Flyers observations

Penguins 4, Flyers 1: Carter Hart finally beaten as point streak ends

Penguins 4, Flyers 1: Carter Hart finally beaten as point streak ends

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The Flyers threw everything they had Monday at Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, but it just wasn’t enough.

Rookie goaltender Carter Hart saw his eight-game winning streak come to an end as the Penguins stopped the Flyers, 4-1, on South Broad.

The loss dropped the Flyers eight points back in their pursuit of the second wild-card position.

Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

• Clearly, Sidney Crosby’s goal was very fluky and No. 87 happened to be in the right place at the right time, but why was Crosby, the ultimate Flyers killer, left completely unattended just to the left of the crease? I would think interim head coach Scott Gordon would want someone shadowing Crosby when he’s on the ice, and especially with the puck down low behind the net.

Sean Couturier was hanging between the circles above the dots and Ivan Provorov seemed to abandon his side of the ice. Not ideal positioning if you’re looking to play defense against the Crosby line.

• If you heard very little booing in this game, it’s because the Flyers did a solid job of containing Crosby. From the moment he scored Pittsburgh’s first goal with 11:41 remaining in the first period, he didn’t have another shot attempt until 9:44 remaining in the third period — a span of almost 42 minutes. 

• A monumental gaffe came with 7:07 remaining in the second period when referee Kyle Rehman, who was standing behind the goal line and away from the play, blew the whistle prematurely as Pens goaltender Matt Murray never gloved the puck, leaving an easy rebound goal for Nolan Patrick. That would have cut the Penguins' lead to 2-1. The only reasonably logical explanation is that Rehman never saw the puck.

Personally, I think a play like that should be capable of being overturned since that fraction of a second wouldn’t have mattered in how the Penguins defended.

• I agree with Gordon's decision to hold defenseman Philippe Myers back until he has a little more practice under his belt, but I would have rather seen newly acquired Justin Bailey over Mikhail Vorobyev. Bailey is the 6-foot-4, 215-pound right winger acquired in the Taylor Leier trade. Bailey would have added some muscle and physicality you would like out of a fourth-liner. Gordon could have moved Phil Varone back to center in the process.

I haven’t liked Vorobyev’s game over the past couple of contests. He’s stopped skating again and has become more of an observer.

• Mark this down: the Flyers ripped off a franchise-record 28 shots on net in the second period and outshot the Penguins 28-8, yet were outscored in that period. It broke the previous record of 25 shots on goal set twice, most recently in February 1988.

Murray’s 28 saves were the difference for a Pittsburgh team that is now 24-0-1 when leading after two periods.

• Evgeni Malkin returned after missing the previous five games. It was Malkin’s violent high-sticking penalty against Michael Raffl that gave the Flyers a five-minute power play for the remainder of regulation. Jakub Voracek scored in the first 15 seconds, but the Flyers were unable to capitalize after that.

• Gordon switches up his lines so often you don’t exactly know what to make of it or know if it’s a knock against any one player. With his team down 2-0 in the third period, Gordon gave Raffl some ice time with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, while moving Travis Konecny down to the fourth line. Raffl was also on a line with Scott Laughton and JVR as he was playing hard on the forecheck, but wasn’t afforded much support from Varone or Vorobyev.

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Flyers 6, Ducks 2: Loud start pushes point streak to 10 games

Flyers 6, Ducks 2: Loud start pushes point streak to 10 games

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The Flyers left no doubt as they jumped back into the win column.

After having their eight-game winning streak snapped, the Flyers pounded the hapless Ducks, 6-2, on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

Phil Varone, Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl and Oskar Lindblom all scored first-period goals for the Flyers (25-23-7), who extended their point streak to 10 games.

Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny tacked on third-period goals for good measure.

The Flyers have won 10 of their last 12 contests and entered the day eight points back of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. Two teams they're chasing, the Penguins and Blue Jackets, have tough road matchups tonight as Pittsburgh visits the NHL-best Lightning and Columbus takes on the Golden Knights in Las Vegas.

Give credit to the Flyers for besieging a bad Ducks (21-26-9) team that has lost 19 of its last 21 games. Anaheim is on a seven-game losing streak in which it has been outscored 37-8.

• How good has Couturier been?

He scored his fourth goal in as many games off a phenomenal play in which he played a pass off his skate right to his stick before whipping a shot past Ducks goalie Chad Johnson glove side.

With a three-point effort, Couturier has points in 12 of his last 13 games, a stretch in which he has put up eight goals, 11 assists and a plus-14 rating.

Since Oct. 30, the 26-year-old center has 45 points (20 goals, 25 assists) in 42 games. He's on pace for a new career-high 35 goals.

Imagine if he had a full training camp and played more than just one preseason game?

• Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds went scoreless and the Flyers won by four goals.

