Flyers

When will prospect German Rubtsov get to Flyers? Changing his game could speed things up

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

When will prospect German Rubtsov get to Flyers? Changing his game could speed things up

VOORHEES, N.J. — Ever since German Rubtsov was selected by the Flyers in the first round of the 2016 draft, the Russian center has come with a defensive pedigree.

Reads the game, makes smart plays and cares about the ice behind him.

Sounds like goal prevention.

The Flyers are looking for significantly better goal prevention in 2019-20 — and that's about the forwards just as much as anyone else. In 2018-19, the Flyers finished with a minus-37 goal differential and yielded the NHL's third-most goals per game at 3.41 to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the last seven seasons.

As the Flyers creep closer to training camp, a job is up for grabs among the team's bottom-six forwards. Rubtsov, a 21-year-old who can play center or winger, will vie for the roster spot. While he may have an outside chance at making the Flyers when camp breaks, his versatility and awareness are positive traits for the vacancy.

But he wants everyone to see more.

"Last year, I was doing very well in the defensive zone but the coaches told me I had to be active and score more in the offensive zone," Rubtsov said Saturday through translator Slava Kouznetsov, the Flyers' skating coach, as rookie camp began. "I'm changing my game — being good in the defensive zone is not good enough to make the team. I'm going to work equally on both zones."


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

With a concerted focus on pushing north, Rubtsov saw results last season. In his first year with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, Rubtsov scored six goals and 10 points over 14 games. A shoulder injury then abruptly ended his season.

The small sample size opened eyes, though. After all, production is what often gets recognized and rewarded. The Flyers already know about Rubtsov's defensive principles, but his offensive ceiling could be an X-factor in his path to the big club.

So he's healthy and hungry to show everything.

"I'm cleared and 100 percent ready," he said.

Rubtsov looks in excellent shape. He's strong, 6-foot and 203 pounds. 

"He's fit and he can play," Flyers player development coach Kjell Samuelsson said this summer.

If he's not with the Flyers, Rubtsov will be back with Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon, who watched the prospect race out of the chute last season and flash his 200-foot game.

"He's a smart player and I think that's one of his strengths," Gordon said. "I always felt — and again it's only a [14]-game window that I had the opportunity to watch him — even if things weren't happening for him offensively, he always played well defensively. That doesn't seem like much. You assume everyone's always going to play well defensively, but sometimes that gets in players' heads when things don't happen for them offensively. They try to cheat and find an easy way to get the offense and he wasn't like that."

That was Rubtsov playing with poise. If he continues to add pace, his push for the Flyers will only speed up.

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Flyers weren't kidding themselves about the process

Flyers weren't kidding themselves about the process

Maybe Alain Vigneault wanted to make a point.

That it’s not all about goals.

Philly is a results city and, ultimately, the NHL is a results business. But Vigneault firmly believes in the process behind the results. He will see past the goal tallies bolded in the box score — if the process is being grown and done right.

The Flyers’ head coach constantly refers to the process. It’s what matters most when he attempts to build a contender, especially in Year 1 with a new team.

The process, one would think, looked pretty good Monday night … right? 

Especially during a four-goal second period in which the Flyers blew open an eventual 6-2 win over the Golden Knights (see observations). After all, the Flyers had scored only four goals over their past two games, both lopsided losses.

But Vigneault had other thoughts. He wasn’t about to forget the meaning of the process. He could have easily said the goals came because the Flyers stuck to it.

He didn’t go there.

“We had some puck luck in the second, found a way to score four and got outstanding goaltending,” Vigneault said. “In my mind, that could have been our least effective period in the last eight. But we found a way to win that period, 4-0. Sometimes it works out that way.”

Found a way to score four goals? A least-effective period of four goals?

The Flyers were outshot by Vegas in the middle stanza, 18-13. Brian Elliott came up with monstrous saves as the Flyers permitted some Grade A chances to a dangerous Western Conference team. After the past two losses, the Flyers had mentioned that they expected to be on the positive end of fortunate wins, too — as in that’s hockey, teams can get outplayed and still come away with victories.

The Flyers scored only one goal in the first period Monday but outshot the Golden Knights, 15-7, and really got after them in the offensive zone. The Flyers would take that opening frame over their second period just about every time.

