NHL awards: Danny Briere says Sean Couturier deserves 2019-20 Frank J. Selke Trophy

NHL awards: Danny Briere says Sean Couturier deserves 2019-20 Frank J. Selke Trophy

Voting ballots for the NHL awards had to be submitted Monday by 5 p.m. ET. While it remains undecided for when the finalists and winners will be revealed, a former Flyer wants to see a current Flyer get his due.

In Danny Briere's eyes, Sean Couturier should be the 2019-20 Frank J. Selke Trophy winner, an honor given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

“I think he’s the player that deserves it the most in the NHL this season with his play, the way he has led this team in the right direction," Briere said last week on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Flyers Talk podcast. "That’s what’s so great with the Flyers now, Sean can play against any of the top lines around the league, Kevin Hayes can also play against any of the top players around the league, if you need Claude Giroux to play some shifts in the middle, he can also play against any of the best players around the league.

"That’s the strength of the Flyers, but it starts in the middle with Sean Couturier, his overall play, how smart he is, he seems to never make a mistake, he’s always in good position, his stick work is fabulous in the defensive zone and he’s bringing it at the other end of the ice, as well.

"A complete player, he’s a dream for any coach to have on the bench for you."

Head coach Alain Vigneault has experienced that in Year 1 with the Flyers.

"I think because he might not be as flashy or look as spectacular as some of the other guys, maybe people don't notice him as much," Vigneault said in December. "But I can tell you, the people in this room, the people that play with him every day, they notice him."

Couturier, the Flyers' alpha dog center, has spun together another Selke Trophy-caliber season. Among NHL centers, Couturier ranks first in faceoff win percentage (59.6 — minimum of 100 taken), tied for fifth in plus-minus (plus-21) and secondary assists (22), 13th in even-strength points (46), 15th in shots (185), 17th in time on ice per game (19:50), tied for 18th in assists (37), tied for 22nd in goals (22) and tied for 30th in shorthanded minutes (140:29), all while constantly drawing the opposition's toughest assignment.

The Selke Trophy has long been a brand recognition award. Couturier, who was the runner-up in 2017-18, has built his brand.

Among all NHL forwards since 2017-18, Couturier is the only one to rank in the top 10 of even-strength points (166 — tied for ninth) and shorthanded time on ice (480:33 — 10th).

In the Professional Hockey Writers Association's 2019-20 midseason awards, Couturier was the leading vote-getter for the Selke Trophy, finishing ahead of the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron (four-time winner) and the Blues' Ryan O’Reilly (last season's winner). Since that time of Jan. 23, Couturier did nothing to hurt his candidacy. Over his team's final 19 games, Couturier had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) and a plus-6 rating as the Flyers went on to finish with the NHL's sixth-most points (89).

This year's honor very well could come down to Couturier and Bergeron, who had 56 points and a plus-23 mark for the league-leading Bruins.

“It’s something I try to take pride into my game — be solid offensively but also defensively, take pride in that side of the game," Couturier said Tuesday to Flyers senior director of public relations and communications Zack Hill following a workout in Voorhees, New Jersey. "It would definitely mean a lot if I’d win, but just to be mentioned with other guys for that award, it’s already pretty flattering.”

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

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Carter Hart provides early birthday gift as Flyers beat Canadiens in Game 1 of 1st-round NHL playoff series

Carter Hart provides early birthday gift as Flyers beat Canadiens in Game 1 of 1st-round NHL playoff series


Carter Hart will enjoy his birthday.

The young netminder delivered a big performance Wednesday night to help the Flyers earn a 2-1 win over the Canadiens in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

So far, so good (in fact, really good) for Hart in his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jakub Voracek and Joel Farabee scored goals for the top-seeded Flyers, who are off to a 4-0-0 start in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament and have yet to trail once.

Over their last 14 games (10 in the regular season, four in tournament), the Flyers are 13-1-0 and have outscored the opposition 52-23 (plus-29 goal differential). The lone loss was to the Bruins, who finished the regular season with an NHL-best 100 points.

Wednesday was far from a picture-perfect performance but the Flyers did enough to grind it out, which they'll have to do at times against eighth-seeded Montreal.

• In the first chapter of the Hart-Carey Price showdown, the youngster got the better of the veteran.

Hart, who turned 22 years old at midnight, has been so steady early in games. He had to make only five saves in the opening frame but he hasn't allowed a first-period goal in his last seven games.

He was a life saver with 16 second-period saves and finished with 27 stops on 28 shots.

Through three games in the tournament, Hart is 3-0-0 with 84 saves on 87 shots. Can't ask for a better start from him. A major positive.

Price made a save on Scott Laughton that you'll see all over ESPN's SportsCenter and denied 29 shots. The Flyers know he'll be a tough out.

