Flyers

Flyers-Oilers observations: A win streak!

Flyers-Oilers observations: A win streak!

BOX SCORE

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Flyers have followed up their 10-game skid with their first winning streak in a month and half after defeating the Edmonton Oilers, 4-2, at Rogers Place on Wednesday night.

Jordan Weal, Dale Weise and Michael Raffl all scored for the Flyers, and Wayne Simmonds added an empty-net goal. Weal scored his first goal in 13 games. For Weise, it was his first goal since Nov. 4. 

Raffl has been red hot with goals in four of his last seven games.

Brian Elliott stopped 24 of the Oilers’ 26 shots.

The Flyers completed the season sweep of the Oilers after beating them, 2-1, at the Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 21. They can sweep the Western Canada portion of this road trip with a win in Vancouver Thursday night. 

• Claude Giroux drew the first penalty when defenseman Matt Benning pretty much bear-hugged the Flyers’ captain. The Flyers’ first PP unit got a good down-low look early on, but not much more after that. The second PP unit moved the puck a little better, but couldn’t generate a shot on net as Travis Konecny’s attempt went just wide.

• Through the opening 10 minutes, there wasn’t much open ice for Connor McDavid and the Oilers’ top line. McDavid had a sliver of daylight entering the Flyers’ zone, but was swallowed up quickly by four Flyers defenders.

• The Flyers’ best chance early on came when Darnell Nurse attempted to clear the zone, but Shayne Gostisbehere jumped on the puck and kept it in before it crossed the line. That set up Jakub Voracek with a shot that Laurent Brossoit was just able to extend his right pad on and make the save.

• The Flyers earned a second power-play opportunity in the first period. The best look came when Weal worked down low on the goal line and fired a saucer pass to Nolan Patrick for a one-time attempt from the left circle.

• Sean Couturier showed why he’s a grade-A defender, essentially taking out McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi with his strip of the puck behind the net. From that moment, the Flyers gained and maintained possession for a duration of 1:40, which resulted in a Voracek slap shot.

• Overall, it was a dreadful first period of action. I can’t remember so many stoppages of play (25 faceoffs) and a period that had very little flow.

• Patrick Maroon went after Taylor Leier with a cheap hit. Maroon received two minutes for interference and the Flyers got their third power play in the first 22 minutes of the game. 

• Not only did the PP look wretched in its two minutes, but Couturier had the puck stripped by McDavid. The result was nothing but open ice and a perfect 2-on-1 shorthanded opportunity that ended in a shorthanded goal for Leon Draisaitl. I know McDavid’s a great player, but Couturier has to do a better job of protecting the puck in that situation.

• The Flyers finally got a PP goal on their fourth attempt. Interestingly, Weal was in the spot occupied by Simmonds with the first power-play unit. The Flyers finally had some quick puck movement as Giroux made a slap pass to Couturier on the left wing (see highlights).

• Didn’t you love the perfectly executed hip check Ivan Provorov laid on McDavid? Textbook check!

• Credit Giroux with the Flyers’ second goal. Giroux won a foot race to the puck and left it for Weise. He fired a harmless shot through the legs of Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba that also went through Brossoit five-hole from between the circles in the high slot. A bad goal from a bad goalie.

• It appeared that Giroux lost coverage momentarily during the opening faceoff of the third period as Mark Letestu nearly scored on a shot that deflected off the post.

• Good passing set up the Flyers’ first three goals. For example, Voracek outraced his man to a puck along the boards and saw a streaking Raffl catch the Oilers’ defense flat-footed for a breakaway goal.

• The Flyers lost coverage on the Oilers’ second goal. Travis Sanheim followed his man behind the net and left Mark Alt as the only defender in front of the net. The Flyers just didn’t have the bodies down low as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was able to put in the rebound goal in a wide-open net. 

• Not a smart move on Scott Laughton’s part as he committed a holding penalty on the other end of his own net with three minutes to play and the Flyers nursing a 3-2 lead. Just an unnecessary penalty at that stage of the game.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy), and defensemen TJ Brennan (healthy) and Radko Gudas (suspended).

Chuck Fletcher: Flyers are 'bullish on Philippe Myers' upside'

Chuck Fletcher: Flyers are 'bullish on Philippe Myers' upside'

Back when Philippe Myers was called up to the Flyers in February, it was evident general manager Chuck Fletcher liked the 22-year-old prospect.

The Flyers were rolling through an NHL-best 10-game stretch at the time and pushing for the playoffs. Still, Fletcher had no qualms with trusting a kid who had no NHL experience to possibly jump into a postseason race.

"The fact that he's getting the call is a recognition of what he's accomplished and that he's knocking on the door," Fletcher said Feb. 9.

Where are the Flyers now on Myers?

Pretty high.

"We're bullish on Philippe Myers' upside," Fletcher said Saturday in a conference call.

Some of Fletcher's maneuvering with the Flyers' defense over the past two days has revolved around Myers and his ability to jump on a full-time role in 2019-20. The Flyers on Friday traded 29-year-old Radko Gudas in exchange for defenseman Matt Niskanen (see story). On Saturday, they parted ways with Andrew MacDonald, placing the 32-year-old on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract (see story).

