Flyers

Goulbourne 'shot in the arm' Flyers needed

Goulbourne 'shot in the arm' Flyers needed

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An NHL tough guy is born … or should we say bourne?

Flyers rookie winger Tyrell Goulbourne took his opening NHL shift and made it a rather memorable one, leveling one of the league’s top defensemen, Alex Pietrangelo, which set up Scott Laughton and the team's first goal Saturday afternoon.

Surprisingly, it was Goulbourne who had a sense of fear coming in.

“It was amazing,” Goulbourne said. “I can’t really explain how it felt. I was scared before the game. My legs were shaking. It felt really good after that first shift. I just wanted to get a hit in there. Laughts kind of teed him up nice. I just wanted to finish my check. I’ve always been an energy type player.”

“Everybody’s excited for a player to go out and have success on his first shift,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It empowers him and for sure it’s a shot in the arm for the entire bench. Obviously, he had a big impact on that first shift to go out and play the way he plays.”

While the Flyers certainly don’t need to resort to overpowering teams physically, Goulbourne’s intensity and toughness are an element embraced when coaches and GMs are looking for a lift at some point throughout an 82-game schedule.

“You see him coming and you kind of want to get out of the way,” goalie Brian Elliott said. “I didn’t know what happened on his first shift, but the boys were saying that it was definitely a good one.”

Before Pietrangelo and the Blues knew what hit them, they were trailing 4-0 just 31 minutes and 45 seconds into the game, as the Flyers cruised to a 6-3 victory (see observations).

A game that also proved to be a not-so-memorable return for Blues center Brayden Schenn, who played for the first time in Philadelphia since the offseason trade.

Schenn was held pointless, finished as a minus-1  and won just five of 17 draws. Not only did the Flyers own Schenn in the faceoff circle, but Claude Giroux welcomed him back with a surprising check that knocked him down at center ice.

“He kind of gave me a shot and I gave him a shot right back," said Giroux, who scored his 14th goal, matching his scoring output from last season. "I think he just fell, but it was pretty funny."

Officially the midway point of the season, Giroux is once again top five in scoring and on pace for a 100-point season.

“You want to be the best player you can be at all times,” Giroux said. “Being able to have that chemistry with Coots makes my job a lot easier. I think when you get older you kind of learn from your mistakes.”

The Flyers scored six goals in back-to-back games for the first time since February 2013 after defeating the Islanders, 6-4, Thursday. Finally, consistency is beginning to set in within the team’s secondary scoring lines.

“I think we got everyone going early in the game and guys are ready,” said center Sean Couturier, who scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season. “Guys come out strong and we established our game, and I think it obviously helps a lot when you get a good start and go from there.”

Slow starts have been a Flyers trademark over the first half of the season. Their 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes was the first Flyers first-period lead since Dec. 7 at Vancouver.

Now just cut and paste that first shift from Goulbourne moving forward.

Flyers make roster cuts by sending Philippe Myers, Nicolas Aube-Kubel to Phantoms

Flyers make roster cuts by sending Philippe Myers, Nicolas Aube-Kubel to Phantoms

Minutes after the Flyers' loss to the Bruins Monday, the remaining rookies had their equipment packed up and carried out of the Wells Fargo Center dressing room as if they had played their final game.

For Philippe Myers and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, it was an omen.

The Flyers announced Tuesday afternoon that both guys would return to the Phantoms, who began training camp in Allentown, Pennsylvania, two days ago.

Myers started off with a strong camp, displaying the agility and physical presence working against Claude Giroux and other skilled forwards in 1-on-1 drills (see story). Myers looked fresh, battle-tested and ready to handle whatever the Flyers could throw his way.  

Still, Dave Hakstol wanted to test the 21-year-old defenseman’s mental and physical fortitude. Myers dressed in five of the six preseason games while playing some solid minutes on the penalty kill and the power play. While he looked at times as if he belonged, Myers' play also didn’t jump off the page like we saw out of Travis Sanheim a year ago.

The right-handed defenseman’s most glaring mistake of the preseason came Monday night when he blindly threw a backhanded pass into the middle of the ice, teeing up Lee Stempniak for a one-time goal and a 4-0 Boston lead. 

“I thought I heard somebody call for it," Myers said. "It was a bad read by me. I've got to learn from that and turn the page."

It wasn’t necessarily the nail in Myers' coffin to make the opening night roster, but perhaps the return of Andrew MacDonald was. MacDonald’s original prognosis from a lower-body injury put him out for the first six to eight games of the season, but his impressive recovery coupled with Sanheim’s return to practice meant only that Myers would be an extra defenseman relegated as a healthy scratch to start the season.

The Flyers may have expected a little bit more out of Aube-Kubel entering his third year of professional hockey.

