Flyers

Physical Laughton impresses Laviolette in NHL debut

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Physical Laughton impresses Laviolette in NHL debut

Scott Laughton didnt get the call to represent his home country in the recent World Junior Championships in Russia. As should be expected, not making the Team Canada roster was a letdown for the 18-year-old center.

In a way, though, not getting an invite to play in the tournament resulted in an even bigger reward.

I dont know about pissed off, but I went back to junior and we had a lot of guys out and I developed my game a ton, Laughton said. So I think being left off that team really helped me develop and make this team for the first game.

Laughton, the 20th-overall selection of last years draft, played in his first-ever NHL game Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center. The end result, a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins (see story), wasnt ideal, but Laughton was able to show his coaches why he might be worth a second look.

On a line with Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read, Laughton saw 12:14 of ice time and won a pair of faceoffs. He also threw four hits finishing behind only Zac Rinaldo, Read and Scott Hartnell, whos also serving as his host for as long as the rookie remains with the Flyers.

I thought he played well, Hartnell said. He was moving his feet, he was finishing his checks. He was very sound defensively. You could tell he was a little nervous when he woke up this morning. But the first ones behind you, and you get to move on and go for the second and make it a better game.

Laughton did admit to experiencing some jitters, despite throwing three solid checks on his very first shift.

Its tough, he said. Youre looking across the ice and you see Sidney Crosby, a guy Ive been looking up to. We watch those guys on TV every year. Its tough, but youve just got to play your game and not worry about it.

After all, he said, every game is a tryout.

The Flyers have five games to decide whether to keep Laughton with the big club or send him back to the OHLs Oshawa Generals. His presence in the lineup Saturday is in great part due to the wrist injury that kept Danny Briere from playing but its not entirely implausible that the Flyers could keep him for a longer stint. They did it with Sean Couturier last season.

And, Laughton said, theres a reason hes worth keeping in Philadelphia.

My defensiveness, said Laughton, who's played on both the power play and penalty kill in Oshawa. Staying defensive, physically sound, I think thats going to help out because we have such good centermen on offense.

Laughtons education on being a Flyer came quick the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is a storied one, and playing in a game is far different from watching the two teams duke it out in the playoffs on television. But with both of his parents in attendance, Laughton did impress his coach.

I thought he played a strong game, Peter Laviolette said.He was responsible defensively and had about four or five good hits. He was strong on puck battles and had a couple opportunities at the net. I thought he did a nice job.

Its a tough situation to come into for a young kid, first game in Philadelphia, but I thought he handled it very well.

Of course, Laughtons performance wasnt flawless. Hes got more bulk and aggression than Couturier had as a rookie, but he was muscled off the puck a few times by Penguins defenders. Look for him to work on that going forward.

Nothing is a guarantee, but Laughton is expected to be in the lineup for Sundays game against the Sabres. Hes certainly hoping so he lives only 45 minutes away from Buffalo.

And hes been preparing for it for as long as he can recall.

I took every day seriously in junior and tried to develop myself and tried to get ready if the lockout ended, Laughton said. I just want to do everything I can here and try and impress for those five games if Im in the lineup.

E-mail Sarah Baicker at sbaicker@comcastsportsnet.com

With back-to-back wins, are Flyers finally starting to mature?

With back-to-back wins, are Flyers finally starting to mature?

When Jori Lehtera was sent off the ice for a five-minute boarding major and a 10-minute game misconduct Wednesday night, the most loyal followers of the orange and black had every reason to believe the Flyers were entering their self-destruction phase once again.

After all, we had seen this storyline play out on numerous occasions already this season.

Forced to kill off a five-minute power play to the NHL second-ranked power play should have doomed this team, but against the Bruins, something was different.

“We’re starting to show some character and maturity, even playing with a lead we’re a little bit more comfortable now,” Sean Couturier said after scoring a natural hat trick in the Flyers' 4-3 win over the Bruins (see observations). “We’re doing some little things right.”

A lot of those little things have been resolved finally through their penalty kill, in which the Flyers successfully killed off nine straight minutes of power-play time, including nearly six minutes in a hard-fought third period. For those who believed assistant coach Ian Laperriere should take the fall for the PK’s horrific start this season, interim head coach Scott Gordon begs to differ.

“Lappy has done a great job as far as the pre-scouting. You guys don’t see that,” Gordon said. “He’s been on target every single time. As far as the aggressiveness, that’s the one thing I’ve been really pleased with. When you lose a lot of games, you realize what’s not going right. Sometimes you have to learn through the struggles and the adversity.”