• After playing well following his jump to the first line in the round-robin finale with Voracek (undisclosed issue) out, Farabee stayed with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier in Game 1.

The 20-year-old rookie winger continued his productive response to the opportunity, scoring a massive goal 16 seconds after Shea Weber tied the game at 1-1 in the second period.

Farabee went to the net, deflected Travis Sanheim's shot and then pounded home the rebound — so timely given Montreal had totally swung the momentum in its favor, putting the Flyers on their heels.

Farabee should stay on that line until he gives the Flyers a reason to not keep him there. He has three points (two goals, one assist) over three games in the 24-team tournament.

He’s been great for us," Ivan Provorov said postgame in a video interview. "It’s his first playoffs, but it doesn’t look like it. He has poise, he’s been making plays, he’s been scoring and helping us big time. I think he deserves to play on that line and he contributes a lot. He’s been going, I think he complements Coots and G really well.

• The Flyers delivered a pair of early positive signs:

The power play struck on its first opportunity after going 0 for 11 through the three-game round robin. Provorov, who led all NHL defensemen in man advantage goals during the regular season with seven, blasted a shot from the point and Voracek must have just gotten a piece of it to hand the Flyers a 1-0 advantage.

The other positive was the ingredients to the goal. The Flyers went with a double screen on Price. Impeding the Montreal netminder's vision will be critical and the Flyers hammered home that point with Couturier and Voracek disrupting.

Not only is it an effective approach but it can also frustrate Price, who does not like being bumped or obstructed.

The power play finished 1 for 3 and missed out on a chance to provide insurance in the third period. It didn't cost the Flyers.

• The second period was troubling for the Flyers. They got a taste of their own medicine. Typically, the Flyers are a team that wants to wear down the opposition with its effort and north-south style. The Flyers are not the fastest team, but the way in which they play makes them tough to play against, which was a huge initiative entering their turnaround season.

Montreal completely took it to them in the middle stanza. At one point, the Flyers were pinned in their own end and had three failed attempts to clear the puck.

Leading up to the series opener, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault warned that Montreal seldom slows down in its pace or energy, which can sneak up on teams if you let it.

"That’s a team with real good team speed, there’s no doubt that they work extremely hard," Vigneault said in a video interview before the game. "Those two areas, watching the four games in that Pittsburgh series, caught everybody’s attention. They were extremely quick and extremely hard-working."

Fortunately for the Flyers, Hart was strong and Farabee made his heads up play, allowing the Flyers to leave the second period with a 2-1 edge.

• Vigneault gave the Game 1 nod to Shayne Gostisbehere over Robert Hagg, who was the extra defenseman. Gostisbehere truly won his spot in the lineup with impressive work during camp, the exhibition game and one round-robin game.

He wasn't as impactful against the Canadiens as he was in the 4-1 round-robin win over the Lightning and looked a little shaky in the second period, but so did the Flyers as a whole. Gostisbehere didn't play a ton later in the third period as the Flyers shortened things up.

Not sure that's enough to sit him in Game 2 but the battle for the lineup will truly be a game-to-game situation. The playoffs are a game-to-game business.

• James van Riemsdyk was on the fourth line and played 11:40.

Nate Thompson, the former Canadien who centers the fourth line, missed a wide-open net late in the third period.

Overall, the Flyers didn't receive the depth efforts they got throughout the round robin, but the club's role players weren't awful, either.

The Flyers had a so-so game in general.

• The series continues Friday with Game 2 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSP.

For the full series schedule, click here.

The Flyers practice Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at the Ford Performance Centre.

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Flyers vs. Canadiens NHL playoffs: Game 1 live stream, storylines, more

Flyers vs. Canadiens NHL playoffs: Game 1 live stream, storylines, more

For the first time since 2000, the Flyers will open the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.

They kick off their first-round series Wednesday against the eighth-seeded Canadiens.

With the Flyers set to begin what feels and looks like their most credible chance at a Stanley Cup run since 2011 or 2012, let's look at five big storylines ahead of their matchup with Montreal:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The goaltending matchup is well-advertised: Carter Hart vs. Carey Price, youngster vs. idol. As Hart, who turns 22 years old on Thursday, started molding his game, he looked up to Price, who turns 33 years old on Sunday.

"Any time you have a chance to play against somebody that you looked up to, it’s always exciting, and in the playoffs even more," Claude Giroux said Monday. "It's two good goaltenders; it’s going to be a treat to watch."

Everybody knows how Price can dictate an entire series by just his own ability between the pipes.

"I really believe everything’s been said about Price," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. "Obviously a premier goaltender in the league, gives the Canadiens a chance every game. I’m not sure there is much more I can add to where he is, how well he plays and what he does for that team."

