 left, Tyler Toffoli scored off an assist from Jeff Carter to extend the Kings' lead.

• With 1:19 remaining in the first period, Neuvirth came up with the save of the night as he robbed Kings captain Kopitar with a fully-extended glove save. Neuvirth’s stop saved his defense after a turnover that led to L.A.'s quality scoring chance.

Based on his starts in the preseason and Thursday night, Neuvirth is showing early signs of the goaltender who came to Philadelphia in 2015-16.

• A night after the Flyers’ power play exploded by converting 3 of 5 opportunities, the team came up empty against the Kings with an 0-for-5 performance.

• Going back to the end of last season, the Flyers have started two rookies on defense in three of their last four games with three different combinations (Ivan Provorov-Sam Morin, Provorov-Robert Hagg, Sanheim-Hagg).

• The biggest franchise-altering trade between the Flyers and Kings took place on June 23, 2011, when Mike Richards was sent to L.A. for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a second-round pick that was used to acquire Nicklas Grossmann. With the trade of Schenn this past offseason to St. Louis for two first-round selections and a potential third, we may not know the overall value of that trade for another five to 10 years.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny    
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl                

Defensemen 
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth                                
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Jori Lehtera, Brandon Manning, Sam Morin.

Sean Couturier finishes 2nd to Anze Kopitar for Selke Trophy

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USA Today Images

Sean Couturier finishes 2nd to Anze Kopitar for Selke Trophy

Flyers center Sean Couturier finished second to Kings center Anze Kopitar for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward presented Wednesday night in Las Vegas. 

Couturier was looking to become the third Flyer to win the award after Dave Poulin in 1987 and Bobby Clarke in 1983.  

The Flyers' top center was edged out by Kopitar, who also won the award in 2016. Four-time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron was third after missing a significant time with a broken foot.

Kopitar finished with 1,152 points with 70 first-place votes to Couturier’s 976 and 37 first-place votes.

Couturier elevated his game in 2017-18, proving to be one of the best all-around centers in the league, scoring 31 goals with 76 points while also finishing third in the NHL with a plus-34 rating.

Kopitar and Couturier also finished 1-2 in minutes played among forwards.

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Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

Ron Hextall is determined to find that needle in the haystack.

While the Flyers' general manager has had very good success with his first-round picks throughout his four-year tenure, uncovering that diamond in the rough can be a crapshoot. A hockey organization can languish for many years if they come up with a first-round bust, but it’s the mid-to-late round picks that can elevate a franchise into championship stratosphere. 

Take 2014 in Philadelphia — Hextall’s first draft as Flyers GM. So far, the majority of prospects still haven’t come close to reaching their potential, but the few teams that were able to hit a home run (Tampa Bay, Brayden Point, 79th overall; Nashville, Viktor Arvidsson, 112th overall; Anaheim, Ondrej Kase, 205th overall) have benefitted greatly for their early-career success.

“We always look for one really good NHL quality,” Hextall said. “When you’re talking about third or fourth round, first of all, don’t minimize it. I’m saying like us, for our staff. We need to still try and pick a hockey player, it’s important. Pulling guys out of late rounds is important. When you look at the cycle of a hockey team and depth and everything that we need, it’s important.”

While the attention has centered around the Flyers' two first-round selections, Hextall considers the team’s two fifth-round selections and two more in the seventh round to be equally vital to the Flyers' success.

“We have two seventh-round picks, they’re friggin important,” Hextall said. “We need to do our best to try to get the best guy and try and hit on a guy. Whether we will or not, I don’t know what the odds say, I think it’s 2.3 percent, whatever it is. They’re low odds, we know that, but we’re going to try to do the best we can to try and hit on those guys because eventually, you’re going to hit on some of those guys.”

To further Hextall’s point, 29 of the 30 first-round picks in 2014 have NHL experience. Of the next 180 players to go off the board in Rounds 2-7, you’ll find roughly that same number who have played more than just one NHL game. Oskar Lindblom (138th overall) could eventually pan out to be the late-round gem Hextall has tried to uncover.

Who might Hextall draft

After sorting out his first four drafts, where might Hextall search to find that next promising prospect?

The Flyers GM has selected at least one player from the USHL in each of his first four drafts with Phantoms defenseman Mark Friedman as the highest drafted USHL prospect, 86th overall in 2014.

Jack Drury, C, Waterloo, USHL
A slightly undersized center listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Drury is the nephew of former NHLer Chris Drury and has acquired some of the same attributes. Drury has been complemented with a tremendous work ethic and plays the game much like his uncle with a grit and determination of contributing in the clutch. Set a new USHL record with a 23-game point streak and has committed to play at Harvard University next season.    

Under Hextall, the Flyers have also tapped into Sweden’s top junior league over the past four seasons drafting Lindblom, goaltender Felix Sandstrom and defenseman Linus Hogberg to name a few, and 2018 appears to be a good depth draft for the young Swedes especially among defense.

Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea, Sweden Jrs.
While I really admire the size and reliability of Filip Johansson, there may be some value with Lundkvist who’s not quite as highly rated as Johnasson. Lundkvist is more of a defensive defenseman who plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. Both defensemen are right handed and if the Flyers can’t land a righty blueliner in the first round, they may have to wait until Round 2 or trade back into the third round after surrendering that pick to Detroit as part of the Petr Mrazek trade.

There’s a general overall belief Hextall prefers to select a center capable of converting into a winger, and while he’s admitted that many centers have that versatility, it hasn’t defined Hextall who has drafted just as many pure wingers as centers, including five in last year’s entry draft.

Niklas Nordgren, RW, Finnish Jrs.
Nordgren is small (5-9), tremendously skilled and is willing to get his nose dirty. He was one of the most impressionable players at the U-18 world juniors with a tournament-leading eight goals for Team Finland. Preferably you would like a player of Nordgren’s size to be a lightning-quick skater, but it has improved.

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