Flyers

Flyers show up too late in OT loss, allow Coyotes to notch 1st win

Flyers show up too late in OT loss, allow Coyotes to notch 1st win

BOX SCORE

On a night when hockey fans were decked out in the Halloween spirit, the Flyers reverted yet again to their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine.

A disastrous start coupled with a furious finish and capped with an overtime turnover allowed the Arizona Coyotes to earn their first win of the season, beating the Flyers on Monday, 4-3, following the worst start (0-10-1) in NHL history (see observations). Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski sealed Arizona’s first win for new head coach Rick Tocchet. 

“They’re definitely a better team than what people give them credit for,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We didn’t play a good game at all. It wasn’t a good first period. It wasn’t an ideal game for us.”

Rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim fumbled a puck at Arizona’s blue line, which allowed the Coyotes to break down the ice and convert a 3-on-2 at the other end, as Goligoski’s one-timer easily beat Flyers netminder Brain Elliott with 15 seconds remaining in OT (see highlights).

“Three-on-three is tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We made a decision instead of taking the puck to the net, we had a little bit of a bad roll, a bad hop with the puck, and they take it over, come back hard and make the play for the goal.”

For the third time in their last nine games, the Flyers also spotted their opponent a 3-0 lead before mounting a serious comeback. However, considering their winless opponent and a failure to bring energy on home ice, this early deficit was nearly inexcusable.

“As a group, we were too far below the bar,” Hakstol said. “I think we had eight shot attempts in the first period. In our own end, we weren’t quick and hard defending through the entire period. I’m not taking anything away from our opponent, they played hard. We didn’t start the hockey game where we wanted to be and where we needed to be.”

The Flyers also failed to capitalize on Arizona goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who was making his first start since March 2016. Almost inexplicably, the Flyers didn’t have a single shot on net from their forwards until Claude Giroux was able to fire off a quick wrister 3:39 into the second period. Since the Flyers generated little pressure until the final 20 minutes, they were also unable to fully take advantage of the NHL’s worst penalty kill, scoring a goal on their only power-play opportunity of the game in the third.

“I’m not too sure,” Giroux said, trying to put a finger on the team’s early mistakes. “It’s really frustrating right now. The game goes pretty quick. That’s why it’s good after games to go look at the game film and see your shifts and see what you did wrong, and correct that.”

“Yeah, we were very fortunate [to earn a point]," Sean Couturier, who scored a pair of goals in the loss, said. “We didn’t play very good at all in the first two periods. We battled back but it was too big a hole to complete the comeback. It’s a huge point, I guess.

“Once we were down a goal or two goals, the crowd got into it and it kind of got frustrating for everyone. It was tough to get back into it, but in the third we battled.” 

With the recent injury to Shayne Gostisbehere and with Samuel Morin not ready for action, as well, the Flyers had to turn to Mark Alt, who was given notice at 11 a.m. Monday that he would be in the Flyers' lineup for his second career NHL game (see story). Alt finished the night with 16:54 of ice time and a minus-1 rating after he and fellow rookie Sanheim failed to communicate on the Coyotes' first goal.

“There was a change and we kind of got stuck on the same guy,” Alt said. “Yeah, it’s tough, because you never know how the game is going to start out. You just have to pick up and roll with it. There’s going to be an adjustment, for sure. At the same time, you want to come in and be ready to go and try and eliminate as many of those hiccups as you can.” 

Notes and tidbits
• Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov registered three assists for his second-career three-point game. He now has five points (one goal, four assists) over his last three games. The Flyers' No. 1 defenseman continues to log some monster minutes, setting a new career high with 28:06 of ice time.

• Couturier extended his point streak to four games (five goals, three assists). The Phoenix, Arizona-born Couturier scored twice, including his first power-play goal since April 2, 2016, a span of 82 games. With a team-leading nine goals, Couturier is on pace to shatter his single-season career high of 15 goals scored in 2014-15.

• According to the NHL’s stats department, Monday’s game marked just the second time in franchise history in which the Flyers scored two goals in the final minute of regulation to tie the game. The other instance came on Feb. 3, 1980, when Reggie Leach and Rick MacLeish scored 33 seconds apart in a game that ended in a 3-3 tie.

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Ron Hextall knows how these things can work out.

He remembers plucking Oskar Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL draft. Not much was made of the pick, barely even a peep, because, well, the 138th overall selections don't typically draw heaps of praise.

Lindblom quietly slipped back to Sweden. Three summers later, Flyers fans couldn't stop talking about him.

"Oskar went away, no one knew who the hell he was, fifth-round pick, over there getting better and better and better and bang," Hextall said last July. "He's the SHL Forward of the Year."

