Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: No need to read between the lines

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Flyers Weekly Observations: No need to read between the lines

That week for the Flyers?

To poach a line from a Charlie Brown movie you may have watched over the last few days … “Good grief.”

This past week saw the Flyers hit the ice three times and fall three times in disheartening fashion, pushing their losing streak to seven games, the longest for the club since it lost 10 straight in 2008.

On Tuesday, they sleepwalked to a bowling-shoe ugly 5-2 loss to the visiting Vancouver Canucks. On Wednesday, they suffered 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn. And in the annual Black Friday matinee, they blew a two-goal lead to the Islanders in the third period and fell yet again in OT, 5-4.

There is plenty to get to as the natives get more and more restless, so let’s hop right into this week’s observations.

• Moments after the Flyers sewed up their longest losing streak in nearly a decade Friday, head coach Dave Hakstol stood in front of the media and made some interesting comments regarding his team’s recent play.

“You’ve got to evaluate it for what it is,” he said. “I think in seven of our last ten we’ve gotten a point. Five of those are shootout or overtime losses.”

Hmmmm.

A point is a point, sure, but a loss is also a loss. The Flyers, before Sunday’s games around the league, have 22 points and are last in the Metropolitan Division. They also still have seven straight losses and the season could be on the verge of unraveling before we even hit December. 

Hakstol also hinted at veteran merit as a reason for throwing a Claude Giroux-Valterri Filppula-Brandon Manning three-man unit out against the Isles in OT rather than playing a younger, more offensively gifted defenseman such as Shayne Gostisbehere or Travis Sanheim, or even Robert Hagg or Samuel Morin in OT.

Again … hmmmm.

Merit is one thing, the best chance to win the game and end a long losing streak is another. Odds are the younger players give the Flyers a better chance to win there with their offensive gifts.

Look, many coaches aren’t going to be negative to the media, especially after a hard loss. And Hakstol is “coach-speak” royalty. Very rarely are you going to get something out of him in a press conference — and that’s fine, that’s just who he is.

But who are the Flyers right now? No need to read between any lines, the Flyers just aren’t a very good team right now, in all phases.

• While he didn’t find the scoresheet in the two games against the Isles this week, Danick Martel left a nice impression after his call-up from the Phantoms.

Martel, who earned his promotion to the big club by scoring 14 goals in the Phantoms’ first 17 games of the season to lead the entire AHL, fired four shots on goal and made himself noticeable on the ice. You have to like the scrappiness he displayed as he played an integral role in any scrums when he was on the ice and wasn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.

Those are the types of things that can provide energy and that’s a player himself who can provide energy. And if there’s something the Flyers need a desperate injection of right now, it’s energy.

• Remember the shootout narrative that has forever plagued the Flyers? That was a rhetorical question, of course, you do. Well, there’s a new narrative forming to bog the Flyers down because they can barely get to the shootout without falling flat.

The Flyers are now 2-10 in one-goal contests through 23 games played this season. They are 1-4 in overtime games and 0-2 in shootouts this year, as well. 

So let’s do everyone’s favorite activity, math, and add up the numbers here. That’s six extra points left on the table in the OT and shootout losses and another helping of six more points left on the table in the remaining three one-goal losses. That adds up to 12 potential points the Flyers have left hanging there.

Even worse, the Flyers have held leads at some point of each of the last five games of this miserable losing streak.

• The effort Tuesday against the Canucks may have been the most futile of the still-young season for the Flyers. After Ivan Provorov’s first-period tally that opened the scoring, the Flyers were just lifeless as Brock Boeser and the Canucks dominated from there on out. The boos that played the night’s soundtrack at the Wells Fargo Center that night were well-earned.

That black eye Tuesday ended a stretch that saw the Flyers play 10 straight games against Western Conference foes. They went 2-4-4 in that span and were shut out four times.

• Observation (kinda) from the future: The Flyers will face the blood-rival Penguins for the first time this season Monday evening. And while the many of the main characters who made the Battle of Pennsylvania must-see television in recent years remain in their respective sweaters, some of the luster has been wiped away, as the Flyers have been so inconsistent and the Pens have dominated all comers. 

Here’s hoping the rivalry can soon find that same disdain and boiling blood that we all know and are gluttons for.

Coming up this week: Monday at Pittsburgh (7 p .m. on NBCSP), Tuesday vs. San Jose (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. Boston (1 p.m. on NBCSP).

Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

While the Flyers lost their winning streak and point streak, they still put together a productive 2-1-0 week.

