Flyers

Sharks 4, Flyers 3 (OT): Some good but pain still the same in loss

Sharks 4, Flyers 3 (OT): Some good but pain still the same in loss

BOX SCORE

The California Goal Rush of 2018 came to an end Saturday night.

The Flyers nearly completed their first-ever sweep of the Golden State before losing to the Sharks, 4-3, in overtime Saturday night. 

Which line stepped up offensively and how did Cal Pickard perform in his first start in over two weeks? Here are my observations from Saturday painful loss:

• James van Riemsdyk isn’t expected to return for another 10 to 14 days, but you can’t put him on one of the Flyers' top two lines, especially with how well the Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek combination has been clicking.

They seamlessly moved the puck through the neutral zone and were a step ahead of the Sharks' defense on their opening shift just 37 seconds into the game.

• Lindblom showing so much poise working behind the net in setting up Patrick for the game-winner in Anaheim, and he did it yet again when he feathered a pass to Voracek in the slot for the go-ahead goal late in the second period. The Flyers rookie is having a breakthrough road trip with five points and a plus-5 rating. However, he was seen hobbling in the final minute of regulation after blocking a shot.

• There was nothing revealing about Jori Lehtera’s injury as the Flyers' fourth-line center played two shifts, left and tried to return late in the first period. Lehtera eventually returned in the third period, but if he’s unavailable for Monday’s game in Arizona, I would expect Dave Hakstol to move Scott Laughton to the middle and bring in Tyrell Goulbourne to play left wing, giving the Flyers two rookies on that fourth line.

• Superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson was an absolute mess in this game. He flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty, was outmuscled by Nicolas Aube-Kubel along the boards and elected to make plays harder than they should have been. He was also outworked by Lindblom on the Flyers' third goal as the Sharks were in disarray defensively. Karlsson seems to have his struggles with Peter DeBoer’s structured system.

• Interesting decision from Hakstol to start Pickard given Brian Elliott’s success on this road trip. Perhaps it was a hunch, but there’s no passiveness to Pickard’s game. He had to come through with some very good saves in the first period, but he was also adventurous playing the puck. In one second-period sequence trying to clear the puck, he lost his stick and nearly gave up a goal. I’m still not convinced he can be a capable backup to Elliott as his positioning can be erratic at times. However, he had a very solid effort in making 31 saves.

• As expected, the Flyers surrendered yet another power-play goal, and an easy one at that as the Sharks moved the puck easily through the box and Joe Pavelski had a wide open net to shoot at, but they came up with some critical kills at key junctures of this road trip. They killed off a big power play against the Kings and did so once again when Radko Gudas was whistled for hooking.

• After trailing at some point in each of the first 11 games of the season, the Flyers have yet to play from behind in 180-plus minutes of this road trip.

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Flyers stock watch: As Claude Giroux goes, so do the Flyers

Flyers stock watch: As Claude Giroux goes, so do the Flyers

After a 5-0-1 stretch of solid hockey and signs that the Flyers were climbing their way up in the Metropolitan Division, they took a step back.

The Flyers are once again a middle-of-the-pack team after failing to capitalize during a recent five-game homestand, finishing with a 2-2-1 mark (see weekly observations).

At the quarter pole of the NHL season, it’s time to take inventory of who’s up and who’s down in this week’s stock watch. 

Stock up

Claude Giroux
It’s a pretty simple formula: When Giroux scores, the Flyers' chances of winning increase significantly. In the six games that Giroux has been held without a point, the Flyers are 0-5-1. They're 9-4-1 when he cracks the scoresheet. Overall, Giroux’s game has been steady and a continuation from what we saw last season. The captain currently has five multi-point games over his past nine and has been saddled with some major minutes (at least 22 in each of the past five games) while adding penalty-kill duties.  

Sean Couturier
We’re finally starting to see the Couturier that made him into a Selke Trophy finalist last season. After a slow start of trying to find his speed and timing, Couturier has been the Flyers' most consistent player at both ends of the ice. His three-point effort against the Blackhawks was the pinnacle of the season as he outmuscled Chris Kunitz to score on Corey Crawford. With just three points in his first 11 games, Couturier has found his stride offensively with points (five goals, six assists) in seven of his last nine games.  

Stock down

Oskar Lindblom
If I was writing this column 10 days ago, Lindblom’s stock would be at an all-time high, but he’s regressed over the past week. After an impressive five-game point streak in which he tallied two goals and five assists, Lindblom has just one assist over his past four games and has seen his ice time dip from the 16-minute range to playing just 10:07 in a 3-0 loss to the Devils on Thursday. It should be a matter of time before James van Riemsdyk reasserts himself on that line, leaving Lindblom with third-line minutes.

