Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: Secondary scoring behind Western Canada surge

Flyers Weekly Observations: Secondary scoring behind Western Canada surge

A three-game win streak?!?!?! All through the daunting Western Canada road gauntlet?!?!?!

Here’s something we haven’t said in a while: what a week it was for the Flyers.

Ah, refreshing, isn’t it? I’m sure the guys in the locker room will tell you it is.

The Flyers’ kicked off the winning run with a 5-2 win Monday night vs. the Flames in Calgary to snap the dreadful 10-game losing skid. On Wednesday night, they skated past the Oilers in impressive fashion with a 4-2 victory in Edmonton. And capping things off the next night with by jumping out to a big lead in Vancouver and holding on to it for a 4-1 triumph.

Per usual, plenty of things to go through this week, but on the good side this time around.

So let’s get this party started, shall we?

• In their three victories this week, the offensively challenged Flyers scored 13 goals. They scored just 20 goals total throughout the prolonged misery of the 10-game losing streak. So what changed?

Like Frankenstein, the Flyers’ secondary scoring sat up and came to life. While Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek each still put up their points, they weren’t forced to do all of the heavy lifting this week. In Calgary, Scott Laughton scored for the first time in 22 games, Valtteri Filppula tallied for the first time in 18 games, Wayne Simmonds struck for just the second time in 19 games and Michael Raffl cashed in for just the third time all season. In Edmonton, Jordan Weal scored for the first time in 13 games and just the third time all year while Dale Weise beat a netminder for just the second time in 16 games. And in Vancouver, Shayne Gostisbehere scored for the third time in 20 games.

Now that … that is what the Flyers were drastically missing during the skid. If Giroux, Voracek and or Couturier weren’t scoring, it was basically game, set and match from the get-go and the Flyers would be fortunate to even get a single marker on the board. Heck, at one point a few weeks ago that trio had accounted for nearly 50 percent of the Flyers’ goals for the entire season.

Giroux, Voracek and Couturier will continue to get theirs. That’s just what they do. But when the others get theirs as well, you see it makes all the difference in the world.

• Have a good number of Dave Hakstol’s lineup decisions dating back to last season raised eyebrows and garnered legitimate questions? Yes, absolutely. But you have to give credit where credit is due as he made a bold decision and broke up the potent Giroux-Couturier-Voracek trio heading into the Calgary game Monday.

That was a gutsy decision to break up a line that was that lethal and one of the best in the league. I’m sure that decision raised a few more eyebrows across the Delaware Valley, but when you’re on a putrid skid and haven’t won a game in almost a month, you can try some crazy things.

This crazy thing worked as the Flyers’ goal-scoring pulse is alive again with those 13 goals in the last three games. Hakstol deserves a lot of credit for pushing the right button there.

• Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the recent line changes has been Raffl.

The 29-year-old Austrian started the season as part of an effective fourth line with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier. But as the Flyers started to flounder like a fish out of water, Raffl was juggled up and down the lineup with no set spot. That was until this week when Hakstol injected Raffl into the top six on the second line with Voracek and Filppula. It was one of Hakstol’s bold moves, considering Raffl hadn’t scored since January prior to his goal vs. the New York Islanders on Nov. 22, a span of 42 games (Raffl missed the final month and change last season with an injury).

And the confidence the coach put in the winger is paying off. Raffl looks like a new player out there. He’s using his speed and strength to his advantage, barreling down the ice and setting up shop in front of the net to wreak havoc and cash in. And that’s his game — he’s got a power game and is more than capable of putting the puck in the net. And he’s got noted chemistry with Voracek. Remember, the two were on the Flyers’ top line three seasons ago when Raffl potted a career-high 20 goals. Raffl could be quite the important piece moving forward if the Flyers are to dig out of this hole.

• I’d be remiss beyond comprehension if I didn’t show Brian Elliott some love here. He was pretty darn good for the Flyers over that 10-game losing skid when he went 0-3-5 with a 3.06 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. The best numbers in the world? No. But he made the saves he needed to make and gave the Flyers chances to win night in and night out, exactly what they needed. Elliott’s teammates in front of him just couldn’t pick him up.

But Elliott took his game to another level this week as he was stellar in the three games the Flyers took out in Western Canada. All told, he made 103 stops on 108 shots with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage. His best showing of a sterling week came Monday vs. his old mates in Calgary when he stopped 43 of 45 shots faced. The Flames were pouring it on, especially in the second period when they fired 21 pucks on net. But Elliott stood firm and righted the Flyers’ ship with his play. He then stopped 24 of 26 Wednesday in Edmonton and 36 of 37 Thursday in Vancouver.

The guy has been the steadying veteran presence in net and in the locker room. He’s been invaluable to the team so far. He’s taken the reigns of the No. 1 job, and that was even before Michal Neuvirth’s most recent injury. The Flyers clearly have their No. 1 goalie. And Elliott has earned every ounce of that role.

• If you haven’t yet, check out my colleague Jordan Hall’s column from Saturday morning on Hakstol and how the Flyers’ current philosophy has put him in a tricky spot behind the bench.

The Flyers have been toeing this line between development and trying to win for a while now and it’s been a tug of war for Hakstol with his coaching decisions. While some are rightfully questioned, he is still in a tricky spot. It’s a deep dive into that position for Hakstol. Well worth any Flyers fan’s time.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Toronto (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Thursday vs. Buffalo (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. Dallas (7 p.m. on NBCSP).

