Flyers make their opportunities count vs. best in West

Flyers make their opportunities count vs. best in West


Scoring chances were few and far between for the Flyers Sunday night in Las Vegas. 

That wasn’t a huge surprise against the Golden Knights, who came into the game with 76 points, best in the Western Conference. But when the Flyers created opportunities, they made them count in a 4-1 win over the Golden Knights.

Overall, the Flyers were outshot, 39-18. The most shots they had in a single period was seven, which they did in each of the first two periods. Michal Neuvirth started in goal, replacing Brian Elliott, who suffered a lower-body injury in the Flyers’ 4-3 shootout win over the Coyotes Saturday. He kept the Flyers in the contest, saving 38 shots.

It seemed like Sean Couturier, who registered three points, was at the center of everything the Flyers did offensively.

With their fourth-straight win, the Flyers now have 65 points through 56 games. 
• Brayden McNabb scored the game’s first goal 11:22 into the first period, ending an extended period of possession for the Golden Knights with a pinpoint shot that beat Neuvirth high to his glove side.

• Shortly after, former Flyer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who the Golden Knights selected in the expansion draft, had a prime scoring chance. Bellarme had a 1-on-0 with Alex Tuch trailing shortly behind. Bellemare carried the puck right to the front of the net but, instead of shooting, wasted the scoring chance by passing it wide to the right out of Tuch’s reach.

• The Flyers tied it up at one with 2:10 left in the first. Claude Giroux found Travis Konecny on the right side, and the 20-year-old centered a beautiful pass in front to Sean Couturier, who beat Marc-Andre Fleury. It was Couturier's 28th goal of the season. 

“We had good cycling down low and we were able to keep the puck moving around and creating some space,” Couturier said after the first period. “We were aggressive at the blue line and G made a nice play to keep it from going out and caught them with a good turnover. I went to the net hard and TK found me and it was a tap-in.”

After a pointless outing against the Coyotes, Konecny’s pass was key in sparking the Flyers, who were outshot 12-7 in the first period.
• The Golden Knights almost regained the lead near the end of the first, as Neuvirth struggled with rebound control. However, he did well to stop a series of close-range shots.

• Vegas spent much of the action early in the second period in the offensive zone, as the Flyers had just one shot in the first 9 minutes of the period before Michael Raffl broke free for a transition opportunity. He went near post with a backhand, which Fleury easily handled. 

• The Flyers were on their back foot most of the game; outside of the occasional breakaway, they didn’t seem to pose much of an offensive threat. The power play, which had scored twice in each of the last two games, had no opportunities the entire night. 

• Andrew McDonald gave the Flyers an unlikely lead with 2:52 remaining in the second, scoring his third goal of the season thanks to some good fortune. Konecny connected again with Couturier in front of the net. Couturier appeared to skew his shot wide of the net, but the puck deflected off MacDonald’s skate into the goal, wrong-footing Fleury. 

• Only right that after mustering up just four shots on goal in the first 17-plus minutes of the second period, the Flyers struck twice in under a three-minute span. Couturier recorded his third point of the game here and he really earned it. The Flyers’ center carried the puck from the blue line all the way to the right side of the net before dropping it off to Giroux right in front to finish off for the score. Giroux’s 18th goal of the season gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

• The third period was a lot like the start of the second, with the Flyers spending most of the time in their own zone trying to protect the two-goal lead. With under three minutes remaining, the Golden Knights were outshooting the Flyers 11-2 in the period. 

• Radko Gudas’ first goal of the season sealed the win with 2:26 remaining. With Fleury pulled, Gudas gained possession in the defensive zone and flipped the puck into the empty net.

• This was a big improvement on Neuvirth’s last start, when he allowed 5 goals on 20 shots against Washington on Jan. 31 before being pulled for Alex Lyon in the middle of the third period. He anticipated well and maintained his concentration during stretches where he was being bombarded with shots.

Still, Neuvirth is not known for his consistency. If Elliott’s absence is extended, it will be interesting to see how long a leash Hakstol gives Neuvirth if he has an off night. That obviously won’t be an issue if Neuvirth continues to play as well as he did Sunday.

• After a quick weekend road trip, the Flyers return home to face the Devils on Tuesday. The Flyers have taken two of their three meetings against New Jersey this season.

2018 NHL draft position preview — Right wingers

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2018 NHL draft position preview — Right wingers

We’ve looked at the top draft-eligible centers and left wingers. Up next, right wingers. On Sunday, we’ll look at the top defensemen before moving into the best fits for the Flyers.

Andrei Svechnikov, 6-2/188, Barrie (OHL)
Svechnikov is head and shoulders atop the forward prospects in this year’s draft class. He began the year as the No. 1 North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and ended there as well. Finished with 40 goals and 72 points in 44 games this season with Barrie, tops among rookie OHLers. His 1.64 points per game average was best among rookies and fifth in all of the OHL. His brother, Evgeny Svechnikov, was the 19th overall pick by the Red Wings in 2015.

