Flyers

Moving Claude Giroux back to center may be Flyers' best move

Moving Claude Giroux back to center may be Flyers' best move

One ring down, one ring to go.

Claude Giroux is enjoying a summer of marital bliss after tying the knot with fiancee Ryanne Breton.

When he returns to Philadelphia later this summer, he’ll begin his quest once again to earn that much more elusive championship ring. Of course, few people believe the Flyers are close to winning a Stanley Cup, but with the addition of James van Riemsdyk, they’re closer.

Maybe one more stud defenseman, Carter Hart in his prime, and switching the captain back to center?

Is it possible that after topping the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career, Giroux’s left wing conversion was just a one-year experiment?

General manager Ron Hextall stated a desire to sign a third-line center who would help kill penalties, but only signing one on his terms. The players that seemingly fit that role — Tyler Bozak, Riley Nash and Derek Ryan — all signed three-year contracts elsewhere, and the concern within the organization is eventually blocking Morgan Frost’s path to the NHL (see story)

So Hextall was asked on July 1 how the Flyers find that center they weren’t able to sign through free agency and the first answer that almost immediately came to mind was moving Giroux back to center. 

I believe the Flyers' brass has already given the idea consideration, and if you move the pieces around on paper, the team looks considerably deeper with Giroux in the middle again. 

Several elements stand out when you compare and contrast the different combinations.

1. The Flyers are considerably more balanced with Giroux at center, with three lines that can do offensive damage and create matchup problems for the opposition, especially at home with last change.

2. Konecny could be buried with Giroux at wing. He’s almost guaranteed a spot in the top six if Giroux switches back to center. During the first half of last season, Konecny was paired with players that didn’t have a similar skill set, and consequently, the super-skilled winger struggled to find any offensive rhythm.

3. While effective at times last season, Laughton doesn’t seem ready to jump into the role of a third-line center. The 2012 first-round pick played some of his best hockey late in the season on the left wing with Jori Lehtera at center. 

If Dave Hakstol elects to make this change in the preseason, the biggest concern moving forward doesn’t necessarily involve Giroux’s move back to center, but rather can Couturier continue to excel by posting solid offensive numbers without Giroux on his wing? The two players were inseparable last season until the final two games of the Flyers' playoff series against Pittsburgh.  

And it may be the best option to start next season. 

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After shutout to Devils, Flyers own worst enemy offensively

After shutout to Devils, Flyers own worst enemy offensively

BOX SCORE

It’s hard to gauge what exactly has dipped faster over the past few days.

The outside thermometer or the Flyers' offense, and good luck predicting when either will turn frigid at a moment’s notice.

For the orange and black, the goal-scoring cold spell blanketed the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday and increased in intensity during Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Devils (see observations).  

Hard to make sense coming from a Devils team that had the NHL’s worst road record at 1-7-0, and a defense ranked 29th in goals allowed.

“No, I didn’t see frustration,” Dave Hakstol said. “We competed our tails off tonight. It was a tight hockey game, but we created enough and then some to score goals in this hockey game.”

The return of James van Riemsdyk was expected to inject even more offense into a team that had scored 25 goals over a six-game stretch until Tuesday rolled around. Ironically, it was JVR who actually took away a goal when he brushed into Keith Kinkaid’s glove as he glided in front of the crease just as Shayne Gostisbehere’s power-play shot had found its way into the back of the net.

“The explanation they gave me was pretty funny actually,” van Riemsdyk said. “They said I moved my upper body to get in the way of the goalie. So, I don’t even know what that means. I thought it was outside the crease and I think it’s that grey area where some games that’s a call that maybe goes our way, but tonight, obviously it didn’t.”

Interestingly, Hakstol challenged what appeared to be a rather obvious call to only say it was a miscommunication between himself and the referee.

“It’s goalie interference, by nature I guess,” Hakstol said. “There’s grey area. With the fact that James’ glove hits his glove whether it’s outside the blue paint or where the goaltender is set up before the puck goes into the net.”

Missing the call wasn’t the issue, missing mark was more like it and the Flyers were just inches away from easily scoring three or even four goals. At final count, the Flyers had hit five different posts and perhaps the biggest absence of puck luck came when Wayne Simmonds was staring at a wide-open net to only see Kinkaid’s stick dive into the picture at just the last second.

“I’ve never seen that,” Sean Couturier said. “We had a lot of chances and open nets. The puck just didn’t want to go in tonight.”

Same can’t be said for the Flyers' anemic power play that has converted just three times over its last 43 chances. A couple of posts came during the man advantage but the sample size is now large enough to deeply question everything involved from the setup to puck movement and even shot selection. The top unit has even seen three different personnel units over the past three games.

“Power play needs to get one. It’s very frustrating right now,” Claude Giroux said. “We had some good chances, some good shots. I think if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to score some goals on the power play.”

One can only hope that’s the case, because if not, the Flyers may not have a snowball’s chance over the winter months.

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Flyers goalie Brian Elliott leaves Devils game with apparent injury

Flyers goalie Brian Elliott leaves Devils game with apparent injury

Updated: 11:15 p.m.

It's never easy with goalies in Philly, huh? 

Starting netminder Brian Elliott exited Thursday night's game against the Devils during the third period after allowing a wraparound goal to Kyle Palmieri with 6:08 left in regulation at the Wells Fargo Center.

Elliott appeared to make a split attempt trying to cover the opposite post but was too late as the Devils took a 2-0 lead. Elliott was slow to get up and then departed as Calvin Pickard took over in net. The Flyers lost, 3-0, and will have an update Friday on Elliott's status.

"Let's wait until [Friday] and see what the results are," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "Whoever is available, absolutely, we're going to be back at it."

The 33-year-old Elliott had been playing well over his previous eight games, going 5-3-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

"He's a big part of our team, veteran goalie, he’s looking sharp lately, too," Sean Couturier said. "Hopefully it's not too bad."

However, Flyers goalies entered Thursday with an NHL-worst save percentage of .885.

Elliott, who is in the final year of a two-year contract, missed significant time last season as he had to undergo core muscle surgery on Feb. 13.

"We don't know the extent of anything yet," Andrew MacDonald said, "but it's the next-man-up mentality everyone has."

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