Defense provides offensive spark as Flyers top Hurricanes

Defense provides offensive spark as Flyers top Hurricanes


RALEIGH, N.C. — When your penalty-kill units are ranked 26th among 30 teams, the last thing you would expect is to snap a two-game losing skid with a shorthanded goal.
Yet that’s what happened Sunday evening as Brandon Manning scored the Flyers' first shortie of the season to give them a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes at PNC Arena (see Instant Replay).
“Our penalty kill has been doing a good job lately, but we haven’t been getting bounces,” said Manning, who took a breakaway pass from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and beat 'Canes goalie Cam Ward near the circle.
“Belly did a great job winning a puck battle and their forwards were sagging low on our guys. I saw an opportunity.”

Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas and Claude Giroux added tallies for the Flyers.
Sunday's victory completed a stretch of six games in nine days (3-3 record) and came less than 24 hours after Saturday’s wrenching 5-4 loss to the Penguins.
“We wanted to build on the good habits and it’s three of four games where we’re working toward playing a full 60-minute game,” said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.
“We played a good hockey game in Montreal, a good game last night and we wanted to come in here and do that again. We knew how critical the two points were.”
It wasn't easy for the Flyers to get up for the 'Canes after an emotional loss to their hated rival from Western Pennsylvania.
“Back to backs are hard and there’s not much atmosphere down in Carolina,” Manning said. “They’re a little harder to get up for. Coming off last night, we had a bit of momentum and something to build off of.”
Michal Neuvirth, who relieved Steve Mason against the Penguins, picked up just his second win of the season. His last? The season opener in Los Angeles.
Neuvirth had a mixed-bag game with 26 saves. He was very sharp as the start, so-so in the second period and sharp again at the finish.
That the Flyers came into play with a 3.89 goals against (ranked 29th) tells you their goaltending has been poor.
“I don’t think I am playing any different but the bounces are not going your way,” Neuvirth said. “Stuff like that. You just have to believe in yourself and your game.
“I came into the game confident and wanted to build on my game last night. I thought I had a good first period. It wasn’t easy to give up three goals. But mentally, I battled hard. It’s a big win for me to grind it out like. I should feel better about myself.”
Neuvirth barely settled into net in the opening minute before having to make two outstanding glove saves – one on Sebastian Aho and the other on Jeff Skinner.
It was a strong opening period for the Flyers with 13 shots. Shayne Gostisbehere gave them a 1-0 lead late in the stanza on the power play with a shot from the left point through traffic that found its way past Ward. It was Ghost’s first power-play goal this season. He had eight during his rookie season.
“I was just trying to keep the puck in real quick,” he said. “They didn't pressure too hard, they went to Jake's (Voracek) side. I had a lane and was just focused on getting by the D, who was in front.”
The 'Canes tied it to open the second period when Neuvirth got distracted trying to push Lee Stempniak out of the paint just as Justin Faulk wristed one under the crossbar.
Radko Gudas gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead, but it didn’t last long as Skinner retied it on a delayed penalty. Then an Ivan Provorov turnover led to Viktor Stalberg’s breakaway goal that gave the 'Canes their first lead of the game at 3-2.
Just as the middle period was about to expire, however, Wayne Simmonds fed Claude Giroux for a blast in the slot to make it 3-3, tying Giroux with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the NHL points lead (12).
“I’m more worried about the minuses,” said Giroux, who is minus-7 for the season. “You want to be a good player and need to be responsible offensively and defensively. We got some work to do in there.”
He’s not alone. Twelve other Flyers are in the minus, as well, as they try to climb out of sixth place in the Metro Division.
“They came at us hard and playing back to back with a 5:00 p.m. game, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before,” Giroux said. “Maybe we didn’t have our legs tonight but we played the way we wanted to.”
Besides this being five games over seven days, it was also the Flyers third set of back-to-back games over 16 days. Guess what? They have another set coming up in mid-week - at home Wednesday vs. Detroit and Thursday in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders.
Of a possible 12 points among those back to backs, the Flyers have seven (3-2-1 record).
“It’s a lot of games,” Giroux said. “But it’s a good thing. We’re working on our game a lot. To do that early in the season is pretty good. It’s not the record we want right now but I really believe we are getting better as a team.”

2018 NHL draft: Prospects the Flyers could select with the 14th overall pick

Rena Laverty, USA Hockey/Terry Wilson, OHL Images/Larry Brunt, Spokane

2018 NHL draft: Prospects the Flyers could select with the 14th overall pick

As we inch closer to Ron Hextall’s fifth draft as Flyers general manager, we have a track record of what to expect this weekend at the 2018 NHL draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

The Flyers have nine selections and two first-rounders. Hextall said last week he anticipates making both of his first-round picks (Nos. 14 and 19) but left the door open for a trade. In prior drafts, Hextall operated by a best player available mentality. While he said he’ll stick to the Flyers’ list, he let it slip they would like to restock their defense and desire more right-handed D-men.

We’re going to provide prospects the Flyers could target in the first round. First up, No. 14.

Joel Farabee, LW, 6-0/161, USA U-18 (NTDP)

While Hextall said a righty D-man is on his wish list, he also acknowledged the Flyers’ need for goal scoring. Farabee, an 18-year-old New Yorker from the USNTDP, fits that description well.

Farabee scored 48 total goals in 88 combined games and produced above a point-per-game clip between the USHL and NTDP. He brings high character and a commitment to a 200-foot game.

A speedy left winger, Farabee possesses a shoot-first mentality and his skating to create space. He’s headed to Boston University in the fall, where he’ll fine-tune his game and bulk up.