That's a great sign and it was all possible because …

• A pair of fourth-liners were superb.

Varone played just 9:31 but had a goal, an assist and was a plus-3, while Raffl scored a shorthanded goal, tallied an assist and was a plus-3.

Raffl delivered the big blow to the Ducks when he took an excellent pass from Andrew MacDonald to net his shorty, handing the Flyers a commanding 3-0 lead 11:44 into the game as the rout was on.

When the Flyers are getting these types of contributions from role forwards, they're tough to beat.

• Speaking of Raffl, he's such an underrated player. He's one of the team's better puck possession forwards and he fully understands his role. He can kill penalties, he can play up and down the lineup — just a sound and steady guy.

With Raffl set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, he's an obvious trade chip for general manager Chuck Fletcher. Contending teams value players like Raffl, but the Flyers might not be so quick to move him because they're playing better and he's a reason why.

Raffl's pass to Varone was a perfect example of what he does best.

• Fresh off a game of rest, Carter Hart made a glove save on a breakaway attempt in the opening 1:15 of the game and you got the sense he would be sharp.

He made 30 saves and won his eighth straight start, matching Jocelyn Thibault's NHL record of most consecutive wins by a goalie before his 21st birthday.

• Defensive prospect Philippe Myers was in the house after being called up Saturday morning from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

His NHL debut is coming and here's why (see story).

• There were a lot of mascots hanging around Saturday.

A lot.

• The Flyers finish their five-game homestand when they welcome the Penguins Monday (7 p.m./NBCSP) before flying to Minnesota to play the Wild Tuesday (8 p.m./NBCSP), as Fletcher returns to his old stomping grounds.

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Kings 3, Flyers 2 (SO): Late magic falls short as win streak comes to end at 8 games

Kings 3, Flyers 2 (SO): Late magic falls short as win streak comes to end at 8 games

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The NHL's hottest team was finally cooled off but it took six rounds into a shootout.

Jakub Voracek scored with 18 seconds remaining in regulation before the Kings' Tyler Toffoli won it, 3-2, in the shootout, snapping the Flyers' eight-game winning streak Thursday night.

Anthony Stolarz stopped 37 shots in the loss, including a miraculous attempt that helped the Flyers force the skills competition.

Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

• After undressing Kings All-Star defenseman Drew Doughty and hitting the post with a shot, Voracek got his revenge with a beautiful cross-ice pass from Claude Giroux to earn the Flyers a point and send the game to overtime.

• There have been significant improvements in Shayne Gostisbehere’s defensive play with interim head coach Scott Gordon changing up the pairings. Over his previous eight games, "Ghost" has seen easier matchups and hasn't been forced to defend the opposition’s top lines, posting a plus-8 rating.

However, the opening goal is one example of a simple play from the Kings' fourth line that Gostisbehere has to defend better. Andrew MacDonald fell down, which allowed Austin Wagner (who scored the goal) to get behind the defense off an offensive zone faceoff.

I think Gostisbehere’s biggest liability is his lack of speed. While he has quick lateral movements, his acceleration simply isn’t quick enough to make up for times when he gets caught defensively or needs to rush back to cover an odd-man rush. That was clearly evident as Gostisbehere couldn’t skate back fast enough to break up the Kings' 3-on-1 rush leading to Adrian Kempe’s 2-1 goal in the second period.

• Perhaps Sean Couturier’s best attribute is his selflessness. Gordon talked about that quality during Thursday’s morning skate after the center was taken off the top power play. Couturier took the lesser role in stride as he typically does with the attitude of whatever’s best for the team.

He has been the Flyers' most important forward throughout the nine-game point streak with a goal in three straight games and seven of his last 10. 

• Stolarz looked very solid in his first game action since Jan. 29, when he shut out the Rangers, 1-0, at MSG. The Flyers' porous defense saw the Kings produce 18 shots in the opening period, with L.A. winning most of the puck battles and board battles.

The scoring chances were a lopsided 23-10 in favor of L.A. through two periods. The Kings also had a fourth line with Wagner and Kyle Clifford that plays just as much as their second line, and it had as many quality scoring chances as the Kings' first line. 

• Giroux has played some monster minutes, averaging nearly 22 minutes over his last 11 games, and the coaching staff is really leaning on him on the power play. The captain played all two minutes of the Flyers' third-period power play and finished over 24 minutes in this game.   

• Gordon talked about the frustrations of Scott Laughton and his goalless drought that has now reached 23 games dating back to mid-December. Laughton failed to connect on a penalty shot against Vancouver Monday. Early in the first period, Laughton was on the doorstep when his stick was tied up coming off Ivan Provorov’s broken-stick slap shot.

Gordon told Laughton to keep doing all the little things that make him a solid two-way player and don’t worry about the scoring. There are plenty of other guys who can score.

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