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Flyers Weekly Observations: As the top line turns

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Flyers Weekly Observations: As the top line turns

Only two games were played over the past seven days, but we still have plenty to talk about in the world where the Flyers roam.

Of course, we do … there’s always plenty to talk about with the Flyers.

The not-so-busy week gave the Flyers time to heal up. When the skates returned to the ice, we were shown glimpses of the potential the Flyers possess but also saw the deficiencies that could anchor them going forward.

The week kicked off in a big way Thursday with a commanding 3-1 victory over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks and swiftly ended with a thud thanks to a deflating 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild Saturday evening.

Let’s dive into this week’s main course, shall we?

• What you saw Thursday from the trio of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, now that’s what an elite NHL top line looks like. The triumvirate made the Blackhawks look silly with the way they controlled the puck and had helpless defenders guessing the night away. Each player scored and each was sparkling in its own separate way. Giroux’s was a torpedo off a great Voracek steal and pass. Voracek's was a missile of his own off a threaded Shayne Gostisbehere cross-ice feed. And Couturier’s was the exclamation point of a lovely rush featuring a Giroux primary assist that was so good Corey Crawford’s head is still spinning and looking for the puck three days later.

Oh happy day, indeed. But … not so much two nights later as the Wild stymied the top line and the Flyers were left scoreless for a league-leading (?) fourth time already this season. There’s a theme here and it’s not the best one for the Flyers. Look, it’s great for them the top line is producing the way it is. But what about everyone else? The top line can’t score all the goals. That’s a recipe for disaster.

My colleague Tom Dougherty astutely pointed out earlier this week that Couturier’s scoring surge has been masking this secondary scoring wart. But as time goes on here, that mask will wash away. The top line has combined for 23 of the Flyers’ 50 goals thus far. That’s a whopping 46 percent. The unit has also combined for 60 of the 140 points the team has recorded. That’s good for 42.9 percent of the pie. This is not sustainable and something is going to have to change soon for the Flyers to find continued success. It’s not a coincidence they haven’t reeled together consecutive wins in almost a month.

• Is it time to worry about Nolan Patrick as a concussion has knocked the prized rookie out for the last couple weeks? I’ll put it like this: there is always worry about any concussion. But, sure, when a concussion has sidelined a player for this long, it’s worrisome. The plan is for Patrick to practice with the team Monday before the trip to Minnesota, but who knows from there. Remember he practiced back before the game in Toronto? GM Ron Hextall said prior to Saturday’s game Patrick hasn’t experienced any setbacks but is still trying to work back. It’s a scary thing because everyone responds differently to a concussion and you can’t push the envelope. The Flyers are rightfully being cautious with Patrick. Right now isn’t as important as the 19-year-old’s future.

• Wayne Simmonds hasn’t scored since he wired the game-winner Oct. 21 late against Edmonton, an uncharacteristic span of nine games. Hextall admitted Saturday evening Simmonds hasn’t been completely healthy in recent weeks but has been battling through for the team. And that has been evident as Simmonds hadn’t been his noticeable self over the last couple weeks. Something was just missing in his game. But this week, Simmonds was noticeable again. While he didn’t find his way onto the score sheet, he had that spark and jump that we’ve become accustomed to. And that’s excellent news for the Flyers. A healthy Simmonds obviously takes some of the scoring pressure off the top line, which is just what the doctor ordered right about now.

• Count this guy as one who thought Michal Neuvirth would take the lion’s share of starts in net this season. Well, that’s why they play the games, right? Brian Elliott has played very well in net and given the Flyers plenty of chances to win on most nights. In 11 starts this season, Elliott is 6-4-1 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Yes, Neuvirth’s numbers (2,17 GAA, .928 save percentage) are better, but that’s in only six games.

Elliott has the early trust of Dave Hakstol, who is notoriously fickle with his goalie decisions. And this was Elliott’s best week in a Flyers uniform yet. He was superb against Chicago, stopping 38 shots in the 3-1 win. His breakaway stop on Brandon Saad was excellent, as he waited Saad out and didn’t give him much real estate to shoot at. He followed that performance up Saturday with 27-save outing but took the hard-luck defeat after a bad bounce victimized him early in the third. Things can change with the snap of Hakstol’s finger, but it sure looks like Elliott has the No. 1 job on lock right now.

