Despite loss to Kings, Flyers encouraged by newfound defensive identity

Despite loss to Kings, Flyers encouraged by newfound defensive identity


Prepare yourself.
This is the style of hockey Dave Hakstol wants his Flyers playing the remainder of the season.
It’s not overly exciting.
It’s defensive hockey. And it gives them a chance to get points every night.
One-man forecheck. Defensemen not pinching. Making quick judgments whether or not to commit to a battle on the wall near the blue line if the outcome is in doubt.
The downside, as the Flyers saw firsthand in Saturday’s 1-0 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Wells Fargo Center, is your offense is greatly restrained.
“We’re trying to put more pressure and create more turnovers, but at the same time, guys are responsible defensively,” said checking line center Sean Couturier. “The 50/50 battles where you are hesitatant, you’re better off backing off and playing it safe. We limited turnovers and scoring chances that way.”
This style will earn the Flyers points.
That said, it was largely goalie Michal Neuvirth who earned this one point with a half-dozen incredible saves just to get the game into OT.
He had Jeff Carter, who scored the game winner at 2:35, talking to himself. Carter had eight of the 28 shots the Kings unloaded.
Conversely,  the Flyers focused on defense with 29 blocks versus just 17 shots on goalie Peter Budaj, who paled in comparison to Neuvirth in terms of scoring chances he faced.
“He played unbelievable; he made huge saves,” Mark Streit said of his goaltender. “He was already down and he still made saves. Helped us big time. That is what you need this time of year.
“Big goaltending. He was in charge and he was calm. Always in good positioning and not scrambling out there. I was impressed with his game.”
Neuvirth’s first huge moment came in the second period when Jakub Voracek turned the puck over coming out of his end directly to Dustin Brown in the slot. Neuvirth had a diving, outstretched glove snare of the shot. Brown skated past him and looked back in stunned disbelief.
He had a similar save on Tanner Pearson and even Carter in overtime. Making consecutive starts for the first time since early November, Neuvirth was rock solid in net and likely starts Monday against St. Louis, too.
He is 2-0-1 in this brief three-game stretch with a 0.99 goals against average and .958 save percentage.
“He had a calmness to his game today,” Hakstol said. “That’s an important aspect. Three or four big saves for us and a bunch of other pretty good ones.
“He went out and did his job. He was one of the group who went out and battled as hard as he could. He was a big part of us gaining one point.”

The Kings are a bigger, stronger, more physical bunch. They came at the Flyers hard in the opening period with a strong forecheck backed up by significant pressure outside the blue line. Not a trap, but certainly a full press that caused the Flyers repeated problems on the breakout.
“They play a hard, heavy style when you look at the makeup of their team,” Hakstol said. “They’re built that way. This time of year, there is less and less space.”
Through 40 minutes, what few times the Flyers had the puck in the Kings end they lacked for sustained puck possession and zone time.
Both teams traded scoring chances in the opening minutes of the second period as Tyler Taffoli ripped a shot off the crossbar and carom became a breakaway from Sean Couturier the other way with him smacking the left post.
Couturier’s breakaway was the Flyers' best scoring chance.
“A tight game, I don’t think they had more either but more shots,” Couturier said. “Scoring chances? It was pretty even and tight out there. Not a whole lot of space. Like a playoff game. At the end of the day, we have to find a way to win those games.
“We let a point slip but we can’t be down on ourselves. It’s a good team and veteran experience team. They’re a playoff team. We battled hard. It could have gone either way.”
His breakaway illustrated a problem the Flyers faced in this game – no follow shots.  It happened all afternoon.
The Flyers wasted a golden chance to break the scoreless tie early in the third period with a power play as they abused the puck with turnovers and poor choices on passes amid pressure.
“They always make you make an extra play,” Voracek noted. “That’s the way it is. We didn’t have many shots and a few quality chances. Coots hits the post. We couldn’t capitalize.”
Less offense and more defense equals more points for the Flyers right now.
“We want to jump into the play and create offense and be the fourth guy on the rush but at the same time, you don’t want to get caught out there,” Streit said.
“Same on the pinches. When you are not sure, just pull back. Play it safe ... We have to build on that.”

