Flyers

Flyers on verge of elimination after being blasted by Penguins in Game 4

Flyers on verge of elimination after being blasted by Penguins in Game 4

BOX SCORE

Playing without Sean Couturier was too much of a loss for the Flyers.

The Penguins took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a convincing 5-0 win over the Flyers in Game 4 Wednesday. After scoring five goals in a Game 2 victory, the Flyers have managed just one goal in their three losses during the series. 

Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal just 4:33 into the game and Phil Kessel added his first goal of the series later in the opening period.

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray stopped all 26 shots for his second shutout of the series.

The Flyers’ power play finished 0 for 4 and is now 2 for 17 in the series. 

It’s the first time the Flyers were beaten in Games 3 and 4 of a playoff series on home ice since the 1989 Wales Conference Finals. 

Game 5 is scheduled for Friday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSP).

• Unlike Game 3, the Flyers came out with a very timid start as they played with a real uncertainty considering Dave Hakstol had to make the necessary line changes in the absence of Couturier. 

Once again, the Flyers were hounded by Pittsburgh’s pressure, which eventually led to Matt Read’s holding penalty three minutes into the game. 

The Flyers were able to generate some sustained pressure after the initial 10 minutes. However, they lost all momentum when the Penguins converted a 2-on-1 between Malkin and Kessel after the Flyers had spent an entire shift in the Penguins’ zone. 

• The Flyers resorted to dumping and chasing more often in Game 4 as Pittsburgh clogged up the middle of the ice and denied them clean entries. 

The Flyers also had some inexcusable plays in the second period as they were caught offsides on a routine offensive zone entry and committed an unnecessary icing that led to their offensive ineptitude. As a result, the Flyers failed to generate a shot on net in the first 9:21 of the second period.  

• With Hakstol electing to keep Claude Giroux at left wing and moving Nolan Patrick up to the top line, the Flyers were weakened down the middle as Valtteri Filppula moved up to the second line and Jori Lehtera filled in as the third-line center. It presented clear matchup problems with the Penguins’ center combo of Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Derick Brassard. 

On a number of occasions, the Flyers would dump the puck in and the Penguins would retrieve it with no pressure. 

After falling behind early, Hakstol switched things up and moved Giroux to center with Jakub Voracek and Travis Konecny for a handful of shifts.  

• The Flyers desperately needed to have the better goaltending and that simply didn’t happen as Brian Elliott was pulled for the second time in four games after he allowed three goals on 17 shots. 

While the Penguins easily dissected the Flyers’ PK on their power-play goal, Elliott had enough time to deny Kessel’s goal as the puck slid through his pads. Kris Letang’s goal was deflected off Andrew MacDonald’s stick and Elliott was visibly frustrated as there was nothing he could have done. 

Hakstol had a quick trigger in pulling Elliott after three goals. In Game 1, Elliott wasn’t yanked until the Penguins made it 5-0.   

• Unquestionably, the Flyers’ best forward in this game was Nolan Patrick. The rookie center brought speed and a strong pursuit of the puck to his game that wasn’t matched by his teammates. 

Patrick finished with a team-high six shots on goal, while no one else on the Flyers’ roster had more than three.

The shadow of last season starting to loom for Flyers

The shadow of last season starting to loom for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — You don’t have to remind the Flyers that they’ve gone three straight games without a win — two of those losses at home to opponents (Panthers, Devils) who were last in their division at the time.

And the Flyers (9-9-2) certainly don’t need to be reminded this is the same exact point in the season a year ago when they went through a pummeling stretch of winless hockey with a 0-5-5 record from Nov. 11 to Dec. 2. 

The first 20 games of the season are a near carbon copy of what transpired a year ago when the team also had a .500 record at 8-8-4. The question moving forward is can the Flyers learn from last year’s mistakes and breakdowns that led to a 10-game winless stretch?

“We were in a big hole last year. We’re not in a big hole this year,” Jakub Voracek said Tuesday. “It could give us a little more confidence that we don’t have to chase as much as we did last year, but we have to find more consistency in our game.“

After taking the previous two days off — Sunday was the Flyers Wives Carnival and Monday was a designated day off — the Flyers returned to practice showing a little rust.

Dave Hakstol felt confident in what he’s seen over the past three games to keep the same line combinations during Tuesday's practice, including leaving James van Riemsdyk on the third line with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Before Saturday’s five-goal performance, sparked by a remarkable four-goal outburst in the third period, the Flyers had gone 110:38 without a goal.

“We’ve generated more in those last three games than we have in the previous five games on average,” Hakstol said. “The opportunities are coming. We weren’t able to finish. We talked about different ways that we could do a little better, simple things, get guys to the net. Obviously, the most important thing is to finish on enough of those to put us in a good spot.”

