Flyers

Matt Niskanen giving Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere a 'force' they didn't have last season

Matt Niskanen giving Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere a 'force' they didn't have last season

Ivan Provorov played fewer than 21 minutes only once last season and it was because of 12 penalty minutes accrued in one uncharacteristic game.

On Tuesday night, Provorov played 20:29. He wasn’t at his best with a pair of penalties, three giveaways and a quiet night on the power play.

Shayne Gostisbehere played 19:22 and had a power play assist. But he didn’t break out by any means, finishing with no shots and a minus-1 mark.

Those two playing OK was more than OK for the Flyers.

That’s because Matt Niskanen “was a force out there,” according to head coach Alain Vigneault, to help spearhead a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes, who the Flyers went 0-4-0 against last season (see observations). The 32-year-old veteran ate up 21:26 minutes, tallied two assists, was a plus-2 and played on both special teams units.

“He made some great plays as far as killing opportunities and getting the puck out of our end,” Vigneault said.

Provorov, Gostisbehere and the Flyers’ defense didn’t have a luxury like Niskanen last season. They do now and his impact has been felt everywhere. The blueliner with a Stanley Cup title has two goals and six assists through 14 games. He leads the team’s defensemen in shorthanded ice time and is third in power play minutes.

He is a smart and skilled puck mover with a calmness to his game.

Seldom does he make a poor decision and the Flyers are 5-1-1 when he records a point.

In 2018-19, the Flyers put a lot on the shoulders of Provorov and Gostisbehere. Provorov came into last season at 21 years old and Gostisbehere was 25. There was nobody the caliber of Niskanen to take off some pressure or pick up any slack.

Niskanen was a plus-91 over his previous six seasons and owns 125 career postseason games.

"I've been fortunate to be on real good teams," he said in June when the Flyers acquired him. "I've been around and I know what good hockey looks like, I know what a good culture looks like. I'm not going to be a rah-rah guy, but I think with my résumé, my words hold a little bit of weight, especially with young players.

“I envision myself being a really good partner for one of these young studs. Trying to give them confidence to do the things that they do well, and I'll be right beside them.”

So far, that kind of presence has felt like a force.

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Flyers vs. Senators: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Senators: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

For just the fifth time in the last 23 games, the Flyers failed to pick up at least a point when they lost to the Coyotes, 3-1, Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Before a three-game road trip, the Flyers (16-8-5) will look to get back into the points business Saturday as they host the Senators (12-16-1).

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 1 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• For the most part, the Flyers were pleased with their game Thursday despite leaving the night empty-handed. Their points were valid, though.

The Flyers held the Coyotes to only 18 shots while putting up 29 themselves. On the season, the Flyers have recorded the NHL's 10th-most shots per game (32.8) and have allowed the fourth fewest (28.9). They own 10 wins when outshooting their opponent, tied for second most in the league.

What's most important is they're playing head coach Alain Vigneault's preferred style, which, more often than not, will result in points. It's a big reason why they're 14-5-4 since Oct. 21.

When you look at all the numbers after tonight, we’ll be double in possession, double in shots, double in everything. But we couldn't find a way to beat their goaltender. I like the way we worked, but execution-wise with the puck, we were a little off. A lot of people say they defended well, we had the puck all night. So that's what happened.

- Vigneault after loss to Coyotes

• Carter Hart is 7-2-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in his last 11 starts. The 21-year-old has allowed more than two goals in only two of those 11 outings.

• The Flyers have only two regulation losses at home (9-2-4) and haven't gone back-to-back games without a point since Oct. 27-29.

• The Senators are 1-5-0 in their last six games, a stretch in which they've scored 1.83 goals per game.

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Morgan Frost-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Joel Farabee
James van Riemsdyk-Mikhail Vorobyev-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Justin Braun
Philippe Myers-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

 

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Flyers brought back to earth by Coyotes, suffer a first since Oct. 19

Flyers brought back to earth by Coyotes, suffer a first since Oct. 19

BOX SCORE

Despite putting up 21 goals over their five-game winning streak, the Flyers had a propensity to score them in bunches when an opponent started derailing.

On Thursday night, the Flyers never got going and were pulled back to earth in a 3-1 loss to the Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center.

Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper was the biggest difference. The 6-foot-5 netminder who brought an NHL-best 1.97 goals-against average and .936 save percentage to Philly stopped 28 shots.

With 4:43 left, Matt Niskanen scored the Flyers' lone goal and it ricocheted off a Coyote. Arizona iced the game with an empty-netter (see highlights).

The Flyers (16-8-5) suffered just their second regulation loss at home (9-2-4). The last time they failed to pick up a point at home was Oct. 19 when they lost to the Stars, 4-1.

Thursday night's defeat halted the Flyers' winning streak at five games and their point streak at seven. The Flyers had earned at least a point in 18 of their previous 22 games.

The Coyotes (17-9-4), who were allowing the NHL's second-fewest goals per game at 2.31, improved to 10-3-3 on the road.

• The Flyers went on two power plays in the final six minutes of the second period but could not solve Kuemper.

During those two man advantage opportunities, the Flyers put five shots on Kuemper and also misfired three times.

James van Riemsdyk found Morgan Frost with a slick backhanded pass from behind the net but the 20-year-old missed wide.

• Speaking of Frost, he had a tough game. The rookie had a turnover and some difficulty making plays.

He has gone scoreless over his last seven games following his loud start in which he scored three points in his first two games.

Maybe head coach Alain Vigneault takes him off the first line to relieve some pressure.

"Young player, in my estimation, has got a lot of confidence in himself, which is real good," Vigneault said postgame. "Tonight, there were a couple of plays with the puck, like some of our other guys, that the execution might have been a little bit off. But I think overall, the young man is working hard and trying to get better."

Will he stay on the top line?

"I'm going to watch the game and make [changes], if I have some changes to make, [Friday]," Vigneault said. "I like what the young man can bring to the game."

• Vigneault opted to play seven defensemen instead of slotting call-up Mikhail Vorobyev in at fourth-line center.

It's not a bad approach when you have seven healthy blueliners playing well. It also could mean the Flyers aren't ready to trust Vorobyev on the fourth line again.

The Senators game on Saturday looks like a better matchup for Vorobyev, who is in his fifth stint with the club since the start of last season.

• Brian Elliott hadn't lost in regulation since Oct. 29. The Flyers' backup goalie finished with 15 saves.

He allowed a first-period power play goal to Phil Kessel after Claude Giroux was whistled for a ticky-tacky slashing penalty. He then yielded a backbreaking third-period goal to Conor Garland with 7:03 left in the game.

The goalie was not the problem, though.

Sean Couturier was not a problem, either.

• The Flyers wrap up their three-game homestand Saturday when they welcome the Senators (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Next week, the team opens a three-game road trip, which features matchups with the Avalanche on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN), the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Jets on Sunday (5 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).

 

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