Rasmus Kupari, C, 6-1/188, Kärpät (Extraliga)

Hextall lives by building down the middle — centers, defensemen and goaltenders — so Kupari could be on the Flyers’ radar come Friday night. He’s one of the best skaters in the draft and owns tremendous puck skills while still having a ton of raw talent he needs to polish overseas.

Kupari, as a 17-year-old playing in Finland’s top hockey league, recorded 14 points in 39 games with Kärpät. He also made Finland’s 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships roster.

The centerman will be staying in Finland for at least another year, so patience will be required. Could be a few years before he comes to North America but is a high-upside prospect.

Bode Wilde, D, 6-2/197, USA U-18 (NTDP)

If the Flyers stay put, keep an eye on Wilde, a smooth-skating righty defenseman with a cannon for a shot and a solid frame for an 18-year-old, using it to separate players from the puck.

Wilde scored 12 goals and 41 points in 61 games with the NTDP this season and added three goals and 16 points in 25 games with the NTDP junior team in the USHL. 

The University of Michigan commit has plenty to work on but will get the chance to do so at one of the better college hockey programs. Needs to get smarter with his decision-making and sharpen his play in his own zone, but there are enough encouraging signs in which that won’t be an issue.

Ty Smith, D, 5-10/176, Spokane (WHL)

A smaller defensive prospect, Smith’s skating ability picks up for what he lacks in size. The game has changed, so size doesn’t matter as much anymore. Still, Smith’s skill level is high.

The Chiefs' defenseman scored 14 goals and 73 points in 69 games in 2017-18 and captained Team Canada’s U-18 team at the 2018 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championships.

Smith’s talent level isn’t that far off from the draft’s top D prospects. Spokane head coach Dan Lambert recently said Smith reminds him like a mix of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.

Joseph Veleno, C, 6-1/194, Drummondville (QMJHL)

Veleno may be off the board when the Flyers are on the clock but could last until 14. The centerman was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL draft after receiving exceptional status as a 15-year-old by the CHL, becoming just the fifth player to ever be granted that rank.

Finishing as the eighth-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, Veleno has a pro-like work ethic with a high hockey IQ. He was traded from Saint John to Drummondville midseason in 2017-18 and finished with 79 points in 64 games between the two clubs.

Under the Hextall administration, the Flyers have valued smart players with high character and a commitment to playing a 200-foot game. If Veleno is available, he fits all that criteria.

Other names to watch

Barrett Hayton, C, 6-1/190, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Hayton is a prospect the Flyers should know plenty about. A solid two-way centerman who produced just under a point-per-game clip in 2017-18 playing for the powerhouse Greyhounds.

Serron Noel, RW, 6-5/210, Oshawa (OHL)
A monster of a winger, Noel falls under the project category. The Flyers’ farm system positions them to be able to take on a project like Noel but there appear to be better fits at No. 14.

Vitali Kravtsov, RW, 6-2/184, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Hextall has built a reputation as a GM who likes high risers — Travis Sanheim and Morgan Frost, for example — and Kravtsov definitely falls into that category. A very intriguing option at 14.

Grigori Denisenko, LW, 5-10/171, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
A Russian winger with sky-high potential. Not sure if he’ll be on the Flyers’ radar at 14 — might be a little high — but his ceiling could be enticing enough for Hextall to call his name.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Hextall

Flyers anticipate making both first-round draft picks

Flyers should know and like this D-man to 'restock'

Flyers desire righty D, but is Ryan Merkley worth the risk?

Trade talks or contract talks? Right now, doesn't sound like Wayne Simmonds is going anywhere

Trade talks or contract talks? Right now, doesn't sound like Wayne Simmonds is going anywhere

Last year it was Brayden Schenn who was dealt on draft night. 

Could this year be Wayne Simmonds?

According to a report Tuesday by Michael Russo of The Athletic, the Flyers are gearing to potentially trade Simmonds. Russo’s report mentions the Flyers as one of 15 different teams the Minnesota Wild could possibly swing a deal with under new general manager Paul Fenton.

While the speculation comes as little surprise, general manager Ron Hextall said last week immediately following his pre-draft press conference that he expects to have preliminary discussions with Simmonds' agent regarding a contract extension.

“Yeah, we’ll talk at some point,” Hextall said. “We had pro meetings, the week before was four days of amateur meetings. Combine before that. It’s a real busy time. That gets pushed back to later.”

Hextall certainly didn’t make it sound as if he’s gearing up to deal Simmonds this weekend, and he typically doesn’t resort to smoke screens as a way of misleading reporters. 

The Flyers' power forward has been a regular in Voorhees, New Jersey, throughout his rehab following surgery to repair a tear in his pelvis area. Hextall feels Simmonds is already on track to be 100 percent for training camp and anticipates a monster season from the 29-year-old right winger as he not only enters the final year of his contract but is also out to prove that last season was a fluke.

“I’ll be honest with you, Simmer’s a fast-twitch muscle guy, I don’t have any concern with him,” Hextall said. “I saw him [Thursday] morning, he’s gonna work his way, he’s with [team director of sports medicine Jim McCrossin]. He’s got great guidance. ... I have the expectation for Simmer to come back and be as good as new.”

Last year, Hextall mentioned he had not anticipated trading Schenn until the deal with St. Louis was pieced together on draft night. Something similar could also happen with Simmonds, who has a limited no-trade clause in his current contract, which allows him to submit a no-trade list of 12 teams. 

All of which leaves you wondering whether a big deal goes down in Big D.

More on the Flyers

What should the Flyers do with Simmonds?

• Simmonds played with more injuries than he can remember

• Hextall doesn't plan on trading up in draft, but ...

• How much will Flyers change? That's Hextall's challenge