In order to avoid the snowball from building and a potential fourth straight loss, the Flyers will have to derail a red-hot Buffalo Sabres team Wednesday that has won six straight games, all by one goal, during its longest winning streak in nine years. 

“They have a couple of new additions to their team and they’re working really well right now. It’s a dangerous group. It’s going to be tough for us,” Voracek said. “So far every game has been tough. It’s a 50/50 chance every single night. It’s been pretty even so far this year, but it’s going to start breaking down after about 45 games.

“You’re going to see a bigger picture of what’s going to happen down the road. It’s too early to judge right now.”

Lyon could see pair of starts

With three games compacted into four days over the Thanksgiving holiday, Alex Lyon is expected to receive one and possibly two starts this week. Lyon was the first goaltender off the ice during Tuesday’s practice as a sign that he could be called upon Wednesday night in Buffalo.

Lyon said there’s an NHL mindset he needs to work his way into whenever he receives the call up from Lehigh Valley.

“In the American League, you have from Sunday until Thursday typically to sit at your home and relax,” Lyon said. “Call a spade a spade, the stress level is a little bit less in the American League.” 

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Flyers stock watch: As Claude Giroux goes, so do the Flyers

Flyers stock watch: As Claude Giroux goes, so do the Flyers

After a 5-0-1 stretch of solid hockey and signs that the Flyers were climbing their way up in the Metropolitan Division, they took a step back.

The Flyers are once again a middle-of-the-pack team after failing to capitalize during a recent five-game homestand, finishing with a 2-2-1 mark (see weekly observations).

At the quarter pole of the NHL season, it’s time to take inventory of who’s up and who’s down in this week’s stock watch. 

Stock up

Claude Giroux
It’s a pretty simple formula: When Giroux scores, the Flyers' chances of winning increase significantly. In the six games that Giroux has been held without a point, the Flyers are 0-5-1. They're 9-4-1 when he cracks the scoresheet. Overall, Giroux’s game has been steady and a continuation from what we saw last season. The captain currently has five multi-point games over his past nine and has been saddled with some major minutes (at least 22 in each of the past five games) while adding penalty-kill duties.  

Sean Couturier
We’re finally starting to see the Couturier that made him into a Selke Trophy finalist last season. After a slow start of trying to find his speed and timing, Couturier has been the Flyers' most consistent player at both ends of the ice. His three-point effort against the Blackhawks was the pinnacle of the season as he outmuscled Chris Kunitz to score on Corey Crawford. With just three points in his first 11 games, Couturier has found his stride offensively with points (five goals, six assists) in seven of his last nine games.  

Stock down

Oskar Lindblom
If I was writing this column 10 days ago, Lindblom’s stock would be at an all-time high, but he’s regressed over the past week. After an impressive five-game point streak in which he tallied two goals and five assists, Lindblom has just one assist over his past four games and has seen his ice time dip from the 16-minute range to playing just 10:07 in a 3-0 loss to the Devils on Thursday. It should be a matter of time before James van Riemsdyk reasserts himself on that line, leaving Lindblom with third-line minutes.

Jori Lehtera
Dave Hakstol finally came to the realization that Lehtera has been bringing very little to the Flyers. Once JVR finally returned to the Flyers' lineup, Lehtera was the one who came out, and as a result, forced Hakstol to move Scott Laughton back to center. Lehtera’s recent lack of ice time is a reflection of how he’s played and how he’s turned into a “black hole” in the offensive end of the ice. In his last seven games, Lehtera hasn’t registered a single shot on net and has proven to be a liability on the penalty kill.  

Nolan Patrick
Much is expected out of the 20-year-old, who like Lindblom, broke out of his early season shell during the Flyers' recent trip out West. But like any young player, Patrick has failed to keep a level of consistency throughout his overall play. While he maintains defensive responsibilities on a rather consistent basis, his offense and his aggressiveness to push play in the opponent’s zone are sporadic. Patrick currently has one goal and two points over his past six games and had a brief opportunity to solidify his place on the top power-play unit. It’s not that Patrick has been a bad player, but he’s displayed the ability to be a better player.

Travis Sanheim
To his credit, Sanheim has cleaned up his game defensively to the point that he doesn’t make you nervous in his own end of the ice. However, with Sanheim’s size, he should be more of a physical presence in separating a player from the puck. Too often, he loses those battles. But Sanheim’s strength is in his offense by pushing the puck up the ice and creating offensive chances. To that end, he’s been nonexistent over his past 10 games and hasn’t registered a single point. Even playing 17 minutes on a regular basis, there has to be a more concerted effort on Sanheim’s part to generate offense. Otherwise, that skill set simply goes to waste.

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