Flyers

Yet another change on Flyers' disappointing top line

Yet another change on Flyers' disappointing top line

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jakub Voracek’s self-assessment following Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Devils said a lot about the state of the Flyers right now.

"The first 39 minutes, I played like horses--t," Voracek said (see story). "You guys have got to watch the game a little bit more, you know what I mean? It's not only about points.”

To Voracek’s point, you can’t isolate on every player on every shift without the benefit of reviewing video and breaking down each player’s assignments. Even the players themselves don’t go to such time-consuming lengths.  

Against the Devils, Voracek was named the game’s first star following a three-point effort — a goal and a pair of assists — but the bigger question is what constitutes playing well? Voracek also mentioned he played good hockey over the past three games, but the puck just didn't go in.

To that, I would strongly disagree. 

Voracek was moved off the Flyers' top line after a subpar effort Thursday against the Blue Jackets in which Dave Hakstol called him out for his failure to backcheck on a 2-on-1 goal that tied the game at 2-2. Voracek also had his pocket picked by Oliver Bjorkstrand, leading to the Jackets' 6-2 goal, and as a result, he finished pointless with a minus-2 rating.

Voracek is just a spoke in an increasingly large wheel that could be sized onto a semi-trailer truck. Claude Giroux’s pass created that turnover in Columbus and led to a goal, and his blocked shot Monday night turned into a breakaway score by the Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog and a 3-0 Colorado lead. Earlier, Sean Couturier failed to collapse on the penalty kill, which quickly turned into an easy tap-in power-play goal to open the scoring (see story).

Through the first nine games of the season, the Flyers' diagnosis is rather obvious. Their best and highest-paid players aren’t performing up to the standards they’ve set for themselves throughout their careers.

Defenseman Ivan Provorov has had a bumpy ride for the past two weeks either mishandling the puck or getting outmuscled along the boards, and after Monday's 4-1 loss to the Avalanche, Wayne Simmonds was asked how the top line could start producing more.

“Personally, myself, I’ve got to be better,” Simmonds said. “Those guys are great players and I’ve got to do a better job of loosening up pucks and things of that nature.”

Simmonds' two-game stint on the top line appears to be over. On Tuesday, the Flyers switched up that trio for a third time by reinserting Travis Konecny on the right wing, where he started for the first two games of the season. 

Right now, nothing seems to stick, whether it’s the top forward line or the top defense pair.

To sum up their contributions at even strength, Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Simmonds, Giroux, Couturier and Voracek are a combined minus-23 this season. Through the first nine games a year ago, that same core group was a plus-20.

Who has been the team’s most consistent forward so far this season? Scott Laughton.

Which defenseman has steadily improved over the past few weeks? Travis Sanheim.

While you need guys like Laughton and Sanheim to step up as supplemental contributors, if they’re the Flyers' best players over the course of a long season, then this team is in serious trouble.

“Our chemistry hasn’t been great," general manager Ron Hextall said. "When you start seeing D pairs change and lines change, it’s because there’s no real chemistry there, and the chemistry comes with execution. I’m a pretty patient guy, but things need to start going better here.”

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Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

BOX SCORE

From the moment it was announced that Oskar Lindblom would miss Wednesday night's game, the Flyers' chances at Pepsi Center felt bleak.

No Lindblom, no Travis Konecny and facing the NHL's highest-scoring team in its building was not a promising script for the Flyers, who lost to the Avalanche, 3-1.

In stretches this season, the Flyers have struggled to bury goals. And that has been with Lindblom and Konecny — their two leading goal-scorers at 11 apiece — in the lineup.

The Flyers (17-9-5) did some good things but Colorado finished plays behind its world class talent up top.

The Avalanche (20-8-3) are on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) in which they've scored 4.13 goals per game.

• Without Konecny (concussion) and Lindblom (upper body), the Flyers had difficulty putting the puck in the net. They were going to have to put up some goals against the Avalanche, who entered scoring an NHL-best 3.70 goals per game. For the second time in the last three games, the Flyers scored only one goal.

The lone tally came from Claude Giroux when the Flyers were trailing 3-0 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

• Following a first period in which they survived, especially in the back half of it thanks to Carter Hart, the Flyers actually played a solid second period. At one point during the middle stanza, the Flyers were outshooting Colorado 11-0.

But as the Flyers kept pushing to no avail, the Avalanche changed the whole complexion of the period with one play by their two best weapons. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen hooked up for a nasty marker to make it 2-0 with 3:55 left in the period, a deflating goal to allow for the Flyers (see highlights).

Considering Colorado was 14-0-1 when leading after the middle period, the Flyers were in a serious hole, even after a hard-working period.

• Hart, who entered 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts, faced the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

He made a highlight-reel save and gave the Flyers a fighting chance in tough circumstances.

The 21-year-old has been impressive during the first period all season long, allowing the Flyers to find their legs and rhythm. He converted 12 of his 24 saves in the opening stanza against Colorado.

On the Avalanche's first-period goal, Scott Laughton won a defensive zone faceoff but the Flyers failed to clear the puck, resulting in Matt Calvert's tally.

Rantanen added his second goal early in the third period and that was pretty much the game.

Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz, who came in 5-0-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over his last eight games (six starts), finished with 32 stops.

• When Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day) is ready to return, Robert Hagg should be the odd man out on defense. Shayne Gostisbehere has found some of his offensive mojo and Myers has shown way too much promise to be sitting when healthy.

A stay-at-home guy like Hagg was far too noticeable against the Avalanche. He committed a penalty and was a minus-2 in 15:21 minutes.

• David Kase was summoned to Denver this morning to make his NHL debut and become the ninth rookie to play for the Flyers this season

The 22-year-old winger had a nice scoring chance and two shots in 7:47 minutes. 

• The Flyers head to the old stomping grounds of general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr when they visit the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Fletcher was the GM in Minnesota from 2009 to 2018 and Flahr was his AGM from 2010 to 2018.

The Flyers have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Oct. 27-29.

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Flyers at Avalanche: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Avalanche: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

As one of the NHL's best teams since Nov. 1 (12-3-4, 28 points), the Flyers now face a new challenge.

Alain Vigneault's undermanned group begins a three-game road trip Wednesday as the Flyers (17-8-5) visit the Avalanche (19-8-3).

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Pepsi Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Network
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com

• The Flyers are without Travis Konecny (concussion, out indefinitely), Oskar Lindblom (upper body, out tonight), Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day), Michael Raffl (broken right pinkie finger, out approximately four weeks) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder, out indefinitely).

"Injuries are a part of a season. You have to expect it," Vigneault said Monday. "Then you need somebody else to step up."

More than ever this season, the Flyers will be looking to Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk to produce among the forwards.

The Flyers are 10-2-1 when Hayes records a point and 9-1-0 when van Riemsdyk records a point.

• Not only are the Flyers severely shorthanded Wednesday night, but they're also facing the NHL's highest-scoring club. The Avalanche lead the league with 3.70 goals per game. Their top line of Nathan MacKinnon (47 points in 30 games), Mikko Rantanen (18 points in 14 games) and Gabriel Landeskog (nine points in 14 games) is scary.

"We know going into Colorado, we're going to have to be careful versus their top unit," Vigneault said Tuesday. "[Monday] night, they seemed to load up. That's one of the best lines in hockey."

• Carter Hart will face the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

The 21-year-old goalie is 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts.

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk-Morgan Frost-Tyler Pitlick
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Joel Farabee
David Kase-Mikhail Vorobyev-Chris Stewart

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Justin Braun
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

 

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