Phil Varone

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

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

BOX SCORE

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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Flyers 3, Jets 1: Carter Hart keeps rolling out of break to lead season-best 4th straight win

Flyers 3, Jets 1: Carter Hart keeps rolling out of break to lead season-best 4th straight win

BOX SCORE

The Flyers picked up where they left off and now have their first four-game winning streak of the season.

They received contributions from three different lines in taking down the Jets, 3-1, Monday for the seventh straight time at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was also the Flyers' first win over one of the current first-place teams. Prior to this win, the Flyers were 0-2-4 against the four divisional leaders. 

Here are my observations:

• As expected, the Flyers looked like a team coming off an eight-day layoff. The team had trouble completing simple breakout passes in the first period and had difficulties navigating its way through the neutral zone through the first 40 minutes.

• With Shayne Gostisbehere a last-minute scratch with a lower-body injury, Christian Folin gave the Flyers a solid 9:12 in his place with a couple of hits and blocked shots. Collectively, the Flyers' defense as a whole stepped up and played one of its better all-around games, contributing at both ends of the ice.

The question moving forward is if "Ghost" is out for an extended amount of time, will we see Philippe Myers? 

“I think Phil has earned the right to get some games and we’ll have to find the right time where,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said Monday.

• Against a hard, heavy team like the Jets, it was important to create offense from rebounds and redirected shots. The Flyers did just that, scoring their first two goals on shots from the point. Even though Mikhail Vorobyev wasn’t credited for an assist on the Flyers' first goal, he set up that tally by skating the puck across the line into the zone before spotting an open Folin at the blue line. 

I liked Vorobyev’s game at both ends of the ice in his first contest back with the Flyers since October. Interim head coach Scott Gordon was cautious with his ice time (only 7:36), but that will be the test to see how he handles limited shifts and how he stays engaged after playing 20-plus minutes with the Phantoms. 

• The Jets' top line of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler is one of the tougher top lines the Flyers have faced this season. It’s difficult to work the puck away from it, but because it comes hard on the forecheck and plays deep in the offensive end, it also left itself susceptible to some odd-man rushes and the Flyers had some quality scoring chances as a result.  

• Perhaps there was some criticism behind playing Carter Hart with the Phantoms last Saturday night, but I didn’t see much downside and the extra start looked like it gave him an opportunity to work off the rust of a layoff. Hart was locked in from the opening jump and the Grade-A saves he made on the Jets' first power-play opportunity were proof that he would keep his teammates in this game. 

• James van Riemsdyk was buzzing in the Jets' zone in the final 20 minutes of this game. He had a no-look pass to Sean Couturier that could have led to a goal and then perfectly executed a give-and-go with Travis Konecny that sealed the Flyers' victory. Along with Nolan Patrick, I expect JVR to have a considerably better second half of the season.

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Phil Varone getting the chance Ron Hextall didn't give him

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AP Images

Phil Varone getting the chance Ron Hextall didn't give him

If there’s one important thing Phil Varone gained in his remarkable first year with the Phantoms, it was perspective.

Part of that comes with age, some of it comes with experience, but for the most part, Varone could read the writing on the walls of the general manager’s office.

Even after a strong training camp with the Flyers this past September, Varone approached the regular season not much different than his previous experiences. The “minor league lifer” and “career journeyman” labels were becoming increasingly harder to detach from his name.

“You’re always hoping for (a call-up), but I didn’t really think about it,” Varone said. “At my age now, I’m more worried about where I am and about winning. If the call comes, the call comes. If not, I’m not too worried about it.”

Hard to believe those are the words from the best player in the American Hockey League last season. Yet Varone was resigned to the belief that he may never get a sniff with the Flyers — even after capping an impressive 2017-18 season with 70 points in 74 games earning the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s MVP.

That type of debut with any organization normally would have generated some hype and anticipation coming into training camp, but Varone doesn’t qualify as that can’t-miss prospect. Guys like him and T.J. Brennan and Colin MacDonald are considered the establishment, a veteran core called upon to lead by example for the promising high-draft picks who are transitioning from junior hockey to the professional level.

In all likelihood, if Ron Hextall was still calling the organizational shots, Dave Hakstol would still be behind the bench, Carter Hart would still be plugging away with the Phantoms and Varone would have never made the trip down the Northeast Extension.

“Honestly, no, I don’t think so,” Varone said when asked if he’d be with the Flyers with Hextall as GM. “And that’s why I didn’t think much about it. I wasn’t worried about it. Not that I thought it was going to happen that quickly with the change, but I think good things happen when people put their head down and stick to it and do the right things. That’s what I’ve thought about most of my career.

“I think there’s a little bit of a different mindset now with the changes that have gone on. I’m just trying to make the most of it. I’m trying to make everyone who decided to call me up look good and I’m glad I can stick.”

It took nearly 21 months between NHL call-ups following his previous late-season stint with the Senators in 2016-17, but he was willing to do whatever was required to stick around and shed a few of those labels in the process.

“I think I was just always pegged as an offensive guy," Varone said, "which sometimes is frustrating, because I know I play both sides of the puck well and I’ve shown that in the AHL. I feel like sometimes you get pegged as something that it’s hard to break that mold. I think right now I’m doing that and hopefully, I can continue it.”

With seven games now under his belt, Varone is giving the Flyers’ fourth line what it didn’t have with Jori Lehtera: speed down the middle with an ability to transition from zone-to-zone while keeping up with the pace of play.

Varone appears to be settling in under a coach he’s familiar with after stringing together a pair of solid games over the weekend.

“It’s been a cool experience. The guys have been awesome,” Varone said. “I’m just trying to soak it all in and play the best that I can. It’s been a few years. I feel like I’ve played pretty well, but I know I’ve got more to give.”

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