Flyers

Kings 3, Flyers 2 (SO): Late magic falls short as win streak comes to end at 8 games

Kings 3, Flyers 2 (SO): Late magic falls short as win streak comes to end at 8 games

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The NHL's hottest team was finally cooled off but it took six rounds into a shootout.

Jakub Voracek scored with 18 seconds remaining in regulation before the Kings' Tyler Toffoli won it, 3-2, in the shootout, snapping the Flyers' eight-game winning streak Thursday night.

Anthony Stolarz stopped 37 shots in the loss, including a miraculous attempt that helped the Flyers force the skills competition.

Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

• After undressing Kings All-Star defenseman Drew Doughty and hitting the post with a shot, Voracek got his revenge with a beautiful cross-ice pass from Claude Giroux to earn the Flyers a point and send the game to overtime.

• There have been significant improvements in Shayne Gostisbehere’s defensive play with interim head coach Scott Gordon changing up the pairings. Over his previous eight games, "Ghost" has seen easier matchups and hasn't been forced to defend the opposition’s top lines, posting a plus-8 rating.

However, the opening goal is one example of a simple play from the Kings' fourth line that Gostisbehere has to defend better. Andrew MacDonald fell down, which allowed Austin Wagner (who scored the goal) to get behind the defense off an offensive zone faceoff.

I think Gostisbehere’s biggest liability is his lack of speed. While he has quick lateral movements, his acceleration simply isn’t quick enough to make up for times when he gets caught defensively or needs to rush back to cover an odd-man rush. That was clearly evident as Gostisbehere couldn’t skate back fast enough to break up the Kings' 3-on-1 rush leading to Adrian Kempe’s 2-1 goal in the second period.

• Perhaps Sean Couturier’s best attribute is his selflessness. Gordon talked about that quality during Thursday’s morning skate after the center was taken off the top power play. Couturier took the lesser role in stride as he typically does with the attitude of whatever’s best for the team.

He has been the Flyers' most important forward throughout the nine-game point streak with a goal in three straight games and seven of his last 10. 

• Stolarz looked very solid in his first game action since Jan. 29, when he shut out the Rangers, 1-0, at MSG. The Flyers' porous defense saw the Kings produce 18 shots in the opening period, with L.A. winning most of the puck battles and board battles.

The scoring chances were a lopsided 23-10 in favor of L.A. through two periods. The Kings also had a fourth line with Wagner and Kyle Clifford that plays just as much as their second line, and it had as many quality scoring chances as the Kings' first line. 

• Giroux has played some monster minutes, averaging nearly 22 minutes over his last 11 games, and the coaching staff is really leaning on him on the power play. The captain played all two minutes of the Flyers' third-period power play and finished over 24 minutes in this game.   

• Gordon talked about the frustrations of Scott Laughton and his goalless drought that has now reached 23 games dating back to mid-December. Laughton failed to connect on a penalty shot against Vancouver Monday. Early in the first period, Laughton was on the doorstep when his stick was tied up coming off Ivan Provorov’s broken-stick slap shot.

Gordon told Laughton to keep doing all the little things that make him a solid two-way player and don’t worry about the scoring. There are plenty of other guys who can score.

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Alain Vigneault asked for something and has yet to get it in Flyers preseason

Alain Vigneault asked for something and has yet to get it in Flyers preseason

Alain Vigneault put out his hands as if he wanted a hug.

The head coach was speaking passionately about training camp competition.

He pleaded for one thing.

"You need surprises," Vigneault said last Saturday after Day 2 of Flyers training camp. "We need some of these young kids to step up and force us into some decisions. That's how your team gets better and we're going to give them an opportunity to do that."

Vigneault hasn't gotten any surprises … yet.

The Flyers could use them. They have a clear opening on their third line. They even have two when you factor in Nolan Patrick's injury. Tyler Pitlick, a projected bottom-six guy, is also hurt. Their defensive pairings are far from sacrosanct. 

Spots are everywhere.

But three exhibition games down, the Flyers have heard only knocks on the door.

Nobody has barged in.

"The battle for the bottom six is, in my mind, fully on," Vigneault said Thursday after morning skate. "It's good. We've got some decisions to make in those positions."

