Flyers

Who are these Flyers? Get ready to find out

Who are these Flyers? Get ready to find out

After just three losses all of February, the Flyers have dropped three straight to kick off March.

A sudden losing streak should be all the motivation needed for the Flyers as they look to hold down a postseason berth with 16 games to play.

But a little prove-it time can't hurt, either.

Because here come the Penguins and Bruins, right when the Flyers are facing a gut check.

How the Flyers react to this upcoming back-to-back set will say a lot about this team and its potential fate.

"For us, these next two games are crucial," Radko Gudas said Sunday. "It's going to show us a lot where we're at as a team and where we're going to be."

Indeed, and on multiple fronts.

The obvious is the Flyers are on a losing streak and want to get things right again. They're only a point behind Pittsburgh for second place in the Metropolitan Division and only two out of first place entering Tuesday's action.

Just as important, though, is what a victory or two could mean for the Flyers' psyche. The Flyers need to show themselves, more than anyone, that they can beat the Penguins and Bruins. 

They haven't beaten either this season, and the most recent losses to both are noteworthy. The last time the Flyers saw Pittsburgh was a 5-1 blowout at the Wells Fargo Center, while the lone Boston meeting was a 3-0 home blanking, which came at the height of the 10-game winless skid.

After hosting the Penguins Wednesday and visiting Boston Thursday, the Flyers still have one more game with each the rest of the way. Those matchups will hold great meaning, and so would confidence going into them.

No back-to-backs are easy, but this one serves as a massive barometer for Dave Hakstol's mix of youth and veterans, sizing it all up against two of the Eastern Conference's elite.

Pittsburgh, the two-time defending champions, winners in eight of its last 11 games and with the NHL's top power play.

And Boston, hockey's best team since mid-November with the league's fewest goals allowed at 2.48 per game.

Do the Flyers possess the defense and discipline to play with these teams? Are they not only a playoff contender, but also a group that can win a series for the first time since 2011-12? Where do the Flyers exactly stand?

Following Wednesday and Thursday, we'll have a much clearer idea — in the standings and the big picture, too.

Bruins 4, Flyers 3 (preseason): Flyers fall in worst preseason performance

Bruins 4, Flyers 3 (preseason): Flyers fall in worst preseason performance

BOX SCORE

The Flyers simply couldn’t handle the B’s B-team.

Playing without most of their regulars, the Bruins handled the Flyers' comeback, winning, 4-3, and dropping the Flyers' preseason record to 3-2-1.

Here are my observations Monday from the Wells Fargo Center: 

1. The Flyers came to life in the second period, outshooting the Bruins, 18-9. However, overall, this was by far their worst game of the preseason. Boston rested a lot of its regulars following an exhibition series with the Calgary Flames in China. All of its key players stayed back home, which made this performance that much more disheartening. We should see something closer to the actual Bruins next Saturday in Boston.

2. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald had to work on some first-period rust. On his second shift of the game, MacDonald turned the puck over horribly in his own zone, which was one gaffe. In the same sequence, MacDonald kicked the puck away from Brian Elliott, who was about to cover up. That sequence eventually led to Peter Cehlarik’s goal. MacDonald looked better as the game wore on. 

3. Should Flyers fans have any concern about Elliott? A little bit as he still appears to be working out the kinks. While the first goal was a series of breakdowns and a failure to clear the zone, the Bruins' second goal — a Brandon Carlo snap shot — was one Elliott has to stop despite James van Riemsdyk venturing too far down defensively to stop the pass and block the shot. Elliott also faced a couple of shorthanded breakaways. He turned aside Jordan Szwarz coming down the left wing, but was beaten later in the second period by Chris Wagner.  

4. I think this was a big game in determining Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s future with the team. Having played on a line with skilled players Claude Giroux and Jordan Weal previously, Aube-Kubel was working with Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise. In the first period, Aube-Kubel appeared gun shy and passed up on a really good scoring chance from the left circle. He instead elected to pass to Philippe Myers at his right defense position.

5. Jakub Voracek took a nasty hit from Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer as he nailed Voracek up high right in front of the Flyers' bench. Kampfer was given two minutes for roughing. Voracek was fortunate he wasn’t nailed into the boards, where there was a panel of glass or the impact may have led to injury.

6. I don’t think Myers has had the outstanding camp, like Travis Sanheim a year ago, that would have guaranteed his place on the roster. In fact, Myers may have regressed a little bit in Week 2. Myers blindly backhanded a pass straight into the slot, which led to Lee Stempniak’s slap shot and the Bruins' fourth goal of the game.  

7. Michael Raffl gave the Flyers one of his best efforts of the preseason. Raffl was noticeable for most of the game as he was quick to pucks and strong along the boards. Raffl forced the neutral zone turnover that led to Dale Weise’s 2-on-1 shorthanded goal. From that moment, the Flyers scored three goals in a 2:44 third-period span.  

Lines and pairings

Forwards
Giroux-Mikhail Vorobyev-Travis Konecny
van Riemsdyk-Nolan Patrick-Voracek
Aube-Kubel-Lehtera-Weise
Scott Laughton-Corban Knight-Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere 
MacDonald-Christian Folin 
Robert Hagg-Myers

Goaltenders
Elliott
Anthony Stolarz

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Flyers' dynamic top 6 draws national praise

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AP Images

Flyers' dynamic top 6 draws national praise

If there appears to be a genuine buzz around the Flyers this season that hasn't been here in a few years now — and not about that weird orange thing they unveiled today — you're not exactly wrong.

This is the first season in the Ron Hextall era that the Flyers enter coming off reeling in a big fish via free agency, even if it wasn't John Tavares.

Yes, James van Riemsdyk is a big fish. He's a 30-goal scorer and was the second-best free agent available behind Tavares. It was a huge get, and it's a better fit this time around.

It's not just Philly that believes JVR's addition instantly upgrades the Flyers in 2018-19. TSN's Travis Yost on Monday graded out all 31 NHL teams' top sixes and he reaped praise for the orange and black.

Philadelphia is another notable standout. The Flyers’ offense should be nothing short of ridiculous this season — they are returning three forwards in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier who all finished in the top 30 in scoring last season. Add another year of playing experience for youngsters Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick, plus a 36-goal guy in James van Riemsdyk, and you have attacking options flooding the lineup.

What's interesting about Yost's analysis is that he didn't even include Wayne Simmonds in the group. Even with a hefty list of injuries, Simmonds scored 24 goals and 46 points last season when it was clear that he wasn't himself.

A healthy Simmonds is a 30-goal scorer, and while he hasn't played in the preseason yet, he should be 100 percent by the season opener Oct. 4 in Vegas.

The Flyers will have seven legitimate top-six forwards this season, which means the third line will have a top-six player on it. That's depth this team hasn't had since … van Riemsdyk was with the Flyers in 2011-12.

If we go back to the 2011-12 season, the Flyers had Giroux, Simmonds, Voracek, Couturier, Jaromir Jagr, Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn. That was a pretty solid group of forwards. That team just lacked a defensive group that could actually skate.

Fast forward to this season, the Flyers' defensive group is younger, a bit faster and, quite frankly, a lot better. A healthy Brian Elliott and the Flyers should be fine.

What we should take away from Yost's column is that the Flyers have caught the eye of national pundits, and that's a good thing. The season starts in 10 days.

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