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Flyers Weekly Observations: Tough call in Ottawa still leaving a bad taste

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Flyers Weekly Observations: Tough call in Ottawa still leaving a bad taste

Well, that was quite an interesting week for the Flyers, now wasn’t it?

It was one that had nowhere to go but up after it started, but still had unforeseen plot twists and turns along the way.

The week started Tuesday with a 6-2 dud of a loss to the Anaheim Ducks to finish off a five-game homestand, continued with a tough-to-swallow 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators and ended on a high note with a 4-2 victory over the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering what unfolded late in the game Thursday night in Ottawa, you probably have a good idea of where this week’s observations are starting.

So let’s jump right in.

• Let’s be blunt here right off the bat: The Flyers were hosed, bamboozled, swindled, sandbagged or whatever else you want to call it out of the game-tying goal late in the third period Thursday in Ottawa by one of the dumbest rules in sports.

The NHL’s “intent to blow the whistle” rule is just illogical in every single sense and Sean Couturier was the latest victim of it. Just the wording “intent to blow the whistle” is dumbfounding. So a play, in this case, a game-altering play, is ruled by something someone intends to do. Not something someone actually does, but something someone intends to do. What? Seriously? We all intend to do a lot of things. Doesn’t mean they get done. The puck was across the line before there was a whistle; it was a goal.  How many more times does this have to happen before the league realizes that something is inherently wrong here? Imagine a Stanley Cup Final game getting decided because of that. Just let the players play and let the play end when it ends.

Yet, here’s the other fact: The Flyers can’t be falling behind by three goals multiple times in a game like they did against the Sens. They were just flat as can be right out of the gate and dug themselves a hole. Not many things tend to go your way when you do that. And that’s the salt in the wound of the play that didn’t go the Flyers’ way. They scratched and clawed their way back into the game multiple times only for that call to basically take away at least a point from them.

• Have to love the power move Jakub Voracek pulled out of his bag of tricks for his goal in Toronto on Saturday evening. Good things tend to happen when you take the puck to the net, especially as hard and strong as Voracek did on that particular play. Voracek can be deceptively strong, even more so when he’s going to work in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. He’s got a natural knack for protecting the puck. So you always like to see him make plays like that.

You can say what you want about Voracek’s goal-scoring numbers as he  has only two on the season with the first coming Thursday in Ottawa, but he’s still been a major cog in a Flyers offense that’s averaging 3.45 goals, seventh in the league as of Sunday evening. And Voracek is second in the league with 14 assists. He leads the Flyers with 16 points. The goals may not be there yet, but he’s still producing at a hefty clip. And if this week was any indication, the goals will be coming.

• The Flyers need to be holding their collective breath when it comes to Shayne Gostisbehere’s injury. “Ghost” left the game against the Maple Leafs after absorbing a hard hit in the second. Gostisbehere is such a unique talent. He’s a dynamic magician with the puck, especially in the offensive zone. And, of course, he has that booming rocket of a shot from the point. There aren’t many other players in the league who can do what “Ghost” can. Needless to say, it would be a huge loss if Gostisbehere were to be out for an extended period of time. That would be a gigantic hole on a Flyers defense that is already hurting. He has but a single goal, but also has 12 assists on the year.

• This week saw the Flyers lay their first egg of the season with Tuesday’s shellacking they took from the Ducks, a power in the Western Conference when healthy, just like they were at the Wells Fargo Center. An 82-game season is one long, winding journey with many bumps along the way. Duds like that are inevitable. They happen to every team.

But the continued rejuvenation of Couturier’s offensive prowess was on full display during that game with a beauty of a breakaway tally and a slam dunk off a beautiful set-up by Travis Sanheim. Couturier has been a revelation for the Flyers so far this season. Yes, skating alongside playmakers such as Voracek and Claude Giroux helps, but Couturier’s confidence with the puck and around the net can be easily seen. He scored on a lovely tip against the Sens and should have had another, but, well, you know...

Anyway, raise your hands if you had Couturier leading the Flyers with seven goals through 11 games. Not many hands raised, I see.

• Here’s a scheduling quirk: Starting with Monday’s game vs. Arizona, the Flyers won’t play another Eastern Conference team until Nov. 23 when they visit the New York Islanders. That’s a stretch of nine straight vs. the West. In fact, 17 of the Flyers’ first 21 games are vs. Western foes. Might as well save the most important games for later on, right?

Coming up this week: Monday vs. Arizona (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Wednesday at Chicago (8 p.m. on NBCSN), Thursday at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. on NBCSP). Saturday vs. Colorado (7 p.m. on NBCSP)

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, cracks NHL Network's top 20 active defensemen

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, cracks NHL Network's top 20 active defensemen

A young Flyers defenseman cracked the NHL Network's top 20 defensemen list, but it's not exactly who you are thinking.

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, was listed Sunday night as the league's 17th best blueliner as NHL Network continued its nine-part series looking at the game's top players.

That's not a slight to Gostisbehere by any means, but many would argue that Provorov's overall game is far more in tune of a top-tier player than Gostisbehere.