While Morgan Frost's preseason got off to a positive start in Thursday night's 3-1 loss (see observations), the 20-year-old playmaker failed to crack the score sheet playing between James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek.

Joel Farabee has impressed during camp and shown flashes in two games, but hasn't blown away the rest. Similar to Frost, Farabee played with high-end talent Thursday — Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier — and couldn't capitalize with production.

German Rubtsov looked a bit tired Thursday and justifiably so as he was playing his third game in four days. The 21-year-old center has done the little things well.

Mikhail Vorobyev, last year's preseason darling (six points in six games), has played not-so-glamorous minutes and on the penalty kill.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel had one of the better performances in the second preseason game but was quiet on the third line and second-unit power play Thursday.

Isaac Ratcliffe brought plenty of intrigue into camp but progression in the AHL will be first on his plate.

Connor Bunnaman has shown promise but seems destined for his second season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, as does Carsen Twarynski.

The older roster hopefuls haven't crushed the kids, either. Andy Andreoff has been inconsistent through two games, Chris Stewart fought in the opener and Kurtis Gabriel is hurt.

The Flyers' four preseason goals have come from van Riemsdyk, Matt Niskanen, Michael Raffl and Chris Bigras.

The remaining preseason slate will be amplified, growing in importance and starting Saturday night against the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center.

"One of the things I've found throughout the years is people say that we make the decisions, but we really don't make the decisions," Vigneault said Monday. "The players make the decisions for us by how they play, how they continue to improve.

"As camp moves forwards, competition is going to get better, it's going to get more demanding on everybody. They'll make the decisions for us by how they play, how they compete and how they perform."

Vigneault asked for surprises.

With four exhibition games left, who's going to give him one?

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Prospects get their shot, competition still up for grabs, more from Flyers' preseason loss to Bruins

Prospects get their shot, competition still up for grabs, more from Flyers' preseason loss to Bruins

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The Flyers are winless in the preseason through three games after losing to the Bruins, 3-1, Thursday night.

They haven't scored on the power play and have just four goals total. It's the preseason, though, so nothing to freak out about.

The Flyers have four exhibition games remaining.

Let's get into some observations from the third:

• Morgan Frost was denied a few times in front, including this absolute robbery by Jaroslav Halak.

Frost didn't put up numbers offensively but he showed his skill and was actually at his best on the forecheck. He played hard and didn't look out of place defensively, which is a major plus. The 20-year-old was a positive in his first preseason action.

• Joel Farabee had a so-so game. He created room in front of the net on Matt Niskanen's goal but didn't stand out. It would have been nice to see Farabee or Frost finish some scoring chances. Production will win you a job and on a night when those two prospects played with high-end NHL talent, they didn't produce. The two haven't hurt themselves, but the Flyers will want to see more.

• Claude Giroux looked like himself in his first preseason game. He slipped a pretty pass to Niskanen for the Flyers' only goal. One thing the 32-year-old defenseman provides is sneaky offensive ability, which the Flyers didn't get from their older blueliners last season. Niskanen can help Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov. 

• Speaking of defensemen, Justin Braun has been good. General manager Chuck Fletcher and head coach Alain Vigneault have praised his active stick and we've seen it consistently break up plays.

• The Bruins made a couple of sharp plays on both goals against Brian Elliott, who performed well with 22 saves in two periods of work.

Alex Lyon played the third frame and allowed a breakaway goal.

• The Flyers' third line of Andy Andreoff, German Rubtsov and Nicolas Aube-Kubel was important to watch because all three players are vying for a bottom-six spot. The group was quiet but Andreoff, who was hardly visible in Tuesday's loss, looked better. He was active, fast and opportunistic offensively, creating a chance for Frost early in the game.

Let's be honest, though, nobody has knocked the door down like Mikhail Vorobyev did last preseason, which makes the final four exhibition games that more important (see story).

• Another look at the monstrous scoreboard:

• The Flyers practice Friday in Voorhees, New Jersey, before welcoming the Rangers Saturday for their fourth exhibition game (7 p.m./NBCSP+).

Travis Konecny is expected to make his preseason debut (see story). Let's see if he can be a spark.

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