Jori Lehtera
Dave Hakstol finally came to the realization that Lehtera has been bringing very little to the Flyers. Once JVR finally returned to the Flyers' lineup, Lehtera was the one who came out, and as a result, forced Hakstol to move Scott Laughton back to center. Lehtera’s recent lack of ice time is a reflection of how he’s played and how he’s turned into a “black hole” in the offensive end of the ice. In his last seven games, Lehtera hasn’t registered a single shot on net and has proven to be a liability on the penalty kill.  

Nolan Patrick
Much is expected out of the 20-year-old, who like Lindblom, broke out of his early season shell during the Flyers' recent trip out West. But like any young player, Patrick has failed to keep a level of consistency throughout his overall play. While he maintains defensive responsibilities on a rather consistent basis, his offense and his aggressiveness to push play in the opponent’s zone are sporadic. Patrick currently has one goal and two points over his past six games and had a brief opportunity to solidify his place on the top power-play unit. It’s not that Patrick has been a bad player, but he’s displayed the ability to be a better player.

Travis Sanheim
To his credit, Sanheim has cleaned up his game defensively to the point that he doesn’t make you nervous in his own end of the ice. However, with Sanheim’s size, he should be more of a physical presence in separating a player from the puck. Too often, he loses those battles. But Sanheim’s strength is in his offense by pushing the puck up the ice and creating offensive chances. To that end, he’s been nonexistent over his past 10 games and hasn’t registered a single point. Even playing 17 minutes on a regular basis, there has to be a more concerted effort on Sanheim’s part to generate offense. Otherwise, that skill set simply goes to waste.

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Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

The Flyers lost all three games this week and ended a five-game homestand a mediocre 2-2-1.

Some observations:

• James van Riemsdyk put up a goal and two assists in Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning. In his second game back from injury, the Flyers scored three power-play goals, matching their total from Oct. 13 to Nov. 16, which spanned 43 opportunities.

Think he's a difference-maker?

However, what is truly worrisome is that a glaring concern entering the 2018-19 season was on full display Saturday. We knew the Flyers could score. This team has talent, the power play won't be this bad, pucks will be put in the net.

But can the Flyers stop teams?

With the situation in net and the ongoing penalty-kill woes, the Flyers can score all they want — it might not make a difference.

- Hall

• I didn't think Calvin Pickard played bad Saturday against the Lightning. I believe he was the victim of circumstance.

The Lightning's second goal was leaky but the rest? Ivan Provorov played soft and was outmuscled by Brayden Point, who is two inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter, on the third goal. Wayne Simmonds lost his man on the overtime winner. The other two were PPGs.

Still, Pickard finished with a .769 save percentage. His last start wasn't much better — .778 save percentage. He has a .852 save percentage in eight games. Pickard wasn't bad against Tampa, but the bottom line is, you need your goalie to makes saves and Pickard hasn't shown he's capable of doing it on a consistent basis.

With Brian Elliott out at least two weeks, the Flyers gave Pickard first swing Saturday. It's time to end this experiment. Alex Lyon deserves an opportunity.

- Dougherty

• The Flyers outshot their opponent in each of the three losses during the week.

Overall, they outshot the opposition 105-83 but were outscored 11-6.

For some context, this past week the Maple Leafs registered 104 shots and allowed 107 in three games but went 3-0-0 and outscored the competition 12-6.

It makes you wonder — are the Flyers getting the quality shots you need on a consistent basis to win games?

"We did give up some shots, but they weren’t scoring chances," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the Flyers outshot Tampa 45-26, "so you can shoot a lot of pucks and it’s going to look good on the stat line, but if they’re not quality chances, it’s two-fold."

The Flyers have eight losses when they outshoot an opponent, which is tied for most in the NHL.
 
- Hall

• Through 20 games, the Flyers are 9-9-2. This was expected to be a season this team takes a step forward and a quarter of the way in, the Flyers are again average at best with huge, gaping deficiencies. Team defense remains a problem, the goaltending situation has been a total miscalculation by general manager Ron Hextall and the penalty kill has been a disaster.

The Flyers ended this week tying a season high three-game losing streak and while they did so by showing fight — something they didn't do three weeks ago — there needs to be accountability. There's a reason opposing players no longer fear Wells Fargo Center. The fans have been patient than ever but patience grows tired and it's reaching its tipping point.

Just look at the penalty kill — which allowed four power-play goals last week. It's been brutal for the past four seasons and it's been worse than ever. Yet, there's been no change in structure or coach, no accountability. Why?

- Dougherty

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