Flyers

Flyers-Penguins 2019 Stadium Series: Sights and sounds behind the buildup

Flyers-Penguins 2019 Stadium Series: Sights and sounds behind the buildup

A beautiful blue sky and beaming sun peered over Lincoln Financial Field ... and a makeshift rink.

Yes, outdoor hockey is nearing in Philadelphia.

In just about a week, the Linc will be lit up and the show will be on for Flyers-Penguins. Next Saturday, the two rivals meet in the 2019 Stadium Series game (8 p.m./NBC).

Many got a taste of the elements Friday afternoon when Flyers players James van Riemsdyk, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim, Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata and Wings transition player Trevor Baptiste took part in a media session.

Here are some of the sights and sounds from the day:

Different setting, same objective

The outdoor game is always a spectacle, an event much larger than your average game. For the Flyers, though, the game itself holds great importance. When next weekend rolls around, the Flyers will have 21 games remaining in their playoff push.

They enter this Saturday's action eight points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot, currently occupied by the Penguins.

"These are the sorts of games that can be a big swing," van Riemsdyk said.

The Flyers on Monday night lost to Pittsburgh, 4-1, at the Wells Fargo Center in a game with some extracurricular activity … to nobody's surprise.

"We actually joked about it after the last game there, I'm like, 'I don't know what's going to go on on the ice because it's going to be a battle out there,'" Konecny said. "It's a big event for everyone to enjoy, but it might come down to one of the biggest games for us this year."

Juicing up the rivalry

Whenever the Penguins come to town, it's anticipated.

Now the rivalry heads outside with postseason implications.

Oh, and why not add some extra spice?

Evgeni Malkin did that when he dangerously whipped his stick at Michael Raffl on Monday and then took another swing at the Flyers on Thursday (see story).

The fans will welcome Malkin appropriately.

Konecny and Sanheim aren't getting wrapped up in the drama.

Nah, I really don't pay attention to that media stuff. I just kind of mind my own business.

We know it's going to be a great game, we know everybody is going to be on edge. Going back from when [Claude Giroux] started playing here, they've had that rival from the playoffs, him and [Sidney] Crosby coming up — it's just a big rivalry that's grown and fun to play in.

— Konecny

Not really, I've heard a little bit but not that I'm looking for it. It was obviously a dangerous play and the NHL took their take on it and disciplined him. That's all I can say about it.

— Sanheim

'The fly swatter'

Mailata, a former professional rugby player from Australia, provided the quote of the day. During a photo opportunity, the 6-foot-8, 346-pounder called the lacrosse stick a "fly swatter," to the enjoyment of Baptiste and the Flyers.

Baptiste won the 2015 NCAA national championship at Lincoln Financial Field with the University of Denver.

He, Mailata and the Flyers were great sports Friday.

"It's crazy to think he's only 21 years old," Sanheim said of Mailata. "Same age as T.K."

Go play outside

The Flyers typically play in front of around 19,000 fans for home games.

The Linc can hold 69,000-plus.

"It's going to be a new challenge," Sanheim said. "When you move to the NHL, you get that excitement of playing in front of 20,000, let alone 70,000. It's definitely going to be exciting."

Konecny was a rookie when the Flyers played the Penguins at Heinz Field in 2017. He missed the game because of an injury.

"I had to watch it from TV, I didn't even get to go down to Pittsburgh, so I didn't even get the feeling of what it's all about," he said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

Especially considering his previous outdoor experience ... it's been a while.

"I was 10 on my pond out back behind my house," Konecny said.

"Playing outside is something everyone does as a kid. Especially being a Canadian, growing up, this is what we do — the cold weather brings us all together."

The temperature Friday was pleasantly in the 60s, making for a perfect day to see and feel the buildup of the Stadium Series:





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Will Brian Elliott surprise in Flyers' goalie tandem with Carter Hart?

Will Brian Elliott surprise in Flyers' goalie tandem with Carter Hart?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Will Brian Elliott surprise us in the Flyers' 2019-20 goalie tandem?

Emmer

Without a doubt Elliott has earned his spot on the ice and I believe he can bring many surprises to the goalie tandem this year. 

Despite coming into 2019-20 with 14 seasons of NHL experience under his belt, "Moose" still had a lot to prove in Philadelphia. After two injury-filled years with the Flyers, it was time the 34-year-old made a strong and healthy comeback.

Through his first three appearances of the season, he has shown he's still got it.

