Flyers

Wayne Simmonds, Flyers need to help each other

Wayne Simmonds, Flyers need to help each other

Wayne Simmonds has endured quite a bit in 2017-18.

Not that anything ever comes easy for him.

Simmonds has grinded out NHL success, featuring back-to-back 30-plus-goal outputs the previous two seasons and a 2017 All-Star Game MVP honor.

This season has been a different grind.

The 29-year-old power forward had his mouth busted twice by an opponent's errant stick, the first instance of which required some serious dental work. He then missed seven games from Feb. 20 to March 4 because of an upper-body injury. And now, when the stakes are at its highest, he's working to rediscover what makes him so important to the Flyers.

All while playing banged up, more than likely. In fact, Simmonds has battled his health all season, going back to October when he missed a practice from time to time.

"Simmer's a playoff warrior," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Monday. "That's a mentality that he carries day in and day out. He's an important guy for us and I've got a sense that he'll impact this series."

The challenge is trying to do so in some uncharted waters. After averaging 18:20 of ice time through his first 69 games, Simmonds played 15:12 over the final six regular-season contests, posting a goal and an assist. Moreover, a net-front power-play presence that felt sacrosanct, was changed. Simmonds gave way to 19-year-old Nolan Patrick, sliding down to the second-unit man advantage.

Simmonds, the team-first guy that he is, has taken it in stride.

"Oh no, it's fine," Simmonds said April 5. "I wasn't playing well and I've got to do better. I've got to be a better player. Patty's done a great job in front of the net when he's been in front of the net this year. … I feel no way about it, the kid's a great player. He deserves everything he's getting."

Simmonds played a season-low 12:38 in Sunday's Game 3 loss, in large part because the Flyers' penalty kill spent so much time on the ice thanks to eight penalties. 

"Simmer was one of the guys we lost because of the number of specialty teams, and all of a sudden his impact on the game becomes minimal," Hakstol said. "He's a key guy and we've got to find the right avenue for him to impact this series. That's something that as a coach I've got to do a better job of. When you have a night like you had [Sunday] when we took six minor penalties over a 30-minute span, it's really hard to utilize a lot of players."

Hakstol understands the importance of utilizing Simmonds in better ways. After all, he's the emotional engine of the Flyers, who went 17-3-1 during the regular season when Simmonds scored a goal.

Thus far, he has one assist through three games of the best-of-seven first-round playoff matchup with the Penguins, while scoring one goal in his last 12 games, postseason included. 

Simmonds will continue to grind as the series moves to Game 4 Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBCSP). The Flyers, trailing 2-1, hope it's the kind of grind that produces the vintage Wayne Simmonds.

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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