Flyers

Nolan Patrick finds his 'fifth gear' for Flyers

Nolan Patrick finds his 'fifth gear' for Flyers

Nolan Patrick has spent a lot of time dialing the 204 area code lately, especially after some of these tough losses.

“My dad is the biggest influence for me,” Patrick said. “I talk to him after every game. He’s always helping me stay positive throughout slumps like that when the team’s not playing well and you’re not producing. I have to give a lot of credit to him.”

Steve Patrick wasn’t exactly a prolific scorer during his six-year career with three different teams in the 1980s, but he has the experience of guiding his 20-year-old son through a very prolonged slump.

As you might expect, there have been many more conversations than usual as the younger Patrick just capped a 24-game goalless stretch, roughly one third of an NHL season, when he redirected Scott Laughton’s shot five minutes into the second period of Monday's 7-4 win over the Wild (see observations).

“S---, that’s a long time,” Patrick said. “It weighs on you quite a bit. It’s something you think about quite a bit when you go through a slump like that. I didn’t know it would take that long.”

For a player that many had labeled as the breakout performer of 2018-19, it finally took 46 games into the season to have what you might describe as his “breakout” game. 

For whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened for the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft. 

Patrick has been more of the pace car this season, not the race car. He provided glimpses in the second half of his rookie season as to how high his motor can run. You can tell right away when he’s playing with tempo and pace, and when he’s not. The majority of this season, Patrick has been stuck in neutral.

“I think the biggest change for him will come as soon as he identifies, and he actually said the term, get to fifth gear,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said. “A lot of times he’s playing in third gear. He’s got another speed and we saw that. When I show him video or we talk about his game, let’s make sure we’re playing in fifth gear tonight.”

Patrick started his downshift a few games ago, and now he’s finally being rewarded. 

Monday night was his second career two-goal, three-point performance, and against the Wild, his between-the-legs shot was a highlight-reel play that will be talked about for a while, and the type of goal that speaks to Patrick’s untapped potential.

“I tried it once this year. I tried to go through my legs earlier this year. I couldn’t remember who it was against,” Patrick said. “It’s just something you try and practice during the summer. I’ve worked on that. I couldn’t really backhand it, so I had to make that play.” 

With four goals and five assists, Patrick along with Wayne Simmonds and Laughton, were easily the Flyers' most active and productive line of the night, even if you include James van Riemsdyk’s hat trick. With Patrick centering a third line, that trio has the talent to create some serious mismatches. 

“I think with Nolan, he’s only at the tip of the iceberg at what he’s going to potentially be,” Gordon said.

Just as long as he’s not moving at the speed of an iceberg.

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'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

Every so often, ever since training camp in mid-September, Alain Vigneault will remind everyone he wasn't here last year or the years prior.

He'll do so amicably when questions arise about a past season or trend with the club he now coaches. Vigneault likes to focus on the present and what's ahead.

After all, he doesn't want to act as if he's openly criticizing what happened before him. 

"It's the start of a new era, a new group," he said Sept. 13, Day 1 of training camp.

If he didn't know, the type of loss the Flyers suffered Thursday night has become a recurring theme in recent years, the kind that drives the fan base up a wall. One night, the Flyers will look like world-beaters against the NHL's elite. Another night, they'll lose a game that had victory written all over it, leaving fans scratching their heads.

Except, Flyers fans are no longer dumbfounded by those types of losses because, quite frankly, their team has tended to suffer them predictably.

On Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers lost, 4-1, to the Canadiens, who are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture and had lost nine of their previous 11 games. What made the defeat particularly maddening was that the Flyers had just made a significant statement by beating the league's three best teams — the Capitals, Bruins and Blues — in the past four games.

The win over defending champion St. Louis came Wednesday night on the road. So on Thursday night, the Flyers were facing the second game of a back-to-back set, coming off the high of beating the champs in their building, and playing without either of their regular two goalies (see observations).

When "emotional letdown" was brought up at his postgame press conference, Vigneault wouldn't even tiptoe the line.

“You know that word that starts with B?" Vigneault asked.

Begins with bull and ends in ... ?