Here is NHL Network Ken Daneyko's explanation for "Ghost," who ranks right behind Boston's Torey Krug and ahead of Carolina's Dougie Hamilton:

"He really came into his own last year. This kid is dynamic, and for me, I think there are some defensive liabilities, but because how offensive the game has become and defensemen being part of that offense, Gostisbehere can do it all. He's shifty and can make a pass in the blink of an eye for a great scoring chance."

Gostisbehere had a frustrating sophomore season in 2016-17 after exploding onto the scene in 2015-16. Last season, though, he rebounded in grand fashion.

The 25-year-old finished fourth in the NHL among defensemen in points with 65. He led all defensemen in power-play points (33) and was tied for the league lead with seven power-play goals.

His offensive production returned — actually increased substantially — to his rookie season level, when he scored at a 0.72 points per game clip in 2015-16. Last season that number was 0.83.

But Gostisbehre's defensive game began to round into place. He credited that to "a little more snot," but the player we saw in his own end was far better than what we've seen before.

We can chalk some of that up to Dave Hakstol putting Gostisbehere with Provorov in late December. The pair became dynamic because, at any moment, either could jump up in the offensive zone and create, but Provorov was the pair's anchor.

“He’s a 1,000 of years better than me defensively,” Gostisbehere said in April. “We use that to our advantage and it really showed as a pair. Provy’s very good defensively, but offensively, he took another step.

"He’s probably one of the best, if not the best two-way defenseman in the NHL.”

Provorov did not totally get snubbed by the NHL Network. Daneyko had Provorov on the bubble and if we return to this list after the 2018-19 season, it's safe to say Provorov will likely, at least, make the leap.

"For such a young age, poise, good in all three zones and only getting better," Daneyko said of Provorov. "He moves the puck and has good offensive instinct. He's going to be a real good player for a long time."

Provorov, 21, was tied for the league lead among defensemen with 17 goals in his second NHL campaign but didn't post ludicrous overall numbers — just 41 points and not many on the power play.

But Provorov played the tough, shutdown minutes (see story). He led the team in ice time with 24:09 per game, more than 2 1/2 minutes more than Sean Couturier's 21:35 and 2 minutes and 42 seconds more than Gostisbehere.

We're splitting hairs here, really. Lists are lists and a good list often creates debate. Does it matter that Gostisbehere, not Provorov, made the NHL Network's top 20 defensemen list? Not really, but it's still a neat honor.

If anything, it's another testament that the Flyers are doing things right even if the process at the rink is slower than fans would like.

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Flyers featured heavily on NBC national broadcast schedule

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Flyers featured heavily on NBC national broadcast schedule

NBC Sports on Monday revealed its 2018-19 national broadcast schedule and the Flyers, per usual, are heavily featured.

The Flyers will have 17 games aired on either NBC or NBCSN in 2018-19. It's important to note, though, that some of the NBCSN games will be blacked out locally and air on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The local TV broadcast schedule typically comes out in early September. The full 2018-19 schedule was released in June (see Flyers highlights here).

Still, the Flyers will be featured in six major national TV games — four on NBC and two on NBCSN's "Wednesday Night Hockey" games.

Wednesday Night Hockey

Both of the Flyers' "Wednesday Night Hockey" games will be home games.

Jan. 16, 2019: The Flyers will host the Boston Bruins for their first appearance on the NBCSN's signature hockey night.

March 6, 2019: The defending Stanley Cup champions Washington Capitals come to Philly for a tilt against the Flyers.

NHL on NBC

The Flyers will be on NBC four times, including the 2019 NHL Stadium Series showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field.

Nov. 23, 2018, 1 p.m.: The Flyers host the New York Rangers on Black Friday — it will be the first of 13 NHL games aired on NBC in 2018-19.

Feb. 23, 2019, 8 p.m.: Yep, Flyers-Pens are going back outside. This time, at the Linc. It'll be on NBC in primetime.

March 24, 2019, 12:30 p.m.: The Flyers will face the Capitals in Washington.

March 31, 2019, 12:30 p.m.: Back-to-back Sundays the Flyers will be on NBC. This time, they're playing the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Flyers' full national TV schedule

Oct. 4, 2018, 10 p.m.: Flyers at Golden Knights (NBCSN)

Oct. 9, 2018, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers vs. Sharks (NBCSN)

Nov. 21, 2018, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Sabres (NBCSN)

• Nov. 23, 2018, 1 p.m.: Flyers vs. Rangers (NBC)

Dec. 27, 2018, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Lightning (NBCSN)

Jan. 8, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Capitals (NBCSN)

Jan. 16, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers vs. Bruins (NBCSN)

Jan. 28, 2019, 7 p.m.: Flyers vs. Jets (NBCSN)

• Jan. 29, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Rangers (NBCSN)

Feb. 11, 2019, 7 p.m.: Flyers vs. Penguins (NBCSN)

Feb. 17, 2019, 6 p.m.: Flyers at Red Wings (NBCSN)

Feb. 23, 2019, 8 p.m.: Flyers vs. Penguins (NBC)

Feb. 26, 2019, 7 p.m.: Flyers vs. Sabres (NBCSN)

March 6, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers vs. Capitals (NBCSN)

March 17, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Penguins (NBCSN)

March 24, 2019, 12:30 p.m.: Flyers at Capitals (NBC)

March 31, 2019, 12:30 p.m.: Flyers vs. Rangers (NBC)

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