Nathan MacKinnon

Joel Farabee has timely career night as Flyers pick up another marquee win

Joel Farabee has timely career night as Flyers pick up another marquee win

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The Flyers picked up another big-boy win.

And in large thanks to their 19-year-old kid.

Joel Farabee stayed hot with a pair of huge goals and the Flyers beat the Avalanche, 6-3, Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers (28-17-7) climbed to within one point of third place in the deep Metropolitan Division and hold the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot (see standings).

Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 6-2-1 with victories over the Capitals, Bruins, Blues, Penguins and Avalanche, five of the NHL’s top 10 clubs entering Saturday's action.

Alain Vigneault’s team also improved to 18-4-4 at home.

The Avalanche (28-16-6) played their first game in 12 days.

• As the calendar flipped to trade deadline month, the rookie Farabee extended his point streak to a season-best five games with his first career two-goal performance.

After scoring three goals in his first 37 games, Farabee has four goals and two assists in his last five outings.

The Flyers knew the 2018 first-round pick could score and they’re seeing it come at an ideal time as the team will ponder if it needs to look externally for depth ahead of the Feb. 24 deadline.

The growth of Farabee’s role and production will make the Flyers think twice about looking for outside help.

Sean Couturier, who found Farabee for both of his goals, rebounded from Friday’s scoreless performance in Pittsburgh.

He finished with three assists and has not gone scoreless in consecutive games since Nov. 19-21.

• The focal point of the Flyers’ defensive strategy was to make everything difficult for center Nathan MacKinnon, who came in with 72 points (30 goals, 42 assists) through 49 games.

The Flyers followed through on their game plan, holding the 24-year-old star to without a point. Colorado is 10-15-3 when MacKinnon scores one point or fewer compared to 18-1-3 when he records a multi-point game.

Job well done by the Flyers.

• Behind 28 saves, Alex Lyon picked up his fifth career NHL win and first since March 22, 2018.

Lyon was huge in the first period. Colorado got after him with its high-end skill but he stopped 11 shots, many of which came from point-blank range. Flyers defensemen also made heads-up plays to break up some rushes and rebound opportunities.

The Avalanche entered with an NHL-high 57 first-period goals, but the Flyers weathered the storm, counterattacked and took a 2-0 advantage into the middle frame.

• The first-period goals were courtesy of Matt Niskanen and Kevin Hayes, the team’s biggest offseason additions.

Niskanen finished with two points and a plus-4 rating, while Hayes registered three points, including a shorthanded third-period goal to help seal the win.

Niskanen (23 points) is projected to finish with his most points since 2016-17 and Hayes (16 goals) has a good chance to surpass his career-high 25 markers set in 2017-18.

Both have been massively important to the penalty kill, as well.

They weren’t the splashiest of acquisitions by general manager Chuck Fletcher but have turned out to be underrated moves.

Just how much those moves pay off will be determined during the playoff race.

• Shayne Gostisbehere (knee) and Carter Hart (abdominal strain) skated Saturday and “both did well,” Vigneault said before the game.

There’s a chance Gostisbehere returns for Monday’s game. Hart remains out and his status is uncertain for the team’s following game Thursday.

• The Flyers fly to Detroit Sunday before taking on the Red Wings Monday (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSP+). 

After a day off Tuesday, the Flyers will practice Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in Voorhees, New Jersey, ahead of Thursday’s matchup with the Devils at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

 

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Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

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From the moment it was announced that Oskar Lindblom would miss Wednesday night's game, the Flyers' chances at Pepsi Center felt bleak.

No Lindblom, no Travis Konecny and facing the NHL's highest-scoring team in its building was not a promising script for the Flyers, who lost to the Avalanche, 3-1.

In stretches this season, the Flyers have struggled to bury goals. And that has been with Lindblom and Konecny — their two leading goal-scorers at 11 apiece — in the lineup.

The Flyers (17-9-5) did some good things but Colorado finished plays behind its world class talent up top.

The Avalanche (20-8-3) are on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) in which they've scored 4.13 goals per game.

• Without Konecny (concussion) and Lindblom (upper body), the Flyers had difficulty putting the puck in the net. They were going to have to put up some goals against the Avalanche, who entered scoring an NHL-best 3.70 goals per game. For the second time in the last three games, the Flyers scored only one goal.