"I mean, these are big games," Vigneault said. "There’s almost nothing separating teams. And tonight, it’s a couple plays. I understand emotionally, but points are the same. This game was worth two. Last game was worth two. You’ve got to get up for it, you’ve got to get yourself ready, it’s going to be a battle.

"You do know the word I’m talking about, right?”

Sure do.

And his Flyers know those losses can't become a theme.

Vigneault will call out that bulls--t if he sees it.

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Flyers upended by Canadiens for the type of loss that always seems to anger fans

Flyers upended by Canadiens for the type of loss that always seems to anger fans

BOX SCORE

These ones irritate Flyers fans the most.

After playing up to the competition for four straight games and generating bona-fide excitement, the Flyers played down to the competition in a 4-1 loss Thursday night to the Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center.

Sure, Montreal boasts a big-named goalie, but it had lost nine of its last 11 games before upending the Flyers, who had just won three games over the top three teams in the NHL.

This was a letdown any way you slice it for the Flyers (25-17-6) following victories over the Capitals, Bruins and Blues.

The Canadiens (21-21-7) salvaged the final game of the three-game regular-season series with the Flyers after dropping the first two matchups in overtime.

• The Flyers were coming off an emotional high of beating the defending champs on the road and playing the second game of a back-to-back set, but everyone should expect more than losing by three goals on home ice to a team outside of the playoff picture (see story).

On Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers should come out like gangbusters against the Kings, who are near the basement of the West.

• With Carter Hart (right lower abdominal strain) out two to three weeks and Brian Elliott playing an overtime game on the road Wednesday night, Alex Lyon made his first start of the season for the Flyers.

The 27-year-old has played well in his fourth season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

“Alex has put in a lot of time,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said before the game. “He spent the summer here in Philly to work out. I thought he had a good camp and he's been playing well. This is his best start in Lehigh Valley. He is just coming off a shutout and he deserved a chance to play.”

Lyon became the third goalie to suit up for the Flyers. At this date last season, the Flyers had already played seven goalies.

He was strong until he allowed a goal with 55 seconds left in the first period. From the end of the opening stanza to the beginning of the second frame, Lyon allowed three goals in a span of three minutes, 14 seconds.

The tallies weren’t all on Lyon. The Flyers were a step behind on all three. The second was a power play goal in which the Flyers allowed Shea Weber all kinds of room to wind up a slap shot and create a rebound in front (see highlights).

Lyon made 35 saves.

Montreal goalie Carey Price, who won his previous two games with 72 saves on 73 shots, enjoyed the lead and finished with 40 stops to beat the Flyers for the 16th time in his career.

• In the wins over the Capitals, Bruins and Blues, the Flyers were forced to kill 14 of 15 power plays. That’s a lot of work for the PK and it felt like the rising number of trips to the box would eventually burn the Flyers.

They allowed Ilya Kovalchuk’s go-ahead power play goal early in the second period and then the Canadiens scored another marker 11 seconds later to seize a 3-1 lead.

It was a momentum-changing sequence all started by a penalty, albeit a cheap hooking call on Kevin Hayes.

The Flyers also hurt themselves by going 0 for 4 on the power play.

• Kovalchuk, who signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Canadiens two weeks ago, gave Montreal a 2-1 lead on the second-period power play goal. He tacked on the fourth and final goal.

The 36-year-old winger has seven points (three goals, four assists) in seven games with the Canadiens.

Should the Flyers have been interested?

• Recalled a day after being loaned to the Phantoms for the purpose of creating space for Lyon, Joel Farabee scored a big goal to open the game’s scoring.

The marker was Farabee’s first in 16 games. The 19-year-old has offense to add to the Flyers — and if he can show it on the fourth line, his role will grow as the games grow bigger.

“I'd like him to get a little bit more than nine or 10 minutes but we've seen that go up and down, and my expectation is that that’ll come back,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Tuesday.

With the addition of Connor Bunnaman, the Flyers’ fourth line has been a positive over the past three games.

• Before the game, Vigneault said he was very optimistic about defenseman Justin Braun’s return Saturday from a groin injury.

• The Flyers play two more games, both at home, before their NHL-mandated Jan. 22-30 bye week — Saturday vs. the Kings (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and Tuesday vs. the Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN).

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