Flyers

Joel Farabee, Sean Couturier (banged up?) deliver in Flyers' show-me win over Devils

Joel Farabee, Sean Couturier (banged up?) deliver in Flyers' show-me win over Devils

BOX SCORE

The Flyers exhibited plenty of character Friday night to pick up a 4-3 shootout win over the Devils at the Prudential Center.

Head coach Alain Vigneault challenged his group, specifically the core pieces, following consecutive losses to divisional opponents by a combined score of 12-4.

It wasn't pretty, but the Flyers (6-5-1) answered behind Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee and Carter Hart to beat the Devils (2-5-4) for the second time this season.

• Couturier might be banged up and he still came through in a show-me game for the Flyers.

The do-it-all center put up a goal, an assist and scored the only tally in the shootout.

Couturier, who had the second-best faceoff win percentage (57.1) among the NHL's top-20 players in draws taken last season, took just three faceoffs Friday. Travis Konecny was in the dot more than Couturier, who never took fewer than six draws in a game last season.

Couturier lost his only three faceoffs Friday, while Konecny went 7 for 9. It's something to watch.

"I'm not feeling 100 percent," Couturier told reporters in Newark, New Jersey. "It's part of the season, it's a long season, you've got to battle through injuries. I'm just trying to do what I can to help the team win.

"Just cautious, being day to day … should be fine."

• Farabee picked a clutch time to score his first career NHL goal. The Flyers had just fallen behind, 3-2, on a deflating marker in the final frame.

The 19-year-old got everyone up a minute and a half later. At Boston University last season, Farabee ranked among the country's top 10 in game-winning goals. He has a knack for timely playmaking, exactly what the Flyers needed when they summoned him from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

• Hart, who had a 5.56 goals-against average over his previous four games and hadn't won since Oct. 9 against the Devils, made 23 saves on 26 shots. He responded well and two of the three goals came when the Flyers were shorthanded.

On the first tally, Philippe Myers let Wayne Simmonds backdoor him for a 1-0 New Jersey lead in the opening period. On the second marker, Travis Sanheim lost his footing, which allowed Nico Hischier to attack the net, shrink the Flyers' coverage and set up a wide-open shot for Sami Vatanen, tying the game at 2-2 in the middle stanza.

• Justin Braun has had a rough go 12 games into his Flyers career. He has an excellent stick, but he's 32 years old and not moving well.

It really showed Friday night on Taylor Hall's go-ahead goal midway through the third period. Braun is a team-worst minus-9 on the season and the Flyers need him to be better.

• Konecny and Oskar Lindblom have not skipped a beat this season.

The two have 24 combined points through the Flyers' first 12 games.

Last season, they had eight combined points through the Flyers' first 12 games.

• During the first period, Matt Niskanen delivered a clean check on 18-year-old center Jack Hughes. But if you put the 2019 first overall draft pick on his backside, Devils teammates are going to stand up for the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder. Directly after the check, Niskanen had to drop the gloves with Kyle Palmieri.

• It's only fitting that Simmonds' first goal with the Devils came against the Flyers.

The 31-year-old scored 91 power play goals with the Flyers, third most in the NHL since 2011-12, behind only Alex Ovechkin (153) and Steven Stamkos (98).

Simmonds got his first man advantage tally with New Jersey by beating Hart.

• German Rubtsov made his NHL debut, while Myers made his season debut. Rubtsov had an early turnover behind the Flyers' net and Myers wasn't sharp on the Simmonds goal, but both played well overall and made positive contributions.

• The Flyers are back home Saturday to play the Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). Dave Hakstol returns to the Wells Fargo Center as an assistant coach with Toronto (see story).

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Because of coronavirus outbreak, James van Riemsdyk sees possible 'unique opportunity' for NHL playoffs

Because of coronavirus outbreak, James van Riemsdyk sees possible 'unique opportunity' for NHL playoffs

There always seem to be the people out there pleading for the NHL to become more marketable, more fun, more appealing.

If there's a silver lining to the suspension and uncertainty of the 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus outbreak, it could be the doors opening for some experimentation by the league.

Wednesday morning saw the calendar flip to April. The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were originally scheduled to start April 8. Nobody knows when or if they'll begin. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL has been out of commission since March 12 and on Tuesday extended its isolation period to April 15.

Every NHL team has at least 11 games left on its regular-season schedule. The Flyers, who are a point behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals, have 13 games left.

With each passing day, the hopes of finishing the 2019-20 season in full weaken.

"That’s been the hardest part, for not only us but I feel like everyone in the world — there’s all this uncertainty around everything," James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers' NHLPA representative, said Tuesday night in a conference call. "It’d be nice to be like, ‘You know what, you sit at home for a month and then everything will go back to normal.’ I think that would obviously be a lot easier for everyone to handle than these daily to weekly updates on stuff and you’re kind of still unsure about what’s going to go on. A lot of people feel like, I’m sure, just running in place right now trying to stay busy and keep yourself in shape.”