The team needed strong goaltending — Flyers fans knew that. Now, the Flyers have a strong tandem with Carter Hart and Elliott between the pipes. With so many high hopes running on Hart, it’s a relief to know there’s another strong competitor to trust.

Elliott has been surprising already with what he’s brought in the early going. In his first two starts of the season in Calgary and Philadelphia, the veteran backstop was solid from start to finish. Monday night, specifically, was one of his best, as he helped shut down countless scoring opportunities from the Vegas Golden Knights and was greatly admired later for it by Alain Vigneault and teammates.

It’s still early, but the confidence he’s shown in net, as well as his .925 save percentage through three appearances, is a good start for the veteran goaltender. 

Time will tell what other surprises Elliott can bring to the tandem but one thing is for certain: the Flyers have two strong goaltenders right now and that is a sight for sore eyes. 

Hall

We shouldn’t be too surprised by what has transpired in net.

Hart was strong through three games and then had a few subpar performances. That’s OK. He’s 21 years old and is going to have games in which he’s not sharp, which will result in the Flyers turning to Elliott at times.

Elliott hasn’t been surprising because he’s a more than capable goaltender when healthy — and has shown that even through injury-plagued seasons with the Flyers.

In 2017-18, he went 15-5-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .912 save percentage from Dec. 4 to Feb. 10 before needing core muscle surgery.

In 2018-19, he went 5-5-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .928 save percentage from Oct. 13 to Nov. 15 before suffering a lower-body injury.

For the 34-year-old to truly surprise in the goalie tandem and take away games from Hart, we’ll have to see Elliott keep it up (and stay healthy) as the grind gets tougher. He looks good so far, though, and that’s a major positive.

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Flyers weren't kidding themselves about the process

Flyers weren't kidding themselves about the process

Maybe Alain Vigneault wanted to make a point.

That it’s not all about goals.

Philly is a results city and, ultimately, the NHL is a results business. But Vigneault firmly believes in the process behind the results. He will see past the goal tallies bolded in the box score — if the process is being grown and done right.

The Flyers’ head coach constantly refers to the process. It’s what matters most when he attempts to build a contender, especially in Year 1 with a new team.

The process, one would think, looked pretty good Monday night … right? 

Especially during a four-goal second period in which the Flyers blew open an eventual 6-2 win over the Golden Knights (see observations). After all, the Flyers had scored only four goals over their past two games, both lopsided losses.

But Vigneault had other thoughts. He wasn’t about to forget the meaning of the process. He could have easily said the goals came because the Flyers stuck to it.

He didn’t go there.

“We had some puck luck in the second, found a way to score four and got outstanding goaltending,” Vigneault said. “In my mind, that could have been our least effective period in the last eight. But we found a way to win that period, 4-0. Sometimes it works out that way.”

Found a way to score four goals? A least-effective period of four goals?

The Flyers were outshot by Vegas in the middle stanza, 18-13. Brian Elliott came up with monstrous saves as the Flyers permitted some Grade A chances to a dangerous Western Conference team. After the past two losses, the Flyers had mentioned that they expected to be on the positive end of fortunate wins, too — as in that’s hockey, teams can get outplayed and still come away with victories.

The Flyers scored only one goal in the first period Monday but outshot the Golden Knights, 15-7, and really got after them in the offensive zone. The Flyers would take that opening frame over their second period just about every time.

“We thought we played better in the games that we lost,” Michael Raffl said. “We got away from it in the second period a little bit. We’ve got to keep doing what we do and it’s going to work. At the end of the day, when you work like that and keep outshooting opponents, you’ll be on the better end of the game at the end most of the time.”

The Flyers had to practically defend themselves following back-to-back losses by a combined score of 10-4. The Flyers outshot the opposition, 91-38, but uneven defeats don’t sit well with fans, especially ones that have become accustomed to mediocre Octobers.

“Last two games, I know we didn't have the result we wanted, we lost both games, but if you really look into the game, if you understand the game, you understand that we played great games,” Claude Giroux said after morning skate Monday.

The Flyers were OK admitting that they didn’t play their best game against Vegas.

Especially Vigneault.

He’ll be honest about the process — good or bad, no matter what the final score.

“In the second period, we scored four but I really believe that in our last eight periods, it could have been our least effective as far as going north-south a little bit quick, our puck management, making the right plays at the right time,” Vigneault said. “But when we didn’t do it the right way, we got big saves and when they made a mistake in that second period, we were able to make them pay, which we hadn’t been able to do for quite some time.”

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