The lone tally came from Claude Giroux when the Flyers were trailing 3-0 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

• Following a first period in which they survived, especially in the back half of it thanks to Carter Hart, the Flyers actually played a solid second period. At one point during the middle stanza, the Flyers were outshooting Colorado 11-0.

But as the Flyers kept pushing to no avail, the Avalanche changed the whole complexion of the period with one play by their two best weapons. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen hooked up for a nasty marker to make it 2-0 with 3:55 left in the period, a deflating goal to allow for the Flyers (see highlights).

Considering Colorado was 14-0-1 when leading after the middle period, the Flyers were in a serious hole, even after a hard-working period.

• Hart, who entered 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts, faced the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

He made a highlight-reel save and gave the Flyers a fighting chance in tough circumstances.

The 21-year-old has been impressive during the first period all season long, allowing the Flyers to find their legs and rhythm. He converted 12 of his 24 saves in the opening stanza against Colorado.

On the Avalanche's first-period goal, Scott Laughton won a defensive zone faceoff but the Flyers failed to clear the puck, resulting in Matt Calvert's tally.

Rantanen added his second goal early in the third period and that was pretty much the game.

Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz, who came in 5-0-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over his last eight games (six starts), finished with 32 stops.

• When Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day) is ready to return, Robert Hagg should be the odd man out on defense. Shayne Gostisbehere has found some of his offensive mojo and Myers has shown way too much promise to be sitting when healthy.

A stay-at-home guy like Hagg was far too noticeable against the Avalanche. He committed a penalty and was a minus-2 in 15:21 minutes.

• David Kase was summoned to Denver this morning to make his NHL debut and become the ninth rookie to play for the Flyers this season

The 22-year-old winger had a nice scoring chance and two shots in 7:47 minutes. 

• The Flyers head to the old stomping grounds of general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr when they visit the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Fletcher was the GM in Minnesota from 2009 to 2018 and Flahr was his AGM from 2010 to 2018.

The Flyers have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Oct. 27-29.

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How Avalanche top line replaced Flyers' as the best in hockey

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How Avalanche top line replaced Flyers' as the best in hockey

Sean Couturier believes tonight's game is the ultimate test for a defensive-minded, two-way center like himself.

“Yeah, for sure. If our line is plus-1 or plus-2, we have a good chance of winning," Couturier said. "It’s kinda the mentality I’ve always had. It’s something I take pride in.”

For the second straight game, the Flyers will face a Hart Trophy finalist when they line up against Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche, but MacKinnon has the ability to take over a game and dominate unlike that of New Jersey’s Taylor Hall, who won the Hart Trophy as league MVP last season.

MacKinnon has points in all eight of his team’s games so far this season. Even more impressively, he has scored a goal in seven of those eight, and his eight even-strength goals lead the NHL.

“He’s such a dynamic and dominant player,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We know who he is and what he is as a player and how effective he is. There’s a clear message for us on how we want to play against him.” 

The Flyers will have the advantage of having last line change so Couturier can be out there if and when Avalanche coach Jared Bednar elects to put the MacKinnon line on the ice. However, that hasn’t been much of a difference-maker so far this season, as MacKinnon has nine points in five road games as opposed to four points in three home games.

Most top lines have been disassembled and reassembled over the past year. Take the Flyers, who started last season with Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Couturier as production-wise the No. 1 line in hockey until they were broken up last December. MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog have been playing together since October 2017, and they’ve been clicking on all cylinders ever since. 

As of Monday, Landeskog and Rantanen were second in scoring with 14 points while Landeskog earned the league’s first star of the week. Since their formation, they’re a plus-26 in goal differential at even strength. Perhaps the only other line that can dominate to that degree is Boston’s trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, who have combined for 36 points to MacKinnon’s line with 38 points.    

In the 5-2 loss in Colorado on Oct. 6, the Flyers did a modest job containing the Avalanche's top line. However, Landeskog’s controversial tip-in goal was the eventual game-winner before MacKinnon added an empty-netter. Still, by Couturier’s standards, it wasn’t good enough.   

“I think we gave up a few too many odd-man rushes where he had the puck where he was flying down the middle,” Couturier said. “It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of recovering and being tight on (MacKinnon), and not letting him gain that time and space.”

The solution is simple in theory but difficult in execution.

“If we have the puck most of the night and play offense," Couturier said, "we won’t give up much of anything.”

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