Flyers

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

BOX SCORE

If only every game for the Flyers down the stretch could serve up the Colorado Avalanche. Were that to transpire, Dave Hakstol's club would be a lock to make the playoffs.
 
Tuesday was the final time the Flyers will see Colorado this season. Too bad for the Flyers because they threw snowballs at the Avs to the tune of a 4-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
 
The Flyers finished February with just four wins in 11 games. Now the team gets set for the post-trade deadline portion of its schedule, which features 20 games in 40 days to end the regular season.
 
How the Flyers fare will determine their playoff fate.
 
Amid this rout, general manager Ron Hextall was spending a lot of time on the phone while assistant GM Barry Hanrahan, his capologist, was on his computer much of the night as the deadline hits Wednesday.
 
According to a report by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Flyers had contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent Michal Neuvirth. Sources said Neuvirth did not agree to a contract. His agent, Patrik Stefan, did not comment.

Hextall is apparently trying to work a deal, and you would have to think it was something larger (see story).
 
The opening period was all Wayne Simmonds on Tuesday, who briefly appeared to have a natural hat trick midway into the first period before it was determined the Flyers' third goal went off an Avs player and was credited to Jakub Voracek (see feature highlight).
 
"I hope it's the first and last time I get booed for scoring a goal," Voracek said after it was taken away from Simmonds.
 
The Avs are the worst team in the NHL. This win was certainly welcome news for the Flyers, who played a fast and energetic game in which they seemed relaxed.
 
"Twenty games left … a good step but the thing is not to get too high," said goalie Steve Mason, who picked up his first win this month. "It's one win, but we have a lot of work to do."
 
It gets harder immediately with Florida and Washington up next.
 
"We had the same type of start tonight we had the last couple nights and tonight we had some reward for it," coach Dave Hakstol said. 
 
Simmonds came into this game with one of the club's two shorthanded goals this season. He now has two himself after Matt Duchene coughed up a puck to Andrew MacDonald to start a rush that ended with Simmonds scoring on goalie Jeremy Smith.
 
His next goal was a redirect on the power play off a point blast from Shayne Gostisbehere. Voracek's goal was actually a pass intended for Simmonds on the power play when it glanced off of Francois Beauchemin to make it 3-0 at 10:35.
 
"It was good for us. We need that," Simmonds said. "It was a good win. I thought we played well. We didn't play perfect but well enough to get the win."
 
Asked about losing a natural hat trick, Simmonds didn't want any part of taking credit for the goal. 

"No, not a chance," he said. "I knew it was Jake's goal."
 
All those hats on the ice went to no good, too. Feel any responsibility to return them to their rightful owners?
 
"What am I supposed to do?" Simmonds said. "Go give every single one their hat back? It's not my fault, sorry."
 
Simmonds is on pace to score 35 goals this season. Of his 27 so far -- most of which have come in the crease -- he has 13 on the power play, which places him second behind Brayden Schenn (14) for the NHL lead.
 
"I'm lucky, I'm getting some bounces right now," Simmonds said. "But the whole idea is to try to disrupt the goalie's flow and to take his eyes away and get some rebounds.
 
"Whether I am scoring goals or not scoring goals, I am doing the same thing. I got a good bounce on the first one and G (Claude Giroux) and Ghost made a great play on top of the second one."
 
Now Mason, who sat six straight games, certainly wasn't going to be in game shape. Yet he had several good stops and finished with 33 saves. His last win, Jan. 25, was a shutout, as well.
 
He also had to handle a penalty shot from Mikko Rantanen, who was hooked from behind by Radko Gudas early in the second period. Mason knocked Rantanen's penalty shot away into the corner with his stick. 

This was Mason's 216th game played, third most of any Flyers goalie all-time.
 
"It's been a tough month, a lot of practice," he said of being benched in favor of Neuvirth. "When you're practicing, you're not getting game action and practices become tedious. … Pretty much every game now is must-win.
 
"It's hard to make up ground with three- and four-point games and people playing each other. For us, we have to focus on one game at a time and understand the importance of each."
 
Jordan Weal's first NHL goal early in the second made it 4-0. The Flyers had not scored four goals since Jan. 12 when they came from behind to stun Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout.
 
"It felt really good," Weal said. "It was a long time coming. I'm just trying to work as hard as I can and create as many chances when I'm out there."
 
He again played on the top line with Giroux and Simmonds.
 
"It's awesome when you get to play with guys like that," Weal said. "First couple games, I was playing with Coots (Sean Couturier) and Jake and when you play with guys like that, you play your own game and work with them.
 
"If you can get your give and go and cycle game going with them, you'll create a lot of offense. When you get to play with guys like G and Simmer, you just have to get open and good things will happen."

Will Brian Elliott surprise in Flyers' goalie tandem with Carter Hart?

Will Brian Elliott surprise in Flyers' goalie tandem with Carter Hart?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Will Brian Elliott surprise us in the Flyers' 2019-20 goalie tandem?

Emmer

Without a doubt Elliott has earned his spot on the ice and I believe he can bring many surprises to the goalie tandem this year. 

Despite coming into 2019-20 with 14 seasons of NHL experience under his belt, "Moose" still had a lot to prove in Philadelphia. After two injury-filled years with the Flyers, it was time the 34-year-old made a strong and healthy comeback.

Through his first three appearances of the season, he has shown he's still got it.

The team needed strong goaltending — Flyers fans knew that. Now, the Flyers have a strong tandem with Carter Hart and Elliott between the pipes. With so many high hopes running on Hart, it’s a relief to know there’s another strong competitor to trust.

Elliott has been surprising already with what he’s brought in the early going. In his first two starts of the season in Calgary and Philadelphia, the veteran backstop was solid from start to finish. Monday night, specifically, was one of his best, as he helped shut down countless scoring opportunities from the Vegas Golden Knights and was greatly admired later for it by Alain Vigneault and teammates.

It’s still early, but the confidence he’s shown in net, as well as his .925 save percentage through three appearances, is a good start for the veteran goaltender. 

Time will tell what other surprises Elliott can bring to the tandem but one thing is for certain: the Flyers have two strong goaltenders right now and that is a sight for sore eyes. 

Hall

We shouldn’t be too surprised by what has transpired in net.

Hart was strong through three games and then had a few subpar performances. That’s OK. He’s 21 years old and is going to have games in which he’s not sharp, which will result in the Flyers turning to Elliott at times.

Elliott hasn’t been surprising because he’s a more than capable goaltender when healthy — and has shown that even through injury-plagued seasons with the Flyers.

In 2017-18, he went 15-5-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .912 save percentage from Dec. 4 to Feb. 10 before needing core muscle surgery.

In 2018-19, he went 5-5-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .928 save percentage from Oct. 13 to Nov. 15 before suffering a lower-body injury.

For the 34-year-old to truly surprise in the goalie tandem and take away games from Hart, we’ll have to see Elliott keep it up (and stay healthy) as the grind gets tougher. He looks good so far, though, and that’s a major positive.

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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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