Alain Vigneault's team is 7-1-1 over its last nine games, a stretch in which the Flyers have allowed 2.11 goals per game. Since Nov. 1, the Flyers are 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for most points in the NHL at 28, continuing to make strides under the new coaching staff.

We'll get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• Scott Laughton's performance in Saturday's emotion-filled 4-3 win over the Senators served as a microcosm of his importance to the Flyers.

The team-first attitude, the hard skating, the physicality, the forechecking, the penalty killing and the secondary scoring.

He is not undervalued by the Flyers.

If I look at today’s game where it got heated, he’s one of the guys I thought that responded the best. He responded in a physical nature when the opportunity was there, but when he needed to make plays with the puck or defend, he did that — he did both of those things.

As a coach, it’s really easy to trust a player when he’s doing the right things and playing the right way on the ice.

- Vigneault

And check out these marks: the Flyers are 7-0-0 when Laughton records a point and 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of a broken finger.

• In 30 games, Ivan Provorov has already matched his goal total from last season (seven) and set career highs on the power play (four goals, six assists).

He's projected to pass his numbers from a breakout 2017-18 season in which he scored 17 goals and 41 points. The 22-year-old's rebound from his letdown 2018-19 campaign might be the most impactful development to the Flyers' overall rebound so far in 2019-20.

Before the Coyotes' 3-1 win Thursday over the Flyers, Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet extolled Provorov.

"I think he's one of the best young defensemen in the league," Tocchet said, via Coyotes public relations.

"He plays with an edge in a sense that he doesn’t play safe. He’s up the ice, he makes plays, he’s not scared the way he plays. Not so much scared physically, just the way he plays, he’s trying to win the game. As a young guy, he wants to be in those spots. When I watch him, he wants the puck. I love young kids like that, they’re not scared.”

When asked if Provorov reminded him of anyone, Tocchet said "a little bit of Phil Housley," who is a Hall of Fame blueliner and now an assistant coach with Arizona.

• Carter Hart owns 10 wins and a 2.39 goals-against average.

By Dec. 8 of last season, Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz, Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon had combined for 12 wins and a 3.30 goals-against average.

As much as some people want to knock the previous coaching staff, the Flyers were a mess in net at this point last season and things predictably unraveled. Really, from the outset of 2018-19, things were problematic between the pipes for the Flyers.

• One of the biggest signs of growth with the 2019-20 Flyers has been goal prevention. They've allowed 80 goals through 30 games. In 30 games last season, the Flyers gave up 111. That's 31 more goals.

A lot goes into that — goaltending and offseason acquisitions to name a few. But Vigneault's system has turned the Flyers into a more structured team.

Much more often compared to 2018-19, the Flyers, even if they're struggling to score, look like they're controlling games instead of letting the opposition do the honors. Through 30 games last season, the Flyers had 11 losses by three goals or more. This season, they have only four such defeats.

 

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Senators' Brady Tkachuk fined maximum allowable amount for crosscheck on Flyers' Scott Laughton

Senators' Brady Tkachuk fined maximum allowable amount for crosscheck on Flyers' Scott Laughton

Suffice it to say Scott Laughton got the best of the Senators on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

He was the first star in the Flyers' 4-3 victory, scored the game-winning goal during the third period, added an assist, stood up for his teammates and got under the skin of Ottawa forward Brady Tkachuk.

So much so that Tkachuk went after Laughton, crosschecking the 25-year-old forward in the back and jumping him during the final minute of regulation. The NHL reacted quickly to the play, fining Tkachuk $2,486.56, the maximum allowable under the CBA.

Following his third-period marker, Laughton had words for the Senators' bench. He was fired up, especially after Ottawa's hits on Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee, which led to some fights. Laughton could not partake in the dropping of the gloves because he recently returned following surgery on a broken finger, which is still healing.


I knew it was coming. It’s part of the game when you do that stuff and chirp the bench, you know it’s going to come. I just can’t drop my gloves right now with my finger and everything. I’ve got some padding there so once I do that, I guess it’s a penalty or something. That’s just the way it went.

- Laughton

But Laughton still had the backs of his teammates. He was physical throughout, especially after the first-period hits on Konecny and Farabee. He also allowed his game to do the talking.

Laughton has four goals in his last six contests and the Flyers are 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of the finger injury.

Would Laughton have liked to fight?

"Yeah," he said.

He did plenty enough.

Tkachuk's crosscheck and check to the league are proof of Laughton's work.

 

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