Will the NHL find a way to drastically change its plan throughout the summer to play 2019-20 in its entirety? Should the league ax the remainder of the regular season and jump right into the playoffs? Could the postseason format change? Is the season going to resume at all?

A veteran of 11 seasons, van Riemsdyk knows all options will be on the table.

"I’d like to think we’ll find a way, but ultimately we want to guarantee the safety of everyone involved whether that’s players, staff, fans, families — we don’t want to do anything at the expense of any of that," van Riemsdyk said. "This is a way bigger issue than sports.”

He sees the NHL's predicament as a possible tryout opportunity for the league.

“Ultimately it’s going to come down to timing and how we can fit everything in," van Riemsdyk said. "In a perfect world, you’d like to finish the regular season and play it out as it may and go from there. But if some of those timeframes become a little bit too shortened where we can’t fit that in, it kind of creates a unique opportunity, in my opinion, to maybe try something a little bit unique with the playoff structure.

"I know that’s been talked about in the last couple of years especially is try to maybe add some more teams to it. If we’re in a situation like we are this year, it’s basically a free chance to try something a little bit outside the box maybe and see what might work.

"We’ll cross those bridges when we get there as far as time-wise and when we’re able to start things up and how that might look.”

Sixteen of the NHL's 31 teams qualify for the postseason. Each round features a best-of-seven series. The NHL playoffs have always been must-see entertainment. They could be a whole lot more fun, for all viewers, with a look that will be different to everybody. After all, 2019-20 has now become much different than other seasons in the past.

“If it gets to the point where we don’t have enough time to play out the regular season, which I’m sure everyone obviously would like to do," van Riemsdyk said, "then we can be more creative in the sense of trying something a little bit outside the box with the playoff structure potentially.”

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Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy as most improved player

Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy as most improved player

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 Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy as most improved player.

Destra

When it comes to most improved from last season, Travis Konecny is the first that comes to mind. He didn’t have a poor 2018-19 season by any means but when looking back and the leaps and bounds he has made since then, it just makes sense to award him the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy. 

Before the season started, I noted that Konecny was the most important puzzle piece for a successful year and he has continued to prove that with every game played. 

Konecny bettered his two-way game, cleaned up his puck work in the neutral zone and can be on a line with just about anyone and still find a way to drive play. He’s grown every aspect of his game and now leads the team in points, as well. 

Not to mention, he’s also a pest to play against, a ton of fun to watch, made his first All-Star appearance back in January … and he’s only 23 years old. 

Emmer

Konecny is the most improved player.

Fans were expecting a breakout season from Konecny and he’s having it. With 61 points through 66 games, he’s already 12 points past his previous career high of 49 points in 82 games last year. 

Konecny’s average ice time has gone up by almost two minutes more than last season and he has continued to dominate in his 5-on-5 play, while his presence on the Flyers' power-play units has grown as he leads the team in man advantage assists with 18.

The Flyers' 2015 first-rounder obviously had talent from the start, but this season he really blossomed on the score sheet and grew that confidence Flyers fans had certainly seen hints of before, but now see it on another level. 

His confidence could have spiked for many reasons: his offensive success, his coaching staff and new linemates and maybe even that six-year, $33 million contract he inked at the start of the season.

Whatever it was, that confidence is hopefully here to stay. Konecny certainly improved the most this season and I think Flyers fans have plenty to look forward to out of this 23-year-old for the next five-plus years.  

Hatcher

The Flyers have quite a few players who have taken the next step in their game this season, but Scott Laughton deserves this one in my opinion.

Statistically speaking, Laughton played 82 games last season, netting 12 goals and tallying 20 assists. After battling through two injuries this year (finger, groin), he’s still managed to pass that goal total with 13 in just 49 games so far in 2019-20. Laughton has also jumped from a minus-11 rating last year to a plus-13. He’s a key piece of the Flyers' significantly improved penalty kill.  

Not to mention, when Alain Vigneault has needed to shake up lines, Laughton has been able to find success as a top-six player. But, when called upon to contribute in the bottom six, he’s assumed the role without issue. Laughton still finds ways to distribute the puck well and produce with a different cast of players.  

Hall

With Konecny making such an important jump for the Flyers, he'll rightfully be the favorite for this award and should even be in consideration for the Bobby Clarke Trophy.

However, Oskar Lindblom won't be counted out for most improved. Don't be surprised if some teammates cast their votes for the 23-year-old forward — and those votes would be deserved.

Before being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma during mid-December, Lindblom was thriving in his biggest role yet, scoring 11 goals and 18 points through 30 games. He was projected to finish with 30 goals after a promising rookie season in which he recorded 17 while playing fewer minutes.

Lindblom, who continues to undergo treatment, quickly won over Vigneault with his smarts and skill. His improvements were significant and evident.

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