While Fletcher's work is far from done, the Flyers' defense is already rounding into shape, with visions of Myers taking a big step forward. The overwhelming point of trading Gudas was to acquire Niskanen, who can benefit the Flyers' defense in a variety of ways (see story). But the move also came to fruition with Myers in mind.

"Radko has been a very effective third-pairing defenseman for us," Fletcher said. "He's been a great member of our organization, he's competed hard and certainly we appreciate everything he did for our organization. 

"Going forward, we feel we have an in-house player in Philippe Myers that can come in and take on some of that role. He's only played [21] games in the NHL, so there could be an adjustment period, but having the ability to maybe slot Philippe into that third slot on the right side, we feel is a real proper place for him to potentially start his NHL career."

Myers, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound righty shot, was rated a top-50 prospect by the NHL Network last season. He's come a long way from going undrafted in 2015. He's quick for his size, a fluid skater and brings offensive qualities, as well.

He showed plenty of glimpses in his 2018-19 showcase.

Here's an early look at the Flyers' potential 2019-20 defensive pairings:

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen

Shayne Gostisbehere-Travis Sanheim

Robert Hagg-Philippe Myers

"Certainly if we can find a guy that can play in our top four that we have the ability to acquire, we'll certainly look at it," Fletcher said. "I will say that we have some really top-end young defensemen here that have the potential to grow into that role. If you look at Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim … Shayne Gostisbehere is a young man that's been very effective in his young career so far, and by bringing in Matt Niskanen, we feel that we have some quality defensemen.

"You're always looking to upgrade if you can, but it will certainly depend on whether we can acquire that player and whether even that player is available.

"In saying our defense corps is young, I do believe it's the strength of our team going forward."

Myers can make it younger and stronger. In just two days, the Flyers cleared him a path, as if to say: Here's a spot, go take it.

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Chuck Fletcher, Matt Niskanen see a Flyers team ready to pop

Chuck Fletcher, Matt Niskanen see a Flyers team ready to pop

At first, Matt Niskanen was "a little surprised" and caught "a little off guard."

He had just been traded by the Capitals, a team with which he won the 2018 Stanley Cup and experienced fond memories, and was now headed to a division rival.

But after Niskanen spoke with Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, his emotions slowly started to shift. Fletcher wanted Niskanen to believe in the Flyers' situation and how the accomplished defenseman could be integral to it taking off.

"He said he likes their team, he felt that they're ready to pop," Niskanen said Friday in a conference call after being dealt to the Flyers (see story). "He kind of feels the same way that I do about the group there — young talent, they're close, just need to add some more pieces along the way. 

"It sounds like he's trying to put together a real good team and we'll see where that takes us. But I'm excited to be there. Trying to be a real solid piece for what they have there already. They have a lot of talent, these guys can play and put up some goals, and maybe get our goals against down — so maybe that's where I come in, to help out with that. I'm excited for that challenge."

From the start, the Flyers fell well short of expectations in 2018-19, which put Fletcher in the team's GM chair. The 82 points were the Flyers' fewest in a full season since 2006-07 and the club hasn't made the playoffs in consecutive years since 2010-12, when it last won a series.

In this league, things can change quickly, though. 

"We're all close," Fletcher said on April 18.

The Flyers went 0-4-0 against the Capitals in 2018-19 and were outscored 18-9, but Niskanen remembered looking at one of his teammates during the regular-season series and saying, "Man, they should be doing better than they are."

Fletcher sees Niskanen as the type of player to change that narrative.

"This is a guy that has played over 1,000 games in the NHL when you factor in his playoff experience," Fletcher said Saturday on a conference call. "He's a guy that commands respect with how he plays and how he prepares, he shows up every day.

"I'll give Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor (former general manager and assistant general manager) a lot of credit here — we have some top-end young talent on that back end, and I think the goal right now is to try to surround them with the right people and add some talent back there, as well."

Niskanen didn't need a whole lot of convincing by Fletcher. The GM's message only helped build the excitement for the former Capital and Penguin who has played 38 career games against the Flyers.

"Over the last few years they've gotten younger. I like their team," Niskanen said. "They have dangerous people, they've added young players with a lot of promise, hard to play against.

"They have good people, dangerous players, talented forwards, a young group of D that can really play — they're just young, I think. They're on the upswing. It was hard to play against the Flyers. Good organization, they play the game hard, they play to win. A lot of promise there. I'm excited about that."

With the Capitals' first-round exit in the 2019 playoffs following their Cup run the previous season, Niskanen said he has been training for over a month now and feels much better physically. He knows about the Flyers' defense. He referred to the group as "young studs" multiple times (see story).

So, yeah, as tough as the trade is, Niskanen believes in Philly.

"I've been fortunate to be on real good teams," he said. "I've been around and I know what good hockey looks like, I know what a good culture looks like. I'm not going to be a rah-rah guy, but I think with my résumé, my words hold a little bit of weight, especially with young players. 

"They have a good team and I'm not going to come in and ruffle any feathers, but I think my word will hold some weight. I'll come in and try to have real good practice habits and have a good attitude, bring a good work ethic, and hopefully I'll be another piece to what they already have there."

And potentially make the Flyers pop.

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