Christian Folin

Canadiens 3, Flyers 1: Falling flat in must-win situation during NHL playoff race

Canadiens 3, Flyers 1: Falling flat in must-win situation during NHL playoff race

BOX SCORE

This is a game the Flyers probably can’t and won’t recover from.

Facing a team they had to catch in the standings, the Flyers fell to the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1, Tuesday night.

Goaltender Carey Price stopped 32 shots to beat the Flyers on Fan Appreciation Night. 

Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

• Typical first period at the Wells Fargo Center for the Flyers as the Canadiens dictated the pace of play. The one noticeable problem area for the Flyers was their inability to contain Montreal’s speed from the outside. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, blew completely around Shayne Gostisbehere before getting a shot up close on Carter Hart.

• Just because you get a body on Brendan Gallagher, don’t think you have him contained. That was Oskar Lindblom’s issue as the Flyers’ winger sent Gallagher to the ice, in what could have been an interference penalty, just inside the Flyers’ blue line. However, Gallagher never stops on any play. He left Lindblom behind and put home a rebound goal on Hart. There has to be a conscious effort to play physically against Gallagher, especially after he notched his first career hat trick against the Flyers last month.

• Despite Sean Couturier losing the faceoff, it appeared as if the Flyers had the Shea Weber shot defended pretty well. Watch Jakub Voracek race to the middle of the ice to guard against a possible shot from the point. Voracek appeared to be in position to block the shot, but perhaps had other ideas considering Weber can unload a 100-mph slapper. Preferably, I don’t like that shot getting on net.

• Couturier continued his blistering second half by snapping the Flyers' 0-for-17 skid on the power play and pulling the Flyers within a goal. It was Couturier’s 30th goal of the season as he reached the 30-goal mark for the second straight season. He’s the first Flyer with back-to-back 30-goal seasons since Wayne Simmonds (2015-17). In my opinion, Couturier wins the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.

• Montreal came out the more determined team with more jump and more desperation in its game. Although the players won’t say it, I think they’ve been dealing with this “bug” that’s been going around the locker room — which would explain why Justin Bailey has been back and forth from Lehigh Valley. 

• Montreal also stifled the Flyers' offense by not giving it very much time and space with the puck. Referees elected to swallow the whistle and allow both teams to play. They easily could have called some interference penalties in that second period.

• Unlike Claude Giroux on Sunday, defenseman Philippe Myers felt too sick to suit up in this game and was replaced by Andrew MacDonald, who has been in and out of the lineup over the past three weeks. There’s a belief that MacDonald could be a buyout recipient next season as he enters the final year of his contract, but unless the Flyers are desperate for the cap space, I don’t necessarily see a buyout as the best option. You need depth and MacDonald isn’t a bad option as a seventh defenseman.

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Flyers call up Philippe Myers after trading Dale Weise, Christian Folin to Canadiens for David Schlemko, Byron Froese

Flyers call up Philippe Myers after trading Dale Weise, Christian Folin to Canadiens for David Schlemko, Byron Froese

Updated: 1:45 p.m.

General manager Chuck Fletcher pulled off another trade Saturday.

The Flyers dealt Dale Weise and Christian Folin to the Canadiens in exchange for David Schlemko and Byron Froese.

Weise and Folin were likely trade candidates for Fletcher, who continues to retool the Flyers. Weise, a 30-year-old role forward, went unclaimed on waivers last month and had been demoted to the AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, while Folin, 28, had been the Flyers' seventh defenseman and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

"This is an opportunity to make sure we have enough depth and try to help both players find a better spot for their career and just try to keep this going," Fletcher said before Saturday's game.

Weise was in the third year of a four-year, $9.4 million contract and had a cap hit of $2,350,000. Next season, he's slated to make a base salary of $1,750,000.

The move of Folin, who was on a one-year deal, also opens up a spot for touted prospect Philippe Myers, who has been called up from the Phantoms, while the team has placed Corban Knight on waivers.

Myers, 22, is skilled and a strong skater for his 6-foot-5, 209-pound frame. The defenseman went from being undrafted to turning himself into a top-50 prospect by the NHL Network. In 48 games with Lehigh Valley this season, Myers had 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) and a plus-5 rating. Now, his NHL debut will be coming soon.

"He's been our best defenseman all year and one of the better defensemen in the American Hockey League," Fletcher said. "He's earned this opportunity. He's still a young man and really, his key time will be next year at training camp and earning a full-time spot for a full season. But right now, if we can get him some experience, practice seems great, being around the team is great, if he can get some games, that'll only help him as he prepares for next year."

Fletcher had no problem calling up Myers with the team playing its best hockey and back in the playoff race. The GM believes in on-the-job training and you can bet Myers is here to play, not sit.

"That's how you have to learn. He's earned the right, he's better than anybody we have down there," Fletcher said. "He's a good hockey player. I believe he can help us up here, but we have six guys playing right now that have helped us a lot, too. I think our defense has played very well for a while now."

Schlemko is a 31-year-old defenseman who has played for seven teams over 11 years of NHL experience. He had played 18 games this year for the Canadiens, posting two points. Schlemko is under contract through 2019-20 on a minor-league deal.

"Adding David Schlemko, a player with a lot of experience in the league, a defenseman who can play left side, can play right side," Fletcher said. "Along with Phil Myers, we think Schlemko and Myers will give us pretty good depth up here in the NHL." 

Froese, a 27-year-old forward, was having a nice season as the captain of the AHL's Laval Rocket, putting up 14 goals and 16 assists in 46 games. He played 48 games last season for Montreal, scoring 11 points (three goals, eight assists). Froese is also on a minor-league deal and can become a UFA in the offseason.

