Flyers

Flyers 'deserved better' than shootout loss to John Gibson, Ducks

Flyers 'deserved better' than shootout loss to John Gibson, Ducks

ANAHEIM — They had 55 shots, just seven shy of their all-time franchise record, and couldn’t get a fourth goal.

“A month ago, we’d have several more,” sighed Flyers coach Dave Hakstol after a 4-3 shootout loss on New Year’s Day where the Flyers richly deserved two points instead of one (see Instant Replay).

The Flyers return home 1-4-2 since their 10-game winning streak, but it’s hard to find much fault in this game, given the effort, although the road trip was horrific at 0-2-1.

“We deserved better, we played a helluva hockey game,” Hakstol said. “We executed pretty well. I thought our effort was coming back in San Jose, but our execution side of our game wasn’t there.

“Tonight, for the most part, our execution was pretty good and we had a lot of quality chances. Couldn’t get an extra one to go in.”

Just ask Michael Del Zotto.

He and Brayden Schenn each had a team-high seven shots. Del Zotto’s shot in the final 42 seconds of overtime went off Ducks goalie John Gibson’s mask, or it’s the game winner. It hit Gibson so hard, his helmet came off.

“I had a bunch of chances all game,” Del Zotto said. “I was fortunate to be out there with Jakey [Voracek] and he made a bunch of plays. I got quality looks.”

There really wasn’t much more the Flyers could have done as Gibson stole the extra point.

“As a team, we played a great game, created a lot of offense which as a team we’ve been struggling with as a team,” Del Zotto said.

“Put up 55 shots, you’re going to win most games. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the two points. We’ve been in a little bit of a lull, but we keep playing like that, we’ll be successful.”

Overlooked here is that the Flyers power play, which has been struggling since mid-December, could not convert a four-minute advantage in the third period.

Ryan Kesler notched a hat trick on his first four shots.  His goal at 7:55 to open the game will show even strength, but the Flyers were caught coming off the penalty kill as Kesler stood in the paint unnoticed waiting for Ryan Getzlaf’s pass.

The lead didn’t even last a minute as the Flyers came out the next shift with a Travis Konecny rush up ice. The rookie took a pass from Wayne Simmonds and put a hard shot off Gibson, then somehow managed to keep his balance for a tough-angle rebound inside the post to tie it.

Konecny had gone 22 games without a goal and was questionably benched Friday night in San Jose.

“The last game I played in St. Louis, me and Simmer had a 2-on-1 similar to this one,” Konecny said. “I stayed on my forehand side and it kind of took away the opportunity for him to make the pass.”

Kesler regained the lead for Anaheim, 2-1, at 16:54 as the Ducks outmuscled the Flyers in the paint. He made his rebound look easy as the Flyers backed in on Steve Mason, who faced just five shots in the second and 10 in the third.

Kesler notched his hat trick in the opening 1:09 of the second period with a weak shot angling in off right wing that tricked under Mason’s pads.

After that goal, however, Mason was outstanding.

“It was a difficult game to play,” Mason said. “It was so dark out there I had a hard time tracking the puck which was another thing adding to the game. The guys were working hard and trying to get it done.”

The Flyers came back from that 3-1 deficit to score twice in 1:20 to tie and chase Gibson for Jonathan Bernier for a few minutes before Gibson returned.

Sean Couturier notched his first goal since Nov. 17 because of a prolonged injury absence.

“I was wide and I saw Mac [Andrew MacDonald] take a good shot and I went to the net and luckily enough the rebound came right back to me,” Couturier said.

This was his third game back since suffering a sprained left knee.

“It feels good to score coming off IR,” he said. “It's never easy getting back into the rhythm, but every shift and every game I think I'm getting better and this one is huge for the confidence.”

Schenn tied it on the power play with a rebound left in the slot to steal the momentum back. Schenn said he tried to ignore the frustration of trying to get one past Gibson by thinking it was like a shooting gallery.

“That’s the mentality you have to have,” he said. “You can’t get frustrated by that. The more pucks you throw on net, the better chance you have scoring. We didn’t get that bounce we were looking for.”

Simmonds came very close to winning it in the shootout with a slick backhander before Corey Perry did on the next chance.

“I did have him beat,” Simmonds said. “The puck jumped.”

Which Shayne Gostisbehere should Flyers fans expect in 2019-20 season?

Which Shayne Gostisbehere should Flyers fans expect in 2019-20 season?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jordan Hall and Brooke Destra

The topic: Predictions for Shayne Gostisbehere's 2019-20 season.

Hall

Some reporter (it was me) was bullish on Gostisbehere entering the 2018-19 season. 

He was super impressed by Gostisbehere's skill and mobility during the preseason, especially with the defenseman fresh off a career-high 65 points, the fourth most among NHL blueliners in 2017-18.

He foresaw big things for Gostisbehere. And that reporter (it was me) was way off.

There are a handful of important factors to note when analyzing the outlook for Gostisbehere in 2019-20.

Firstly, Gostisbehere will be playing under a new coaching staff. Coaches and their philosophies are crucial to a player like Gostisbehere.