Draft projection: No. 2 overall

Oliver Wahlstrom, 6-1/205, USNTDP
Wahlstrom finished as the seventh-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. The American can play both center and right wing but projects to at least begin his career on the wing. He plays a power forward game with impressive puck skills. He registered 40 goals and 83 points in 54 games for the USA U-18 team in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, and 22 goals and 45 points in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL. The 17-year-old is committed to play college hockey at Harvard University in the fall.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 4-9

Vitali Kravtsov, 6-2/170, Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Kravtsov, who models his game after Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov, finished as the third-best European skater by Central Scouting, a seven-spot climb from the midterm rankings. Had a strong postseason for Chelyabinsk, recording six goals and 11 points in 16 games and was named the best rookie for each of the first three rounds. He’s a shifty forward with high-end speed.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Serron Noel, 6-5/205, Oshawa (OHL)
The Generals winger took an enormous leap in his second OHL campaign, going from 21 points in 63 games in 2016-17 to 53 points in 62 games in 2017-18. Noel finished as the 10th-rated North American skater by Central Skating, a one-spot drop from the midterm rankings. He has a lot of raw talent and has natural size and strength. He’s improved his skating, which has helped his case throughout his draft year. Has drawn comparisons to Jets captain Blake Wheeler. A high-upside prospect with top-line potential.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Martin Kaut, 6-2/170, Pardubice (Czech)
Kaut’s 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships performance helped put the winger on the radar. The Czech winger jumped from the 11th-rated European skater by Central Scouting in the midterm rankings to the fourth-best in the final rankings. Had seven points in seven games playing for the Czech Republic at the world juniors. Had nine goals and 16 points in 38 games for Pardubice in 2017-18. An effective two-way player with good playmaking ability.

Draft projection: Late first, early second round

A Flyers fan's guide for watching Phantoms' home playoff games

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A Flyers fan's guide for watching Phantoms' home playoff games

Flyers fans still have some hockey to watch.

Some of the organization's brightest prospects will be competing in Allentown, Pennsylvania, from Wednesday into the weekend as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms continue their AHL playoff run in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Phantoms trail the Toronto Marlies, 2-0, with the series now shifting to the PPL Center for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary).

What should Flyers fans know?

Let's get into it:

1. When to watch
Game 3 is tonight at 7:05 p.m. Game 4 follows Friday at 7:05 p.m. with Game 5 (if needed) Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

2. Where to watch
All three games will be broadcast on NBC Sports Philadelphia+. For which channel in your area, click here.

3. Who to watch
• Defenseman Travis Sanheim returned from a four-game absence (knee injury) to play in the first two games of this series. The 2014 first-round pick had 16 points in 18 regular-season games with Lehigh Valley. When he rejoined the Flyers on March 10, he was a plus-4 over 14 games to help the big club clinch a playoff berth. "When Sanny got back up, I thought Sanny was unbelievable," Wayne Simmonds said last month.

• Winger Oskar Lindblom went scoreless in Games 1 and 2 but has seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine playoff games. He played 23 games with the Flyers this season and impressed alongside Nolan Patrick. The 21-year-old is a building block and the goal will be to make the Flyers out of training camp in the fall.

• Everybody knows Alex Lyon now after his Herculean effort during the semifinals in which he made 94 saves for a five-overtime victory. He's been superb through the postseason, recording a 1.84 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in nine games. It's been a timely stretch for him ahead of an important offseason

• Defenseman Philippe Myers is another exciting piece to the Flyers' future on the blue line. The 21-year-old is 6-foot-5 and developing but fought through injuries in 2017-18. He's making up for some of those tough times with seven points (three goals, four assists) in 11 postseason games.

• Don't forget about Mike Vecchione, a hard-working forward who will be in the picture next season. The 25-year-old put up 40 points in his first year pro and has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 11 playoff games.

4. However …
You won't see touted prospects Morgan Frost and Carter Hart.

With their junior campaigns coming to an end recently, both have joined the Phantoms but are not expected to play; they're simply there for the exposure.

5. This and that
• Lehigh Valley won an AHL-most 27 games at home during the regular season, losing just six times in regulation.

• Toronto is 2-2-0 on the road in the postseason compared to 7-0-0 at home.

• Chris Conner, 34, leads the Phantoms in the playoffs with five goals and nine points.

• Lehigh Valley has allowed a league-high 43 power-play opportunities during the postseason, while Toronto has gone on a league-high 55 man advantages.

• Defenseman Samuel Morin is out for the rest of the playoffs with a knee injury that is requiring surgery, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi.