Nashville Predators

Predators 4, Flyers 0: Another ugly road trip poses more questions

Predators 4, Flyers 0: Another ugly road trip poses more questions

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Once again, the Flyers are limping home from a road trip.

The Flyers were routed by the Predators, 4-0, Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, giving them their third four-game losing streak just 39 games into the season.

After beating the Rangers at Madison Square Garden to open a five-game road swing, the Flyers (15-19-5) stumbled hard out of the three-day Christmas break to drop the next four by a combined score of 15-7.

Not long ago, from Dec. 8-15, the Flyers went 1-3-1 on a five-game road trip, which resulted in Dave Hakstol's firing. The Flyers, who are 6-12-4 since Nov. 13 with a minus-27 goal differential, have more points (35) than just two teams in the NHL — the Blues (34) and Senators (34).

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher was brought in to produce more progress this season, but the idea of buying at this point, on this team, seems almost crazy.

The Predators (24-15-2), on the other hand, have won two straight after losing six in a row.

• The problems are starting to compound for the Flyers, who scored just two goals over the final three games of the trip.

They did have chances Tuesday, though. 

Travis Konecny struck the post during a 2-on-1, Sean Couturier was denied from point-blank range trying to deke goalie Juuse Saros and Wayne Simmonds was turned away on a third-period breakaway. When Simmonds failed to beat Saros, the Predators came back the other way 40 seconds later and made it 3-0.

• Shayne Gostisbehere's offensive numbers aren't there compared to a season ago but his defense saved the Flyers from falling behind 2-0 (for the time being) midway through the second period. 

With chaos in deep and Michal Neuvirth out of his crease, Gostisbehere denied a Roman Josi shot directly in front and a second later was nailed in the helmet by Ryan Johansen's blast, causing a stoppage in play (see video).

Unfortunately for Gostisbehere, the play wasn't really rewarded as the Flyers surrendered a goal to Nashville less than two minutes later to Viktor Arvidsson.

Travis Sanheim was outmuscled in front by Arvidsson and couldn't stop Johansen's pass, giving Neuvirth little chance to make the save. Sanheim is 22 years old and could still use added strength.

• Craig Smith opened the game's scoring 2:03 into the middle stanza when he jumped into the rush and beat Neuvirth. Arvidsson then tacked on another with that 3-0 breakaway tally to put the game out of reach in the third period.

• Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon tried some adjustments with the power play by moving Jakub Voracek to the point and Gostisbehere to the wing.

It was a good thought. Voracek can utilize his skill and pass-first mindset up top, while Gostisbehere can fire away from the circle with Claude Giroux lurking in the opposite circle.

The man advantage did create opportunities and hit iron on one chance but went 0 for 2. Overall, it ranks dead last in the NHL and is 9 for 93 (9.7 percent) since Oct. 13.

We'll have to wait and see if Gordon sticks with that tweak in the hopes of getting much-needed results.

• The Flyers survived madness during the second period to keep the game from completely uncoiling at the time when Neuvirth abandoned his crease to impede a potential breakaway. Neuvirth went all out to disrupt the chance but the puck was never cleared, forcing the goalie to scramble back to his crease in the nick of time to prevent a 3-0 deficit.

It didn't matter much at all because things only got worse in the third period, while Neuvirth finished with 26 saves.

• The Flyers got a break by avoiding 2017-18 Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne and instead facing backup goalie Saros. They didn't take advantage as Saros picked up the shutout behind 32 stops.

• The Flyers are off from practice Wednesday before opening a three-game homestand Thursday against the Hurricanes (7 p.m./NBCSP), who will be well-rested coming off a 3-1 win Monday over the orange and black.

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Flyers at Predators: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Predators: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Updated: 7:40 p.m.

The Flyers are hoping a new year brings new fortunes for their 2018-19 campaign.

For a second straight season, the club is in last place entering New Year's Day.

To ring in 2019, the Flyers (15-18-5) visit Nashville Tuesday night for a matchup with the Predators (23-15-2).

Let's look at the essentials:

When: 8:30 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 8 p.m.
Where: Bridgestone Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers are looking to avoid their third four-game losing streak of the season.

Meanwhile, their season-long win streak is three games, which they've done just once.

All of which typifies the inconsistency that has plagued the Flyers, who have yet to find any rhythm to go on a run.

At this point last season, the Flyers had already won six straight games before going 8-4-0 in January.

In 2018-19, they're going to need a bigger turnaround.

• A few surprising stats:

Travis Konecny has gone scoreless in five straight games, tying his longest stretch of the season.

Claude Giroux has gone scoreless in two straight games for the first time since mid-November.

The Flyers have not received enough secondary scoring this season, so when Konecny and Giroux are quiet, the team's struggles hit hard, which has been the case recently.

• With Tuesday's game being the second of a back-to-back situation, the Flyers are turning to Michal Neuvirth, who played well in relief during Monday's 3-1 loss after Carter Hart allowed three goals on 10 shots (see observations).

Neuvirth has discovered some confidence with 86 saves over his last three games (two starts). He also has superb career numbers against the Predators with a 3-1-1 record, 1.36 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in five lifetime matchups.

• Nashville had lost six straight games before beating the Capitals, 6-3, on New Year's Eve.

Despite the skid coupled with injuries, the Predators still allow the NHL's fewest goals per game at 2.58 and are 17-2-0 when they score first. Nashville is also 14-7-0 at home and surrenders just 2.19 goals per game at Bridgestone Arena.

Projected lineup

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Jordan Weal-Wayne Simmonds
Oskar Lindblom-Phil Varone-Dale Weise

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Andrew MacDonald-Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Carter Hart

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Flyers 2, Predators 1: Carter Hart stands on head against West's best

Flyers 2, Predators 1: Carter Hart stands on head against West's best

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The Carter Hart era is off to a 2-0 start.

Hart stopped 31 shots Thursday night in the Flyers' 2-1 win over the Predators.

How well did the Flyers' PK respond and who were the real difference makers?

• I wrote during the preseason that Hart’s ability to read plays and his awareness would be a big improvement to the team’s penalty kill. This game was proof of that. Robert Hagg had two big blocked shots on a 5-on-3 and Hart two big saves.

The Flyers successfully killed off 3:07 of Nashville power-play time from the end of the second period to the beginning of the third.

• Sean Couturier almost always does the little things required to play winning hockey. On Jakub Voracek's first-period goal, Couturier's play and puck work along the boards surrounded by Nashville players stood out as Voracek and Wayne Simmonds jumped off the bench. Most might credit Couturier's pass in setting up Voracek's tap-in goal but for the Flyers, it all started with Couturier's determination to keep the puck in the zone.

• Nashville really missed two of its biggest playmakers in defenseman P.K. Subban and winger Filip Forsberg. Without them, the Predators had the look of a more north-south team attempting to play a more grind-it-out type of game.

• I didn’t like how the Flyers couldn’t cover Hart’s rebound on Nashville’s goal, allowing third-line center Nick Bonino to drift down the middle of the ice uncovered and unaccounted for.

• I really liked Scott Laughton’s game as he brought his skating legs to this game. I’ll also contend he plays better at wing because he plays more of a north-south game and doesn’t have to think of playing a 200-foot game as much as he does at center. 

• Travis Konecny gets knocked for his defense and deservedly so at times, but give Konecny most of the credit on Claude Giroux’s 2-1 goal. Konecny did a terrific job of backchecking in the neutral zone and knocking the puck away from Preds defenseman Anthony Bitetto, which led to the Flyers' 2-on-1 going back the other way. Also, Konecny made that play after taking a hard shot off his leg just minutes earlier.

• It seems to be rather fashionable to highly criticize the Flyers' second power-play unit, but until it starts receiving significant ice time, it’s not a fair assessment. On three straight power-play possessions, the top unit was on the ice for the first 1:30 of the two minutes. The second unit never had the opportunity to set up. Considering how ineffective the top unit has been this season, if you want to give that second unit a chance to gel and gain some confidence, put it out there for the start of the two minutes.

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