• The Blackhawks’ regular-season winless streak in Philadelphia, now at 14 since 1996, is just befuddling. How is that even possible? It’s like that 23-year winless streak the Flyers had at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit that was only snapped a few years back. I mean, it’s not like the Blackhawks have never won in South Philly … OK, I’ll just end that sentence and this column here for your health.

Coming up this week: Tuesday at Minnesota (8:00 p.m. on NBCSP+), Thursday at Winnipeg (8:00 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. Calgary (1:00 p.m. on NBCSP)

Eric Lindros reveals awesome insight on his career during Twitter Q&A

Eric Lindros reveals awesome insight on his career during Twitter Q&A

There are so many Eric Lindros memories.

During his playing days, No. 88 was a rare breed of size and skill. Lindros' blend of strengths would still be rare in today's game.

His dynamic was intimidating and imposing because of those strengths, so to hear Lindros open up about his toughest opponents is really cool.

"Big E" did just that in a question-and-answer session Sunday on his Twitter account.

It's awesome to see Lindros talk hockey with his fans. He has always respected the knowledgeable fan base in Philly.

"Flyers players are lucky to play in a city where the fans truly know the game of hockey, appreciate the little things and are of course rowdy, but also show heart," Lindros said on his jersey retirement night in January 2018.

Here were Lindros' interactions Sunday night and we look forward to the next time.

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Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award

Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Predicting who wins the Flyers' 2019-20 Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award, presented to the Flyer who best illustrates character, dignity and respect both on and off the ice.

Destra

The best part about the Flyers and their organization is that they are filled with top-notch people. Just about every player on the team could win this award. 

This year though, I’d have to go with Jakub Voracek. He is one of the most respected players on the ice but what stands out the most is the person he is off the ice. The person he is when the cameras aren’t on him. The person he is when it comes to being an ambassador for the phrase, "It’s more than just a game."

There are many examples from this season, but one of my favorites that simply showcases why Voracek should win the Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award dates back to Feb. 27-28, when the Flyers signed Blake Steigauf to a one-day contract.

All throughout this video, you catch glimpses of Voracek with Steigauf, but the one moment that stuck with me was the shot of him waiting for the 15-year-old to come off the ice and into the tunnel before heading back to the locker room. 

All class. 

Emmer

The Flyers' dressing room is full of players with good character and high respect for the game, so this one was hard for me. 

This season, I’m picking Matt Niskanen.   

Niskanen is a highly respected, veteran player in the league and general manager Chuck Fletcher knew that when he decided to bring him in during the offseason.  

Coming into this year, the 33-year-old had 14 NHL seasons under his belt, 10 playoff runs and a Stanley Cup in 2018 — he had the experience the blue line needed.  

Where I think Niskanen really exceeded expectations so far this season is the leadership he brings. He’s highly respected by his teammates and has some of the best well-rounded character you could ask for in your dressing room.

We’re all able to see the example he sets on the ice with the defensive group as well as the team as a whole. He has certainly helped with the Flyers’ success this season. On top of that, he sets an example off the ice by showing respect toward those around him, from the Flyers’ personnel to members of media.

He has been a great addition to the team and I believe he’s the most deserving of the Yanick Dupre Award.  

Hatcher

I’m giving it to Niskanen. This was tough for all the right reasons though. I think you could make a case for quite a few players on the team to take this one home.

There are a lot of great guys in that dressing room that are both the type of player and the type of person you’d want on your hockey team. But when you say “character, dignity and respect,” my mind jumps right to Niskanen. He holds himself and his teammates accountable in the most respectful way following tough contests. He has experienced success and exudes the maturity that comes with that, without ever talking about it or being boastful about it.

He’s the “Steady Eddie” of the team, keeping things in balance on the ice and off it. Never complains, not even with 15 stitches in his nose. And beyond his character contributions, he’s been exactly what Fletcher hoped he’d be in terms of a player — a dependable defenseman that has perfectly complemented Ivan Provorov on the Flyers' top D pairing.

Hall

During his first season in Philadelphia, Kevin Hayes has fully embraced the community on top of augmenting the dynamic in the Flyers' dressing room.

Through a mixture of lightheartedness and leadership, Hayes has brought the Flyers closer together. The 27-year-old center has been a quality teammate and a go-to interview all season.

He has shown nothing but respect and character in his dealings with fans, media members and Flyers employees.

There isn't a bad choice here, but Hayes' value has gone beyond the ice.

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