"Byron Froese is a young man who has played over 100 games in the NHL, he's a captain of his team in Laval, he's a real top two-way player at that level," Fletcher said. "A guy that is showing he can provide depth."

Both Schlemko and Froese will report to the Phantoms for now.

This marks the third trade by Fletcher, who moved forwards Taylor Leier and Jordan Weal in January. The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 25.

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Grading the Flyers' defensemen at the bye week

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Grading the Flyers' defensemen at the bye week

Throughout the first half of this season, the Flyers have been relatively injury free on defense, but as a group, they’ve regressed from last season. However, under assistant Rick Wilson and new coach Scott Gordon, we’re beginning to see signs of improvement. 

After breaking down the goaltending Monday, we grade out the Flyers' blue line.  

Radko Gudas

Grade: B+ 
Stats: 2 G, 11 A, plus-10, 18:00 A/TOI

Dare I say that Gudas has been the Flyers' steadiest defenseman this season. While some writers like to use Corsi as a barometer for puck possession, I like to utilize goals against/60 minutes during 5-on-5 play to determine the strength of a player’s overall defense. Gudas’ 1.76 goals allowed/60 min. is the best of any Flyers defenseman … by far. Perhaps most impressively is how Gudas has adapted his physical game without taking foolish penalties.

Offensively, Gudas’ philosophy seems rather simple. When given the opportunity, just put the puck on net as he leads the team with 16 rebounds created at even strength while contributing 13 points — a nice total considering he barely strays from the blue line.

Robert Hagg

Grade: B
Stats: 4 G, 9 A, plus-5, 17:43 A/TOI

Hagg has gained a reputation as such a hard hitter that other teams' forwards have altered their forechecking approach with the Flyers' defenseman on the ice. Hagg had his most consistent month in November and has cut down on some of the positioning flaws in the defensive zone that were a problem area in his rookie season.

Hagg has even chipped in some additional offense this season. His 15 primary points (goals, first assists) at 5-on-5 is second on the Flyers behind Travis Sanheim’s 16, and he’s currently on pace to finish with seven goals and 22 points, which would more than double last season’s totals. 

Travis Sanheim

Grade: B-
Stats: 4 G, 11A, minus-6, 17:56 A/TOI

I like the decision from Wilson in placing Sanheim on the top pairing Ivan Provorov. Not only was the Provy-Shayne Gostisbehere combination simply not working, but it has given the Flyers a chance to see how much responsibility Sanheim can handle. Sanheim was tested early against the opposition’s top forwards with a minus-12 rating in 13 games but has had periods of steady play. Has seen his ice time jump by five minutes from October into January. 

Overall, Sanheim has made a conscious effort to refine the defensive aspect of his game with improved positioning but can still get beaten one-on-one and along the boards. Would also prefer to see Sanheim on one of the two power-play units.

Ivan Provorov

Grade: C-
Stats: 4 G, 13 A, minus-14, 24:54 A/TOI

It’s beyond baffling to see Provorov’s struggles with his puck management this season. It began over a 10-15 game stretch last season, and it’s been a problem area for the entire season. The new coaching staff has worked on eliminating some of those errant passes and making that first pass up the boards. Provorov’s 3.28 goals allowed/60 min. at even strength is up significantly from 2.18 last season. 

For a player many expected to work his way into the Norris Trophy conversation, it’s been quite the regression offensively as well. Provorov is projected to finish with seven goals after leading all NHL defensemen with 17 last season. As he simplifies his game, look for Provorov to have a much better second half.

Shayne Gostisbehere

Grade: D+
Stats: 5 G, 15 A, minus-12, 20:12 A/TOI

Everything came together for Gostisbehere last season, and conversely, nothing worked over the first few months of this season. Ghost was an NHL-worst minus-18 when Dave Hakstol was fired. Since then, he’s had much more favorable matchups and has settled in playing alongside Andrew MacDonald as the team’s third pairing.

However, the most alarming aspect to Gostisbehere’s season has been his lack of efficiency on the power play, so much so, he’s no longer part of that top unit. Last season, he averaged 7.03 pts./60 min. on the PP compared to just 2.86 this season, a 59 percent dropoff. A big reason to Gostisbehere’s lack of success on the power play has been a failure to get pucks through traffic and his shot on net.

Christian Folin

Grade: D+
Stats: 0 G, 1 A, plus-4, 16:13 A/TOI

After some obvious struggles in the opening month, Folin has settled in but still can’t be counted on to play extensively. Interestingly, Gordon is much cautious in his use of Folin than Hakstol and Gord Murphy were. After averaging over 17 minutes in October and November, Folin is playing just under 13 minutes in January. 

Will be interesting to see how much the Flyers utilize Folin over the second half of the season with Phillippe Myers possibly getting a look with the big club. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to invest in Folin as he won’t be with the team beyond this season and the Flyers can fill that role with a Phantom next season.

Andrew MacDonald

Grade: D
Stats: 0 G, 5 A, minus -5, 17:55 A/TOI

Quite frankly, MacDonald came back way too early from a lower-body injury he suffered during an offseason workout and that seemed to throw off the first half of his season. Has been limited to 27 games and has been a healthy scratch as a result of ineffective play. More turnover prone than last season, MacDonald has also really struggled early on with the penalty kill this season.

Last season was the first time MacDonald TOI dipped below 20 minutes per game, and this season, it’s a career-low 17:55. Hasn’t been nearly as active jumping in offensively as well. Zero goals in 27 games with no shots on net in 10 of those games.

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