Flyers

A milestone night for Flyers to end homestand

A milestone night for Flyers to end homestand

BOX SCORE

The Flyers closed out their five-game homestand Wednesday night with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Claude Giroux assisted on three of the Flyers’ goals. 

Rookie defenseman Robert Hagg scored his first NHL goal.

The Flyers held the Red Wings to one shot on net over the final 10:56 of the third period.

Making his ninth straight start, Brian Elliott turned aside 25 of 28 shots to improve his record to 13-7-6.

The Flyers finished with a 4-1-0 mark on the homestand and are 15-12-7 overall. They play back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Columbus on Friday and Saturday, respectively, as they head into the Christmas break. 

• The Flyers’ defense looked very leaky in the first five and a half minutes. Caught up in a line change, the Red Wings found the Flyers’ defense flat-footed at their own blue line as Gustav Nyquist got behind Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. Once again, Elliott was there and bailed out his teammates. 

• Midway through the first period, Anthony Mantha attempted a breakout pass from behind his net, but snapped his stick and the puck dribbled right to Sean Couturier in front of the crease. It was a heads-up play by Jimmy Howard to react as Couturier set up Giroux for a one-timer and that failed to connect as the Flyers had a prime opportunity to score the game’s first goal.

• There was another Flyers’ turnover that saw Hagg’s pass picked off by Andreas Athanasiou in the neutral zone. A few seconds later, Hagg pushed the puck along the boards and it popped out to Athanasiou, who fired a slap shot on Elliott.

• The Flyers had sloppy in the neutral zone again, as Athanasiou jumped on a loose puck. Shayne Gostisbehere jumped up to play his man, Athanasiou and his blazing speed raced past Hagg and broke in on Elliott. However, Athanasiou lost control of the puck and was unable to get off a good shot.  

• Giroux found the soft spot in the high slot and unleashed a one-timer that Howard snared. On the ensuing faceoff, Nolan Patrick won the draw as the puck came out to Gudas, who fired a shot that popped up and over the net. Dale Weise beat Jonathan Ericsson around the net and then wrapped it around for a goal as Howard was late to cover the post.

• Travis Sanheim coughed it up in the neutral zone as he tried to skate the puck over center ice. The Flyers’ neutral zone play was brutal in that opening period. At least a half-dozen turnovers. The Flyers were credited with just three giveaways in the first period, but it certainly felt like a lot more than that.

• The Flyers allowed a brutal goal in the final seconds of the opening period as Dylan Larkin sent a cross-ice saucer through the defense. Andrew MacDonald swiped at it, but came up empty. Martin Frk snapped off a perfectly-placed and timed shot over Elliott’s blocker side shoulder. One way or the other, MacDonald has to prevent that pass so the Flyers get out of the period without allowing goal.

• The Flyers have been very good over the past eight games of eliminating stick penalties. However, Jordan Weal was whistled for a double minor high-sticking penalty after he caught Frans Nielsen up around his face along the Flyers’ bench, and it proved costly. 

• The Red Wings converted on the four-minute power play as Mike Green half-cocked a slap shot and placed it perfectly to Elliott’s blocker side. Elliott was screened on the shot and failed to pick it up off Green’s stick.

• While I still think Travis Konecny tries to do way too much with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he drew a holding penalty on Ericsson along the boards that set up the Flyers with their first power-play opportunity of the game.

• The Flyers had some brilliant passing as Giroux sent a puck cross-ice to Jake Voracek, who in turn sent a touch pass down low to Wayne Simmonds for an easy tap-in goal. Howard simply couldn’t react fast enough and the Wings’ PK just couldn’t adjust that quickly.

• The Flyers failed to build any momentum off their game-tying goal, as just 40 seconds later the Wings forced them into another turnover when Valtteri Filppula turned the puck over behind the goal line. Henrik Zetterberg jumped all over it and sent a centering pass to a wide-open Nyquist on a play that Ivan Provorov should have covered.

• Kudos to rookie Hagg, who scored his first NHL goal on a big slap shot that beat blocker side.

"It feels pretty good,” Hagg said after the second period, “I had a few chances earlier this season, so to see that one go in feels pretty damn good."

• The Flyers opened up the scoring in the third period with a play that looked somewhat similar to their power-play goal earlier. It was all set up by Giroux’s thread-the-needle pass to Simmonds, who fed it over to Couturier. Couturier needed a second whack to push it past Howard for the goal. Giroux’s passing in this game was some of the best I’ve seen from any player all season. It was Couturier's 16th goal of the season, a new career-high.

• Aside from Giroux, Dylan Larkin may have been the second-best player in this game. The Wings’ top center was all over the ice, as he forced turnovers and created plays. He nearly made the Flyers pay for their sloppiness in their own end, but Hagg was there to block Larkin’s shot.

• The Flyers had some great pressure late in the third period started by the top line and then continued by the second line. In all, the Flyers spent about 1:15 in the Red Wings’ zone.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Jori Lehtera-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Taylor Leier (upper body, day to day) and Mark Alt (healthy).