Bobby Brink should ease the pain over the Flyers' passing up of Cole Caufield in 2019 NHL draft

Bobby Brink should ease the pain over the Flyers' passing up of Cole Caufield in 2019 NHL draft

If there was any frustration among the fan base over the passing up of Cole Caufield, it was somewhat alleviated by the Flyers' work in the second round.

Let's be clear, that was not on the Flyers' mind when making the selection.

But on Friday night in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft, the Flyers had a chance to take Caufield, a popular 5-foot-7 right winger regarded as the best goal-scorer in the class. The 72-goal, 100-point American had dropped deeper than many anticipated, all the way to the Flyers at No. 14, even after the team moved back three spots.

The Flyers went with Cam York, a defenseman they had watched a ton of and really wanted (see story).

On Saturday afternoon in the second round, the Flyers just so happened to draft a right winger with first-round talent and prolific scoring ability. They traded up 11 spots and forfeited a third-round selection in order to grab Bobby Brink at No. 34 overall (see Flyers' draft recap).

No, Brink was not on Caufield's level, but he's pretty good and has similarities. The 5-foot-8, 165-pounder was ranked as the 20th-best player in the draft by TSN's Craig Button and put up eye-catching numbers with 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists) in 43 regular-season games for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.

"We had him slotted higher [than No. 34 overall]," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said Saturday via a conference call. "Bobby was the guy that we were hoping was there. We knew he wasn't going to last very long in the second round, so we paid the price to move up; but to get a player of his caliber, we were happy to do that.

"He's not the biggest body, but he's extremely smart, highly skilled, very competitive. He picked apart the USHL league, which is hard to score in; coming right out of high school and dominated. He's very strong on his skates, he's got great edges and he's slippery."

Brink may have dipped into the second round because his skating isn't a notable strength. Flahr cleared up some of the doubt on that topic.

"His skating is different," he said.

"I don't think he's a burner as far as speed at this point, but his skating is always in the right spot and it doesn't seem to impact him at this point. He'll be the first one to tell you he's got to get quicker and stronger to play at the next level, but at this point in his physical development, we don't see an issue.

"He's a little bent over, but he's one of those kids that is down low, he's always moving his feet, he's on his edges. He opens up his feet, creates different angles and passing lanes. As far as straight out speed, I wouldn't say he's the fastest, but he always seems to get there."

Brink was there Saturday and the Flyers didn't want to miss him. They got a smaller, high-scoring right winger, less than 24 hours after passing up on one.

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Recapping the Flyers' 2019 NHL draft class

Recapping the Flyers' 2019 NHL draft class

The Flyers' 2019 NHL draft is in the books.

General manager Chuck Fletcher, assistant general manager Brent Flahr and the Flyers entered the draft with eight picks and finished with seven. In a trade Friday night, the Flyers gained a second-round selection. In a trade Saturday afternoon, they lost one of their two third-round spots. Then, in the seventh round, the Flyers dealt their final pick to the Canadiens in exchange for a 2020 seventh-rounder.

So how did Fletcher and Flahr do in their first draft with the Flyers? Let's recap the team's work in Vancouver, British Columbia.

First round, No. 14: Cam York, 5-11/172, D

Analysis: York is a threat whenever the puck is on his stick, which is often given his skill set. He set a USNTDP single-season record with 65 points in 63 games.

Quotable: "He's put up big numbers offensively. He's a talented guy and projects to be a very good defenseman for a long time." - Flahr

Second round, No. 34: Bobby Brink, 5-8/165, RW

Analysis: Not the fastest or biggest, but can flat-out score. Considered a first-round talent by many draft experts, Brink was the 2018-19 USHL Forward of the Year. 

Quotable: "He's extremely smart, highly skilled, very competitive. He picked apart the USHL league, which is hard to score in; coming right out of high school and dominated." - Flahr

Third round, No. 72: Ronald Attard, 6-4/205, D

Analysis: Took a crazy jump in 2018-19, earning USHL Player of the Year. Attard scored 30 goals — yes, as a defenseman — after totaling just 15 points in 2017-18.

Quotable: "It stands out no matter what level you're at when you're a defenseman. You score 30 goals, that's certainly an asset. We don't even necessarily project him as an offensive defenseman. He's a big body, he's physical, he has a mean streak." - Flahr

Fourth round, No. 103: Mason Millman, 6-1/175, D

Analysis: Smart, only 17 years old and was a plus-22 in his first OHL season.

Quotable: "Millman in the fourth, a defenseman two of our Ontario guys felt strongly about, that he has upside." - Flahr

Sixth round, No. 165: Egor Serdyuk, 5-11/165, RW

Analysis: Led all QMJHL rookies with 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists) in 63 games.

Quotable: "He has a good skill set, he has a nose for the net, he can score and his skating is fine. He needs to get stronger, he's going to have to learn to play away from the puck, but you can't teach his offensive tools." - Flahr

Sixth round, No. 169: Roddy Ross, 6-2/180, G

Analysis: Amateur scout Mark Greig and goaltender development coach Brady Robinson pushed hard for Ross, who was the 17th goalie taken in the draft.

Quotable: "He's a guy that came on the scene late. He's a big kid, he's got to grow into his body. He played very well down the stretch on an average team where he faced a lot of shots. He battled and Brady thinks he has pretty good fundamentals." - Flahr

Seventh round, No. 196: Bryce Brodzinski, 6-0/197, RW

Analysis: A high schooler with rich hockey bloodlines headed to the University of Minnesota.

Quotable: "When my brothers told me that they were better than me at something, I would work super hard at it when they weren’t looking." - Brodzinski, via David La Vaque of the Star Tribune

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