Equipped with an impressive blend of speed, a hard, quick shot and a strong, physical forecheck, Aube-Kubel couldn’t bring all of those elements together consistently. There were flashes of high energy and a blue-collar work ethic when Aube-Kubel was paired with Giroux and Jordan Weal on the top line, but that excitement appeared to be lacking against the Bruins playing together with Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise.

According to general manager Ron Hextall, Aube-Kubel had been experiencing soreness, which may have contributed to his lackluster effort Monday, but there was room for him only as a fourth-line right winger. Since he wasn’t part of the PK rotation, which has become a vital role for any fourth-line player (see story), Aube-Kubel’s contributions to the Flyers would have been very limited.

Now Myers and Aube-Kubel will start the season with the Phantoms, where they’ll both be counted on to play some big minutes, and if they continue their AHL progression, there's a very good possibility we will see both guys with the Flyers at some point this season.

The Flyers' roster is now down to 33 players: 

Forwards (19)
Travis Konecny, RW, No. 11
Michael Raffl, RW, No. 12
Sean Couturier, C, No. 14
Jori Lehtera, C, No. 15
Wayne Simmonds, RW, No. 17
Nolan Patrick, C, No. 19
Taylor Leier, LW, No. 20
Scott Laughton, C, No. 21
Dale Weise, RW, No. 22
James van Riemsdyk, LW, No. 25
Claude Giroux, RW, No. 28
Corban Knight, C, No. 38
Tyrell Goulbourne, LW, No. 39
Jordan Weal, C, No. 40
Mikhail Vorobyev, C, No. 46
Oskar Lindblom, LW, No. 54
Pascal Laberge, C, No. 75
Carsen Twarynski, LW, No. 81
Jakub Voracek, RW, No. 93

Defensemen (9)
Radko Gudas, No. 3
Samuel Morin, No. 5
Travis Sanheim, No. 6
Robert Hagg, No. 8
Ivan Provorov, No. 9
Christian Folin, No. 26
Andrew MacDonald, No. 47
Shayne Gostisbehere, No. 53
Mark Friedman, No. 59

Goaltenders (5)
Michal Neuvirth, No. 30
Alex Lyon, No. 34
Brian Elliott, No. 37
Anthony Stolarz, No. 41
Carter Hart, No. 79

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Can killing penalties actually determine who makes the Flyers' roster?

Can killing penalties actually determine who makes the Flyers' roster?

For any NFL rookie or young player on the bubble, it’s almost a prerequisite to making the final roster. 

You have to excel, or at the very least, contribute to special teams. 

Something that also applies to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Exactly one week from today, Dave Hakstol’s opening night roster will have to be submitted to the league office by 5 p.m., and there’s still some tough decisions that have to be made. Most importantly is the search to find those last two or three forwards to round out the roster.

While it’s not specifically stated in the job description, the ability to kill penalties could very well determine who stays in Philadelphia and who goes to Lehigh Valley. They’re the hard minutes that GMs and coaches want their more skilled players and superstars to avoid, if possible.

“Sometimes those guys don’t get a lot of minutes so you like to have guys that can kill penalties down on the fourth line,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “It would be nice to have some physical play down on the fourth line. Certainly some energy, you've got to have guys that play with some energy down there, but to have penalty killers on the fourth line helps because it alleviates your top guys’ minutes.”

If you don’t think the Flyers place a premium on fourth-line penalty killing, consider in 2016-17 Pierre Edouard-Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde spent 21 percent, or a combined 429 minutes, of their ice time killing penalties. While an unusually high amount, that percentage far exceeds the ice time skilled forwards like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek spend on the power play, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 16-18 percent. 

While the Flyers' top penalty-killing forward Sean Couturier has yet to play in a preseason game, Hakstol continues to experiment with a myriad of different combinations to see what pairs communicate and work well together and which ones don’t. Monday night against the Bruins, Jori Lehtera was flanked to the left of Dale Weise, while Scott Laughton was teamed with Corban Knight.  

Eventually, it was Michael Raffl along with Weise that created the neutral-zone turnover, which led to Weise’s shorthanded goal. Raffl’s takeaway is one of those critical plays that can change the momentum of a game as the Flyers proceeded to score three goals in a span of 2:44 to cut a 4-0 deficit to one goal (see highlights).

The Flyers haven’t had enough of those plays, and more importantly, just overall efficient penalty killing in Hakstol’s three seasons in Philadelphia. The PK unit has yet to finish higher than 20th in the league in each of the past three seasons, and every indication is that the team believes the problem lies more in its personnel than in its setup or structure.

It will also be interesting to see how much the Flyers continue to rely on their No. 1 center Couturier as a penalty killer once he returns and if the team attempts to curtail those “hard” minutes like it has done with Giroux over the past five years.

As much as you’d like to see the organization move on from players like Lehtera and Weise, the Flyers potentially see value when it comes to killing penalties. 

“We still don’t know exactly what we have this year,” Hakstol said Monday. “We still have another week in camp before we have to make final decisions on who we’re going to travel west with.”

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