One has to believe Lindblom's name popped in the general manager's head when the Flyers saw Marcus Westfalt still available and the clock ticking on their 2018 seventh-round pick. At 205th overall, Westfalt became the Flyers' final selection, making for eerie similarities to Lindblom, who forced his way to the big club in 2017-18.

Westfalt plays for the same Swedish junior team (Brynäs IF J20) and SHL squad (Brynäs IF) as Lindblom did when he was taken by the Flyers. Both prospects are from Sweden and dropped in their respective drafts. Lindblom, a left winger, stands 6-foot-1, 191 pounds, while Westfalt, a center/left winger, comes in at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds.

Another Lindblom in the works?

"Hopefully, that's my dream, of course," Westfalt said three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "But he's a really good player, he's got a lot of skill. But, yeah, hopefully."

The 18-year-old was well aware of Lindblom. It was hard to not hear or see his fellow countryman transform from fifth-round pick to ballyhooed Flyers prospect. In 2016-17, when Lindblom really took off with Brynäs IF and won Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year, Westfalt witnessed the rise.

"I watch him a lot," Westfalt said. "His last year in Brynäs before he got here, I watched him a lot. He's a [role model] because I think he's really good, he's good with his hands, his speed, he uses his body well. I watch him a lot."

In his draft year, Lindblom played only four SHL games compared to 43 for Brynäs IF J20. For Westfalt, it was a bit different. He appeared in 39 SHL games, including playoffs, while playing 26 contests at the junior ranks, where he put up 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and a plus-19 rating.

Westfalt's goal for 2018-19 is to play the whole season in the SHL. Lindblom did a bit later than Westfalt, but once the jump was made, he impacted games.

"Try to get more ice time," Westfalt said. "Bigger role in the game.

"[Brynäs IF] told me that I have some things I need to work on and if I do that, I can get to play."

Westfalt, who had four points (one goal, three assists) in those 39 SHL games, said he tries to be "a smart, two-way centerman," and feels his "play in the D-zone is better than the offense."

"I'm strong without the puck and with the puck," he said.

While the goal is to stick in the SHL, he's uncertain which level will be best for his on-ice growth at this stage of his development."

"When I play in junior, I get more ice time, I get to play a lot more with the puck, I get to play the power play and stuff like that," he said. "I want to play in the juniors, too, because I want to work on my skills, but my big goal is to do the same thing I do in the juniors in the SHL."

Lindblom eventually did, carving out his path to the Flyers at 21 years old.

"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said last summer.

With Westfalt, there is no chip on his shoulder as a seventh-round pick.

"No, for me, I'm just glad that I'm here," he said. "It's a great organization. It's fun to go earlier [in the draft], but I'm just happy to be here."

And eager to climb like Lindblom.

More on the Flyers

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

General manager Ron Hextall is nearly finished wrapping up contracts for his restricted free agents.

And his goalie picture is now clear for 2018-19.

The Flyers on Wednesday re-signed netminder Anthony Stolarz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth $761,250, according to a report by hockey writer John Hoven.

With Stolarz back, defenseman Robert Hagg remains the Flyers' lone restricted free agent.

Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, underwent a nightmarish 2017-18 season just a year after he made his NHL debut and performed well in seven games with the Flyers. The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his left knee during early September, the same injury he suffered at the end of 2016-17 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests as a result. In 2016-17, he made his way to the big club and put up a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in a small sample. Then the injury occurred with the Phantoms and it's been an uphill battle ever since for the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder.

Stolarz will have his work cut out for him — if he hasn't already — as playing time will be earned at Lehigh Valley with Alex Lyon back in the fold and Carter Hart joining them.

"It's just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said in June after an on-ice workout at Flyers Skate Zone. "I think the thing for me is to prove I'm healthy. I don't think I've skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I'm healthy and going out there and working to prove I'm still a high-caliber goalie."

The Flyers' goaltending tandem is set with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts. Things obviously can change this offseason, as Neuvirth and Stolarz seemed like realistic trade candidates.

But as of now, it's Elliott and Neuvirth with the younger trio pushing and competing.

"I'd rather have too many goalies than too few," Hextall said earlier this month. "If something makes sense and we can make something happen, we'd at least look at it. We saw it last year. All of a sudden, a couple goalies go down and you're scrambling for goalies. If we start with five, we start with five. Not a perfect situation, but again, I'd rather start with five than with three."

More on the Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

• Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

• No arbitration needed for Flyers and Lyon

• Sandstrom hungry to prove he's not the 'other' goalie