Secondly, during his exit interview, Gostisbehere admitted to dealing with a banged-up knee from early on through the midseason. He didn't use it as an excuse, but for a guy that relies heavily on his slipperiness and mobility, a knee problem can be a significant hindrance.

And thirdly, Gostisbehere should feel a lighter burden on his shoulders with the additions of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. Both bring different elements to the table but understand goal prevention and can play minutes. One would think those acquisitions will allow Gostisbehere to play a bit more freely without the 26-year-old trying to do too much, overthinking every decision.

How all of the above impacts Gostisbehere's production and usefulness will be one of the more fascinating storylines to watch in 2019-20.

I don't see why Gostisbehere can't get back into the 50-point range or 40-assist territory — although, that will depend on a lot.

Destra

I'll be very upfront with my views of Gostisbehere's performance last season — it was no indication of the direction he is heading in as a player and it truly isn't a big concern (at the moment). He was one of many players who underperformed on the Flyers and when his lower-body injury surfaced at the season's end, it validated a lot.

He's about to have a bounce-back year — and it's going to be a good one.

Heading into this season, this is probably the most balanced the defense has looked in well over a decade. He will be able to play on his true side as a LHD and will have the opportunity to be a leader to whoever the other half of his pairing is.

Even though he wasn't at the top of his game in 2018-19, he was still able to put up nine goals — this tied him for the lead in most goals scored by a defenseman on the Flyers (along with Travis Sanheim).

Gostisbehere also has the ability to make or break his respective power-play unit. Not many players stationed up at the blue line have the kind of sniper shot he can produce. Even if he doesn't pot one, he is capable of getting the puck in deep and setting up high-danger scoring opportunities.

It'll be tough to top the numbers he put up in 2017-18 (65 points — 13 goals, 52 assists), but there's a chance he comes close to it. By the nature of his game, he is an offensive defenseman — his instincts are strong and he tries to contribute to his team in any way that he can.

It's very possible to see him at 55-plus points for 2019-20.

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A 30-goal defenseman? Flyers prospect Ronnie Attard is a 'double whammy' to watch

zack_hill_philadelphia_flyers_ronnie_attard.jpg
Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

A 30-goal defenseman? Flyers prospect Ronnie Attard is a 'double whammy' to watch

Ronnie Attard is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

He loves the physical nature of the game — playing with a mean streak, delivering hits and standing up for teammates.

"That's something that has been a staple of my game since I was a little kid, something that my dad instilled in me," Attard said in June. "If you're the hardest player to play against out on the ice, people are going to notice you."

What also gets you noticed? Thirty goals by a defenseman. That's what Attard pulled off with the USHL's Tri-City Storm in 2018-19. It turned him into a third-round selection of the Flyers this summer after Attard had been draft eligible twice and never heard his name called. He's a 20-year-old with booming potential.

"I still use that staple of being good defensively," Attard said. "Then I started incorporating my offense, which is a double whammy."

With the Storm, Attard blew up in one year. He went from 15 points and a minus-9 rating through 50 games in 2017-18 to 30 goals, 65 points and a plus-47 mark over 48 games to win 2018-19 USHL Player of the Year.

How in the world did he go from undrafted to double whammy, just like that?

You see where he was a year or two ago to where he is now, his mobility, he's gotten a lot stronger, he's gained a ton of confidence, especially on the offensive side of things. He's always been a competitive kid and a hard-nosed kid, but to see where his overall game has come, it hit you in the face when you went to watch him play.

Obviously, we're not expecting him to score 30 goals a year in the NHL, but that stat you can't hide from, either. You score 30 goals in any league in 48 games, you are doing something right.

- Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr

Strength and confidence can do wonders for a young player. Attard brewed the combination by working out at Western Michigan with former NHL head coach Andy Murray and the Broncos.

"Coach Murray called me up last summer and wanted me to be a part of their strength program and get on the ice there," Attard said. "That's been the biggest thing — being on the ice with his players, seeing what they do and they taught me a lot.

"I went back to my junior team and had a bunch of confidence."

Western Michigan will be a team to keep an eye on for Flyers fans in 2019-20. Attard is entering his freshman year for the Broncos, while fellow Flyers prospect Wade Allison will be a senior winger with something to prove.

"I know him pretty well, I've been kind of following in his footsteps," Attard said of Allison. "He played at Tri-City and then went to Western, and I did the same thing. We know a lot of mutual people and we get along really well.

"He gave me the rundown and how things are handled there. It's another top-notch organization, Andy Murray's been around the game a long time, so hoping to learn a lot from him."

Despite his big shot and 30-goal breakout season, Attard knows he's far from a finished product.

"My skating and just my consistency," Attard said of the areas in which he wants to improve. "There are some nights where I'm the best player out on the ice and there are other nights where I'm just kind of irrelevant. I want to be able to bring that every night, just knowing what it takes to get my game at that 100 percent level.

"I just want to keep getting better, develop my footwork, my consistency level, even my shot has a little work to be put into it. Once I think I can come to this level and succeed and be an impact and help these guys out, that's when I'm going to make the jump."

Attard turned heads with the jump he made last season.

How fast could he tackle college?

"He's going to a Western Michigan program with quality coaching," Flahr said. "He should be an interesting watch here over the next couple of years."

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