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Ron Hextall knows how these things can work out.

He remembers plucking Oskar Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL draft. Not much was made of the pick, barely even a peep, because, well, the 138th overall selections don't typically draw heaps of praise.

Lindblom quietly slipped back to Sweden. Three summers later, Flyers fans couldn't stop talking about him.

"Oskar went away, no one knew who the hell he was, fifth-round pick, over there getting better and better and better and bang," Hextall said last July. "He's the SHL Forward of the Year."

One has to believe Lindblom's name popped in the general manager's head when the Flyers saw Marcus Westfalt still available and the clock ticking on their 2018 seventh-round pick. At 205th overall, Westfalt became the Flyers' final selection, making for eerie similarities to Lindblom, who forced his way to the big club in 2017-18.

Westfalt plays for the same Swedish junior team (Brynäs IF J20) and SHL squad (Brynäs IF) as Lindblom did when he was taken by the Flyers. Both prospects are from Sweden and dropped in their respective drafts. Lindblom, a left winger, stands 6-foot-1, 191 pounds, while Westfalt, a center/left winger, comes in at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds.

Another Lindblom in the works?

"Hopefully, that's my dream, of course," Westfalt said three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "But he's a really good player, he's got a lot of skill. But, yeah, hopefully."

The 18-year-old was well aware of Lindblom. It was hard to not hear or see his fellow countryman transform from fifth-round pick to ballyhooed Flyers prospect. In 2016-17, when Lindblom really took off with Brynäs IF and won Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year, Westfalt witnessed the rise.

"I watch him a lot," Westfalt said. "His last year in Brynäs before he got here, I watched him a lot. He's a [role model] because I think he's really good, he's good with his hands, his speed, he uses his body well. I watch him a lot."

In his draft year, Lindblom played only four SHL games compared to 43 for Brynäs IF J20. For Westfalt, it was a bit different. He appeared in 39 SHL games, including playoffs, while playing 26 contests at the junior ranks, where he put up 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and a plus-19 rating.

Westfalt's goal for 2018-19 is to play the whole season in the SHL. Lindblom did a bit later than Westfalt, but once the jump was made, he impacted games.

"Try to get more ice time," Westfalt said. "Bigger role in the game.

"[Brynäs IF] told me that I have some things I need to work on and if I do that, I can get to play."

Westfalt, who had four points (one goal, three assists) in those 39 SHL games, said he tries to be "a smart, two-way centerman," and feels his "play in the D-zone is better than the offense."

"I'm strong without the puck and with the puck," he said.

While the goal is to stick in the SHL, he's uncertain which level will be best for his on-ice growth at this stage of his development."

"When I play in junior, I get more ice time, I get to play a lot more with the puck, I get to play the power play and stuff like that," he said. "I want to play in the juniors, too, because I want to work on my skills, but my big goal is to do the same thing I do in the juniors in the SHL."

Lindblom eventually did, carving out his path to the Flyers at 21 years old.

"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said last summer.

With Westfalt, there is no chip on his shoulder as a seventh-round pick.

"No, for me, I'm just glad that I'm here," he said. "It's a great organization. It's fun to go earlier [in the draft], but I'm just happy to be here."

And eager to climb like Lindblom.

More on the Flyers

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

General manager Ron Hextall is nearly finished wrapping up contracts for his restricted free agents.

And his goalie picture is now clear for 2018-19.

The Flyers on Wednesday re-signed netminder Anthony Stolarz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth $761,250, according to a report by hockey writer John Hoven.

With Stolarz back, defenseman Robert Hagg remains the Flyers' lone restricted free agent.

Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, underwent a nightmarish 2017-18 season just a year after he made his NHL debut and performed well in seven games with the Flyers. The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his left knee during early September, the same injury he suffered at the end of 2016-17 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests as a result. In 2016-17, he made his way to the big club and put up a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in a small sample. Then the injury occurred with the Phantoms and it's been an uphill battle ever since for the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder.

Stolarz will have his work cut out for him — if he hasn't already — as playing time will be earned at Lehigh Valley with Alex Lyon back in the fold and Carter Hart joining them.

"It's just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said in June after an on-ice workout at Flyers Skate Zone. "I think the thing for me is to prove I'm healthy. I don't think I've skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I'm healthy and going out there and working to prove I'm still a high-caliber goalie."

The Flyers' goaltending tandem is set with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts. Things obviously can change this offseason, as Neuvirth and Stolarz seemed like realistic trade candidates.

But as of now, it's Elliott and Neuvirth with the younger trio pushing and competing.

"I'd rather have too many goalies than too few," Hextall said earlier this month. "If something makes sense and we can make something happen, we'd at least look at it. We saw it last year. All of a sudden, a couple goalies go down and you're scrambling for goalies. If we start with five, we start with five. Not a perfect situation, but again, I'd rather start with five than with three."

More on the Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

• Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

• No arbitration needed for Flyers and Lyon

• Sandstrom hungry to prove he's not the 'other' goalie