A few interesting notes on both goalies:

Price has good career numbers against the Flyers, going 16-11-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 30 career regular-season matchups vs. the orange and black. He has been very good against them over the last two regular seasons: 3-0-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average and .959 save percentage.

There is a potential back-to-back scenario with Games 4 and 5. Despite Hart playing on no days rest only once this season (and it was in relief duty), expect him to play that back-to-back, especially given how big Game 5 could be, with the series either tied, the Flyers looking to clinch or trying to survive.

Meanwhile, Price was off his game on no days rest during the regular season, going 0-2-2 with a 3.76 goals-against average and .864 save percentage.

• The Flyers went 2-1-0 against Montreal in the regular season, with a 3-2 overtime win Nov. 7, a 4-3 overtime victory Nov. 30 and a 4-1 loss Jan. 16.

It's important to remember, though, that the Flyers got much better from early January and Hart faced the Canadiens only once (he beat them on Nov. 7). They also acquired Derek Grant and Nate Thompson at the Feb. 24 trade deadline, with Thompson coming from Montreal.

Having Nate, a veteran player that is such a pro in the way he prepares himself, the way he competes, the way he is with his teammates, a real good teammate — that’s his first and foremost value with him, he comes to play and he plays hard. Obviously in our preparation for the Montreal Canadiens, we did pick his brain on what we saw in video. I’m not going to go into length in what he shared with us; obviously that stays internal. There’s no doubt that he’s been here a short amount of time, but he’s been a real valuable player as far as bringing his game to the table every night and helping our group. In this preparation for Montreal, there’s no doubt that we did ask him a few questions.

- Vigneault

• An X-factor in this series for the Flyers is James van Riemsdyk.

The Flyers went 0 for 11 on the power play during the round robin. JVR has a long résumé of power play production in his career and makes a living on disrupting goalies around the net, which is something the Flyers must do to beat Price.

On top of van Riemsdyk playing with a little bit more to prove after being scratched for the second game of the round robin, he also owns quality lifetime numbers against the Canadiens. In 39 career regular-season matchups with Montreal, van Riemsdyk has 16 goals and nine assists. He has scored more goals against only one other team: the Sabres with 17.

Vigneault will continue to look for more from van Riemsdyk and the big winger profiles well in this series.

• After missing the round-robin finale because of an undisclosed issue, Jakub Voracek has practiced the last two days and said he's good to go.

Voracek was one of the Flyers' best players when the club started finding its identity in November. He's important to the man advantage, as well.

We'll have to wait and see if he goes back on the Flyers' top line. It seems likely he will to at least start the series given the chemistry he has with Giroux and Sean Couturier. He could also see time on the third line if the Flyers elect to play Joel Farabee on the first unit, where the rookie's strengths become much more utilized.

Because of the team's depth in a system predicated on balance, Voracek played 17:03 minutes per game in the regular season, his fewest since 2011-12, his first year with the Flyers. As a result, he was more effective in all three zones with less pressure to constantly push the envelope offensively.

"Let’s be honest, I think this is the best team since I came to Philly in 2011," Voracek said Tuesday. "That first year we had a pretty good team, but we are really deep this year. I think we showed it before the stoppage, we showed it in the last four games (three round robin, one exhibition) that basically we are capable of beating anyone. Skating well, check them well.

"Let’s be honest, I think we are going into the playoffs as one of the favorites. That’s a good feeling and hopefully we are going to find a way to go all the way because we feel really comfortable with this group. That’s where we stand right now."

As for Michael Raffl, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 1 of the round robin, it's uncertain when the Flyers will see his return.

• During the playoffs, Vigneault is close to the vest with his lineups. For strategic purposes, the Flyers will keep all lineup decisions to themselves moving forward.

It's uncertain if Robert Hagg or Shayne Gostisbehere will be the Flyers' sixth defenseman for Game 1. Expect to see Hagg begin the series in the lineup and with Justin Braun, but Gostisbehere opened eyes in the Flyers' 4-1 round-robin win over the Lightning to tighten the race for playing time.

If this first-round series doesn't start particularly well and the Flyers want to combat Montreal's quickness with Gostisbehere's elusiveness, they could look to call his number, as Vigneault has mentioned the importance of adjustments throughout a series.

"I’ve decided who I’m going to play for the first game, but that’s something that I’m not willing to share at this moment," Vigneault said Tuesday. "But there’s no doubt that Shayne did play his best game. You can see right now at this point that he's healthy, he’s confident about the surgery that he had on both his knees. He feels good about himself and feels energized. If we need him during the series, there’s no doubt that he'll be ready for us."

Projected lineup


Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Derek Grant-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Joel Farabee-Nate Thompson-Tyler Pitlick


Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Justin Braun


Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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