That aggressiveness is why the Flyers have now strung together back-to-back wins for just the second time in the past two months, and the biggest part of that success is a rookie goaltender that many within the organization believed needed the necessary AHL seasoning before he could be thrown into the frying pan of an NHL game.

Eleven games into his career, the 20-year-old Carter Hart is playing like he has the emotional fortitude of someone in their mid-to-late 40s. It just seems like there’s no way Hart could have the capacity to handle the adversity of falling behind 2-0 in back-to-back games to only stay composed and have his team rally back to beat the Wild and the Bruins.    

“You can tell he’s a mature kid,” Couturier said. “He prepares himself pretty well. He does a lot of little things away from the rink that help his game on the ice. He’s pretty calm back there. He’s above his age.”   

“I think it’s just how you approach the game. It’s everything,” Hart said. “It’s coming to the rink for practice, for games, whatever it is. Just coming in ready to work. I think if you work hard no matter how old you are, guys will respect you.”

With that, Hart gets to the heart of the matter. He embraces putting in the hard work of practice, much like Couturier has done from the time he started his NHL career at the age of 18. You can’t create a championship culture by cutting a few corners. So if the organization is planning ahead to next season, Hart and Couturier should be those cornerstone players. 

Outside of that, the Flyers have a lot more maturing to go through if they want to join the league’s elite.

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Flyers 4, Bruins 3: Sean Couturier records first career regular-season hat trick in win

Flyers 4, Bruins 3: Sean Couturier records first career regular-season hat trick in win

BOX SCORE

Would you believe the Flyers have their first winning streak in almost a full month?

Sean Couturier registered his first career regular-season hat trick Wednesday night as the Flyers knocked off the Bruins, 4-3, at the Wells Fargo Center. It's the Flyers' second straight win and second straight game in which a Flyer had a hat trick — James van Riemsdyk had one Monday.

Despite being badly outshot, the Flyers received outstanding goaltending again from Carter Hart, and surprisingly, the penalty kill is stepping up in a big way.

• There’s been a lot of talk linking the Bruins and Wayne Simmonds. The Bruins, having scratched David Backes for this game, have been looking to add some toughness and grit. If the two sides engage in trade talks, there’s two players that caught my eye in this game: left winger Peter Cehlarik and defenseman Brandon Carlo. Of course, the Bruins may not have interest in parting with either player, but Cehlarik certainly looks like a player who could be slotted in a top-six role, scoring two, while Carlo brings size and an ability to jump in offensively.

• I’ve discussed how the Flyers' PK was a personnel issue during Dave Hakstol’s time here when he tried to incorporate guys like Oskar Lindblom and Jori Lehtera into a heavy PK role. Lindblom has improved his shorthanded play, and it showed in this game. Operating at roughly 83 percent over their past 25 games, the PK had a defining moment in this game when it was forced to kill a five-minute major. It helped tremendously that the penalty extended from the end of the second period to the beginning of the third, but not only did the PK keep the Bruins to the outside, but Hart came up with three key saves.

• Not just that, but the Flyers were also whistled for too many men and Scott Laughton was called for hooking with eight minutes remaining in regulation. This may be the first game this season where the Flyers can say their penalty kill won them the game.

• The result of the extended power play came as a result of a boneheaded play from Lehtera after he dumped Ryan Donato head-first into the boards. It was Lehtera’s second penalty as he racked up 17 PIM and barely saw the ice in the third period. In case you’re asking, I have no idea why he’s still on this team. They can’t dump him in Lehigh Valley as the Phantoms have reached their veteran max, but after this game, the only way I’m playing Lehtera is in the event of an emergency.

• I was surprised at the pace of the opening 20 minutes — very loose and open as you would expect the Bruins to play tighter defensively. The Flyers had a couple of cross-ice plays that led to quality scoring chances, including one from Nolan Patrick, who was robbed by Jaroslav Halak’s right pad on the crease. Once again, that third line of Patrick, Simmonds and Laughton played well and gelled early.

• Flyers leading scorer Sean Couturier added two goals in a span of one minute and 15 seconds before adding a third for his first regular-season hat trick late in the third period. Quietly, Couturier now has 19 goals and is now on track for his second straight 30-goal season. If I had to vote right now for the Bobby Clarke Award as Flyers MVP, Couturier would be the guy.  

• Couturier should have been awarded a penalty shot when he was interfered with in the final seconds of the game. Had David Krejci now obstructed Couturier’s path, he would have scored four goals.

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