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

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Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery died Sunday morning. First responders pulled his body out of Hamilton Harbour, where he had been swimming with friends. An investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing. 

Emery was 35.

According to local authorities, Emery was checking out a friend’s boat docked at Royal Hamilton Yacht Club when the group he was with decided to jump in the water around 6:30 a.m. Emery’s body never surfaced and was eventually recovered around 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Hamilton police say Emery’s body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen.

Emery was last seen publicly with a handful of his former teammates Saturday night as the goaltender participated in Zac Rinaldo’s charity hockey game in Hamilton. Emery can be seen standing during the playing of “O Canada.”

"The Philadelphia Flyers are stunned and extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery," president Paul Holmgren said in a statement from the team. "Ray was an outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender. He had exceptional athleticism, was a fierce competitor and battled in every game he played with the Flyers.

"His performances through the 2009-10 season were a very big part of the team's success in making the playoffs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Ray's talent, work ethic and determination helped him enjoy a successful 11-year NHL career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Several of Emery’s former teammates over the years offered their condolences via Twitter after learning of the tragedy.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo shared the he was crushed by the news (NSFW).

Jakub Voracek also shared his condolences (NSFW).

Emery joined the Flyers in June 2009 on a one-year contract, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in his Flyers debut. The goaltender’s first stint in Philadelphia was cut short when he suffered a muscle tear in his abdomen in December missing the remainder of the season. Emery was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a degenerative condition to the bone tissue in his hip.

After undergoing successful surgery, Emery eventually joined the Ducks before winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. Impressively, Emery finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. He re-signed with the Flyers that summer as a backup to Steve Mason.

Emery’s most infamous moment in Philadelphia came during an ugly 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2013, as the Flyers netminder pummeled Caps goalie Braden Holtby during a line brawl in the early stages of the third period.

Emery faced criminal charges over a handful of off-the-ice incidents and altercations. Most recently, he was arrested for assault with a weapon in 2017 against former fiancé Keshia Chanté. 

Emery played a total of 287 NHL games, 88 with the Flyers. 

Flyers' Danick Martel accepts qualifying offer; team re-signs Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne

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Flyers' Danick Martel accepts qualifying offer; team re-signs Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne

Updated: 9:44 p.m.

Three young forwards will all be staying in the Flyers organization, at least for one more year.

Sunday, the team announced that Danick Martel accepted his qualifying offer on a one-year contract, and that restricted free agents Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne signed one-year deals.

Restricted free agent goalie Anthony Stolarz has also accepted his qualifying offer of $761,250, according to a report from John Hoven. Stolarz, 24, played in just one game for the Phantoms in the 2017-18 season after undergoing surgery on a meniscus tear last summer. A second-round pick by the Flyers in the 2012 draft, Stolarz went 18-9 and posted a 2.92 goals against average with Lehigh Valley in 2016-17.

Though the team didn't include any salary details, Martel's deal is reportedly a two-way contract worth $715,000.

The 23-year-old Martel made his NHL debut last season, finishing with no points and six shots over four games. He scored a career-best 25 goals for Lehigh Valley.

With Leier, the Flyers avoided a possible arbitration hearing. According to CapFriendly, Leier's contract is a one-way deal for $720,000. Leier's hearing was scheduled for Aug. 3. The team also earlier avoided a hearing with Alex Lyon, their other player who filed for arbitration, signing the goalie to a two-year deal.

A fourth-round selection in 2012, Leier had one goal and four assists in 39 regular-season games with the Flyers as a rookie.

Goulbourne, who made his NHL debut on Jan. 6, appeared in nine regular-season contests, with 15 hits.

If Stolarz is indeed back in the fold, Robert Hagg would be the team's only remaining restricted free agent. 

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