“We thought we played better in the games that we lost,” Michael Raffl said. “We got away from it in the second period a little bit. We’ve got to keep doing what we do and it’s going to work. At the end of the day, when you work like that and keep outshooting opponents, you’ll be on the better end of the game at the end most of the time.”

The Flyers had to practically defend themselves following back-to-back losses by a combined score of 10-4. The Flyers outshot the opposition, 91-38, but uneven defeats don’t sit well with fans, especially ones that have become accustomed to mediocre Octobers.

“Last two games, I know we didn't have the result we wanted, we lost both games, but if you really look into the game, if you understand the game, you understand that we played great games,” Claude Giroux said after morning skate Monday.

The Flyers were OK admitting that they didn’t play their best game against Vegas.

Especially Vigneault.

He’ll be honest about the process — good or bad, no matter what the final score.

“In the second period, we scored four but I really believe that in our last eight periods, it could have been our least effective as far as going north-south a little bit quick, our puck management, making the right plays at the right time,” Vigneault said. “But when we didn’t do it the right way, we got big saves and when they made a mistake in that second period, we were able to make them pay, which we hadn’t been able to do for quite some time.”

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How's that for a breakthrough? Flyers catch fire and beat Golden Knights to snap losing streak

How's that for a breakthrough? Flyers catch fire and beat Golden Knights to snap losing streak

BOX SCORE 

The Flyers felt they had dominated their last two games.

The scoreboard said otherwise.

On Monday night, the Flyers quashed the debate by ripping off five goals through the first two periods en route to an emphatic 6-2 win over the Golden Knights at the Wells Fargo Center.

The victory for the Flyers (3-3-1) put a four-game losing streak to bed as Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, Michael Raffl (two), Matt Niskanen and Oskar Lindblom all scored.

The Golden Knights (6-4-0) were coming off a shutout of the Penguins and their penalty kill was 33 for 35 on the season.

The Flyers impressively put up a six-spot on Vegas with two of the goals coming on the man advantage.

• Alain Vigneault’s team made a statement in the second period with four goals. Quite frankly, it needed to make a statement. Winning the shot battle is not a statement — putting up crooked numbers, though, speaks volumes (see story).

The Flyers had scored seven combined goals through the first and second periods this season. They weren’t giving up a ton, but they weren’t capitalizing, either.

This time, the Flyers did, and against a pretty good Western Conference contender.

Now it’s a matter of producing consistently.

• Let’s not forget how good Brian Elliott was against the Golden Knights. He converted big saves, many of which came before the score turned lopsided.

After the Flyers had yielded 10 goals in their previous two games, the 34-year-old picked up 33 stops. He has 76 saves on 81 shots in three career matchups with Vegas.

He could get the next game in Chicago.

Golden Knights backup Oscar Dansk had a rough outing.

• Joel Farabee, the 14th overall pick in the 2018 draft, made his anticipated NHL debut just five games into his pro career.

Last Saturday, Farabee’s mother, grandmother and older brother traveled from Cicero, New York (right outside of Syracuse) to watch his game at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

His mother Pam was back on the road Monday with Farabee’s father Dave to watch their son’s first NHL game at the Wells Fargo Center.

Farabee, a skilled and strategic goal-scoring winger, didn’t score but exhibited his sharp reads and angles to the puck. He gives the Flyers a flashy skill in the bottom six, a type of player who can make a play out of nothing.

• There has been no slowing down Konecny and Lindblom, who have been the Flyers’ two best players. The Flyers have desperately needed some of their promising youth to take big steps. So far, so good from the 22-year-old Konecny and 23-year-old Lindblom.

Konecny has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in seven games.

For some perspective on his start, the Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau has eight points (three goals, five assists) in 10 games so far.

With his two-point effort, Lindblom has four goals and six points in seven games. Last season, he scored four goals in his first 45 games. The Flyers have put Lindblom in a position that suits him well and he’s taking advantage of it.

• The Flyers’ defensemen were strong and a combined plus-6.

• The unsung Raffl notched his first two-goal game since March 15, 2016.

• Four of the Flyers’ next five games are on the road.

To begin the stretch, the Flyers visit the Blackhawks on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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